How much cardio should I do?

Another email question from a reader:

Hey Beth! Are there benefits to doing both short high intensity workouts, then slower longer intensity workouts? Or alternating every day? My main goal would be to get leaner and stronger. I guess I’m wondering if there’s any point to doing longer cardio sessions if they’re not doing me any better (calorie-wise) than 15-30 minute intervals?

Ah yes. I get this question ALL the time. Especially since it’s become a pretty hot topic in the last few years. With all the hoopla, I get how you could feel confused about how much and what kind of cardio you should be doing. Believe me, I get it. Back in college, I too was a cardio queen. I ran 6 days a week religiously. So when I was first introduced to the concept of intervals, I was pretty hesitant to give up my steady-state cardio!!

So allow me to break it down for ya, short and sweet, right here, right now….

Reasons to do steady-state cardio

1) You simply enjoy it. It’s true , there really are people out there that do! (Just kidding…sort of. 😉 ) Seriously though, I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: THE best way to stay motivated and consistent is to do what you love.

2) Stress management – The answer to your first question is, yes, there are some benefits to steady-state cardio! Getting outside, alone with your thoughts, and sweating it out can definitely relieve stress. But again, ONLY if you enjoy it! If you despise it and only do it because you think you have to then it’s likely to make you more stressed out instead of less.

Dont-Put-Me-Down-For-Cardio

Reasons NOT to do steady-state cardio

1) Joint health – High impact, repetitive movements wear down your joints big time. Especially if you’re overweight! If you want to be a runner, prepare your body for it first by strengthening the leg and core muscles and losing weight. If you are a runner, give your body a break and switch it up some!

2) To counteract overeating – Honestly steady-state cardio just doesn’t burn that many calories. So if you think you can throw down a crap ton of pizza and then go run or ‘elliptical’ it off, you are sorely mistaken…no matter how long you go. Calorie burning pretty much stops the minute you stop. With intervals, you will increase your calorie burn for the next 24 hours! That means a MUCH higher amount of calories burned.

3) To lose weight – The reason steady-state cardio has been getting such a bad rap lately is because we have found a better way for people to lose weight and get in shape and yet most people still try to run it off. Yes, you can lose fat by running. Unfortunately the longer you go, the more efficient your body becomes and the less calories you will burn running the same amount!

4) To tone up – If you’re looking to tone up your legs, your best option is getting in the weight room! Period. If you’re looking to tone up your arms, best option is to pick up some heavy stuff. Want to lift and tone your butt? Squats, Deadlifts, lunges, swings, is where it’s at. You get the idea…. 🙂

So is there any point in doing longer cardio sessions instead of intervals?

The answer is no, you do not need to do any steady-state cardio in order to get leaner and stronger. While managing stress is, I think, essential for fat loss and overall health, there are many ways to do that.

So how much cardio should you do?

Basically you’re looking for the minimum effective dosage. I’ve yet to have a client who needed to do any steady-state cardio to reach their fat loss goals. If you are my client and your #1 goal is fat loss and/or strength, then here’s what your priorities are gonna look like:

#1. Nutrition
#2. Lifting
#3. Intervals
#4. Steady-state cardio

**Learn to train smarter, not harder, and you can most likely get away with just 1-2 interval sessions a week and zero steady-state cardio. Woo hoo!

So what can I do if I love to run, but would still like to get leaner and stronger?

 The good news is there is a way! They’re called sprints!

Sprints are basically the best of both worlds as they are, in fact, just running intervals! So here are three of my favorite ways to do sprints:

  • Hill sprints – Find a hill, sprint up it, walk down it, repeat for 5-15 reps. 🙂
  • Rest-based sprints – Got this from Jill Coleman and I love it. Sprint for 30 seconds, rest as long as you need. Sprint 45 seconds, rest as long as you need. Sprint 60 seconds, rest as long as you need. Repeat as many times as you can in 20 minutes.
  • Sports/Games – basketball, soccer, football, ultimate frisbee, red rover….need I go on?  😉

For those who are NOT interested in running, I give you this little number:

*By the way, this is a pretty intense interval workout. If you are a beginner, you might want to cut it back to 2-3 rounds to start!

One last note and then I will be done. I think most of us think of lifting for building muscle and cardio for burning fat. This is quite over simplified and just not true. You’d be much better off taking all that time and energy you’re putting into your cardio sessions and put that into improving your diet instead.

If you have to do cardio, what’s your favorite way to get it done? Share below!

Vday Partner Workout

Honestly I’m perfectly content working out by myself most of the time. However, it is more fun to workout with someone and I think most people prefer it. So in the interest of Valentine’s Day, I present to you: a partner workout. It’s a quick one too, so you can get your metabolism ready for the delectable grub you plan to enjoy mindfully later tonight, right?. 😉 So grab someone you love and give this spicy number a try!

me & my bestie makin' our workout fun

me & my bestie makin’ our workout fun

It’s called I Go, You Go. The idea is one person works while the other one rests and vice versa. So there should always be someone gettin’ their move on!

Warm Up:

14 Hip Bridges

14 Walking Lunges

14 Plank Handshakes (Position yourself head to head in starting pushup position. Alternate shaking hands.)

30 Jumping Jacks (cuuuz 14 jumping jacks is like, nothing.)

Workout:

*For a couple of the exercises I gave a kettlebell option and a body weight option. PLUS, there are 2 ways to do this next part, so it’s kinda like a choose your own adventure. I know, fun, right?!

  1. Set the timer for 15 minutes. The 1st person goes until they cry “mercy”, at which point they tag out and the 2nd person goes. Rotate through the exercises circuit style until 15 minutes is up!
  2. Each person does as many reps as they can until, as a team, you reach 100 reps of each exercise. You can switch back and forth as many times as you need to get to 100.

Goblet Squat or Prisoner Squat (as fast and as low as you can go)

Pushups

Alternating Lunge Jumps

Mountain climbers (1 rep is when both knees have hit the chest)

Double KB Swing or Burpees

*A couple things to keep in mind: Any time there is no set rep range, only go as long as you can with good form. And if you don’t want to feel completely trashed at the end, don’t go to failure on your first set…or ever for that matter. Oh yeah, and have fun!!

**If you’re looking for something extra at the end, two words: plank competition. Always.

partner wo

Two of my favorite things: my hubs and kettlebell swings

Is Your Cardio Making You Fat?

Hi friends! Thanks for checking out my first ever blog post! My hope for this blog is simply to provide you all with some answers, encouragement, and inspiration to help you on your journey to becoming the sexy beast you’ve always dreamed of being. I’ve been a little nervous about starting this up, so I decided to start with one of the most common questions that I get.

For any of you who know me or have been following my page for a while, you know that I am a huge advocate of intervals. What many don’t know is I also used to be a huge runner. (Like 6 days a week, thought I would die if I missed a day, type runner.) So I love getting the question, why should I do intervals?

cardio boredom

For those who are unfamiliar with the term, interval training is simply alternating bursts of intense activity with intervals of lighter activity. At a glance, a person might not know which category to put this activity in, but try some out for yourself and you’ll figure out pretty quickly (if you’re doing them right) that intervals should be filed under the “Cardio” category. This is in contrast to what we call steady-state cardio where you move at the same pace for one longer chunk of time, like running.

You see, most people still think of running as the ultimate cardiovascular exercise. So when they want to get back in shape, it’s the first thing they go to. However, there are 2 big problems with this. First, running is an advanced exercise. I came across this quote a while back and it’s stuck with me ever since:

“You can’t run to get fit, you need to be fit to run.”

Here are a few fun facts for you: running is a plyometric exercise. Running one mile takes approximately 1500 steps. Running can produce forces 2-5 times your body weight per foot contact. Imagine, if you will, a new client comes to me wanting to get in shape, so I say, “Great! Why don’t we start with 1500 single-leg box jumps?” That client is gonna say, “Fool! You cray cray!” and is probably never coming back. (…if they’re smart anyways.)  -which is what most people do when they use running as a way to get back in shape. January 1, yeah baby, I’m gonna go run 5 miles! By January 14, everything hurts…so glad I didn’t join that running club! Here’s my point: most bodies cannot take the kind of repetitive stress and damage that running often creates.

The other big problem comes in only if your #1 goal is fat loss. The research is in, folks. The “fat-burning zone” is not as magical as we were led to believe. You see, your body is crazy smart. The more you hang out in this “magical” zone, the better your body gets at storing fat because it has become your body’s primary source of fuel. Your body is also super B.A. and will adapt pretty quickly to steady-state cardio, which in turn means you will burn less and less calories the more often you do it. (Depressing, and yet, kinda awesome all at the same time….)

When you perform short bouts of exercise at a very high intensity followed by lower-intensity exercise, your body is able to process lactic acid build-up, therefore reducing fatigue. This method allows your body to burn calories at a faster rate. Not only that, intervals also stimulate production of your human growth hormone (HGH) by up to 450 percent during the 24 hours after you finish your workout. This means that intervals will kick your metabolism into hyper-drive thus causing your body to continue burning fat for the next 24 hours – unlike running (or any other steady-state cardio) in which your body will stop burning extra calories within 30 minutes of stopping. 

So to review, intervals will increase your metabolism and help you burn more overall calories. All of this and I haven’t even gotten to my favorite reasons to do intervals. Sweet sassy! BUT before all you runners out there start staging a coup, let me say this: I am not trying to make running out to be the enemy. Here’s what I tell my clients. If you love to run, then by all means, run. I still enjoy going for a run from time to time as well. Just know why you’re doing it. If fat loss is your goal, strength training and intervals should be priority. And be kind to your body. Work up to it by starting with a solid base of strength  first and, for heaven’s sake, stop when things start hurting and figure out what’s causing you pain.

Now without further ado, here are my top 2 reasons for why I do them, have my clients do them, and why you should add intervals to your workout routine:


1) They keep boredom at bay.  Intervals are fun because there are endless possibilities when it comes to creating an interval workout. First off, you can use just about anything you want…kettlebell, medicine ball, battling rope, jump rope, a bike or just your body weight. Anything that is going to get your heart rate up quickly will do. Second, you can use a set amount of time or a distance to determine how long you want to go. Sprint up the hill, walk back down. Go hard for 20 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds or 30 seconds on and 30 seconds off OR 60 seconds of work and 40 seconds of rest. The interval world is your oyster. Have a little fun, would ya!

2) They are efficient. Ooo boy, do I LOVE when stuff is efficient! (Seriously, ask anybody who has ever ridden in a car with me!) These babies will not only burn more fat, but they’ll do it in less time! Most people don’t have time to add 30 minutes on the hamster wheel..ehem, I mean treadmill to their workout routines.  Try 4-15 minutes TOTAL. If you’re working it like you’re supposed to that should be plenty of time.

Bonus) They are awesome for your heart. Have I mentioned that interval training will make you better, stronger, and faster! (Did anyone else just have Kanye’s Stronger start running through their head? No? Just me? Aight.) That’s right runners. Changing it up will give your body a much needed break and work some other important, and most likely under-used, muscles in the process. Plus, pushing past your usual comfort zone will make you faster because intervals are awesome at improving your overall aerobic capacity. It’s a win-win-win! Huzzah!

explosive cardio

So here you are. You’ve read the article. You feel like you are seeing clearly for the first time in ages and are pumped to try it out! First off, you’re gonna need a clock where you can clearly see the second hand or an interval timer. My personal favorite is the Gymboss. You can check that out on Amazon. However there’s also this really cool app on the iPhone called Seconds Pro that will do the same thing for around $4.99, I believe.

Here are a few of my fave ways to do intervals…..

*Pick an exercise and rep range. Let’s say 15 swings or for those without a kettlebell, 8-10 burpees. For 10 minutes, at the top of each minute you will do your chosen exercise and then rest for the rest of the minute. 10 minutes and you’re done…in more ways than one. :)

*Tabata style: 20 seconds of work, 10 seconds of rest. 8 times through. Alternate between body weight squats and mountain climbers. Boom. 4 MINUTES TOTAL.

*And a more advanced one for my runner friends out there: hill sprints. No timer required. Find a hill. Sprint to the top. Walk back down. Repeat 10 times. Thank me later.

So try these out and let me know what you think! Remember be kind to your body and have some fun with it!