A lot of beginner trainees (if you recently started working to improve your health and fitness, this is you) resort to cardio, primarily. If you recently started working to improve your health and fitness, this very well could be you. Running, biking, walking, etc. Those of you who just want to do cardio, this applies to you too!
For our purposes, we are going to focus on running but a lot of the same truths are regardless of the cardio modalities you choose.
There are really great things which can come from doing cardio but there are also a lot of potential pitfalls which can affect you for years.
Cardio – The Good
As I don’t want this to be a sh*t on running post, here is a list of the potential upsides of running/long slow distance (LSD) cardio:
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
- Improved stamina
- It can promote weight loss especially if you’re going from not doing anything to adding cardio in
- Cardio can improve blood markers (cholesterol, blood pressure, etc.)
- It can improve blood sugar regulation and insulin sensitivity
- And for most, it can be a very cathartic means of finding good headspace
But There’s Bad
As with any good thing, there are evil [not so little] things too:
- Loss of muscle and potential addition of body fat
- This is driven through the release of cortisol over time as cortisol is trying to help you sustain the cardio effort
- Cortisol will break down tissue into fuel for your body
- Loss of range of motion/flexibility
- Without proper warm up and training, hamstrings get tight, ankles lose range of motion, and injury resistance declines
- The word fragile comes to mind
- The masking of chronic injury
- If you run and those aches and pains go away, they’re not fixed. Those are your endorphins going to work
- Can lead to a much higher carbohydrate intake
- This probably isn’t a surprise as this helps with cardiovascular activities
- This could also lead to body fat/weight gain in spite of exercising
- Lack of strength and power output
- If you needed to sprint, could you?
Make Cardio Better
I am not saying ‘do not do long slow distance cardio.’
What I am saying is it should be part of the whole. Unless you’re a high level athlete in a very specific strength sport, long slow distance cardio is for everyone. We could even make an argument that some form of that LSD cardio could benefit them too.
Running is not a warm up. A proper warm up is a warm up.
What would I do? Here’s a great video example. Now, if you’re time pressed, pick and choose a couple and then go. But do not ‘just go.’ You’re asking for chronic, and sometimes acute, injuries to show their ugly faces.
Add Strength Training
If you’re looking to become a stronger runner, improve the ranges of motion to make you less injury prone, and to make you leaner then you need to add strength training to your routine.
Bodyweight exercises are a great way to start. Add weights later. But just strength train.
A great starting point, especially if you’ve never done it before and this is in addition to your running, is twice per week.
Want help, here? Email me at [email protected] or go HERE to set up your free No Sweat Intro.
If nothing else, spend a few minutes after your cardio doing some stretching.
Maybe go for a walk on some active recovery days. Take a yoga class with your friends. Effectively, don’t just do cardio by itself.
This, like your training, is goals dependent but we (the CrossFit community as a whole) tend to start in this area and move out from here:
“Eat meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, little starch and no sugar. Keep intake to levels that will support exercise but not body fat.”
Outside of this, go HERE to chat with one of our amazing nutrition coaches.
Now you [hopefully] have a direction. You know how to make your cardio more worthwhile, beneficial, effective, and safer for yourself.
Lift some weights, get good and warmed up before you run, eat for your goals, and spend time on recovery.
And, as always, don’t just think about it. Take action on this today! It doesn’t need to be perfect, it just needs to be!