Cardiovascular exercise is any type of continuous activity that accelerates your heart rate. Whether it is a treadmill, an aerobics class, running outdoors or doing jumping jacks. As long as it gets your heart pumping while meeting your body’s demand for oxygen then it is classified as cardiovascular exercise.
The cardiovascular system is composed of the heart, lungs, arteries which deliver oxygenated, nutrient rich blood to the entire body and veins which picks up the toxins and waste for removal. In addition, nearly all types of exercise stimulate detoxification, boost immune function and muscle recovery through a process known as lymphatic drainage. The lymphatic system is a sophisticated network of vessels and ducts that move fluid throughout the body and is responsible for moving toxins away from healthy cells and carrying germ-fighting materials to cells when they are under attack by viruses. Though fluid moves through the lymphatic system, movement is required to keep the lymphatic system functioning properly. Exercise, Epsom salt baths and massage therapy are a few examples of therapies that are intended to help pump lymph throughout the body.
The stronger the body’s ability to deliver nutrients and remove the toxins from needed areas, the faster the body can change. Cardiovascular Conditioning does just that, but before we dive into it head first I must warn you of its pitfalls.
Be careful excessive cardio can make you fatter.
In general, I feel that most people wishing to get lean perform too much cardio. Aerobic exercise causes the body to use (burn up) calories (energy). When the body is exposed to large amounts of aerobic exercise, it causes the release of glucocorticoids. Glucocorticoids are hormones that can potentially destroy lean body mass. When combined with a low calorie diet, it will lead to a loss in muscle, which will decrease your metabolism. In essence, the body begins to cannibalize its own tissue. This is a different version of starving yourself. Rather than not eating enough food, aerobic exercise becomes the primary tool for starvation.
The Most Common Cardio Myth
Cardiovascular Exercise Alone Does NOT Burn Stored Fat!
Laura, an elementary school teacher. She would come to the gym every day at 4 p.m. We usually arrived at the same time, so we would make small talk on our way in. I would leave at 9 p.m. and more times than not Laura would be leaving at the same time. At first, I thought she was stalking me. Then I came to my senses and asked what she was doing the whole time she was there.
She said, “Well from four to five I do the elliptical. At five, I take step class then after step I usually tan for 30 minutes. At six-thirty I do the Kickboxing class for an hour. After that I spin or do the stepper to work my butt.”
My jaw dropped to the floor!
After a few questions I realized that her goal was to look like a “fitness competitor ” (those were her words). She wanted a lean, toned stomach, a cellulite –free bum and defined thighs. I asked her to attend one of my seminars. Afterwards she realized that what she was doing was completely ineffective. We immediately cut back her aerobic exercise to 20 minutes in her target heart zone. She was freaking out saying, “I am going to blow up like an elephant.” I reassured her that it would not and that she had to trust me. We started lifting weights three times per week and she went from two meals a day to five. Long story short: It worked! She achieved her “dream” of competing in several fitness competitions and did very well. She chiseled her thighs, got a six-pack and lost fat by eating more and spending less time in the gym.
I am not saying aerobic exercise is bad. I am saying EXCESSIVE cardiovascular exercise is detrimental to releasing stored body fat for fuel. There can be too much of a good thing.
Aerobic Exercise is an essential component to losing fat. It can be a good thing or a bad thing depending on how much you do? Too much will slow metabolism and too little will fail to stimulate fat loss.
The goal of every plan that I develop is simply to get the MAXIMUM RESULT in the LEAST AMOUNT OF TIME. Why do more if there is no greater reward?
Most people think that they need to do at least 45 minutes to an hour of cardio daily. I rarely have any of my clients do more than 30 minutes of aerobic exercise. In fact, I often start them off on as little as 10 minutes. Once a client can maintain 30 minutes in their respective target heart zone, then rather than increasing the duration, I increase the intensity by incorporating Chillin & Killin Intervals. You will learn about these in a minute.
The Right intensity: Finding your Target Heart Zone (THZ)
There are two methods that you can employ to gauge your THZ.
- Using the “talk test”. This method is simply working at an intensity where you can talk but not sing. In other words, you need to take an extra breath at the end of a sentence. This is acceptable if you do not want to invest in a heart rate monitor.
- Target Heart Zone Formula
220 – Age = Maximum Heart Rate
Maximum Heart Rate X .65 = Lower end of THZ
Maximum Heart Rate X .85 = Upper end of THZ
TARGET HEART RATE ZONES ( in beats/min )
50 – 65%
|Intermediate & Advanced Exercisers|
65 – 80%
|Maximum Heart Rate|
220-age = MHR
* If you have a history of heart disease, be sure to get medical clearance from your physician before participating in any exercise program.
There are two types of cardiovascular conditioning:
- Steady State: This is when the intensity (speed and/or resistance) is held constant during the session. There are only slight adjustments as needed to maintain the proper intensity.
- Chillin & Killin Intervals: This is an advanced protocol that is characterized by periods of lesser intensity (Chillin) coupled with periods of higher intensity (Killin). This type of training creates a state known as Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (E.P.O.C.), which basically means “Afterburn” or how long your body will continue to burn calories at an accelerated rate even after the training is complete. Some studies show an increase in metabolic rate up to 36 hours after an intense interval workout.
As human beings we are wired to avoid PAIN and seek PLEASURE. Many people dislike aerobic exercise and often dread doing it. If you are going to get continuous results then it is necessary to develop a plan that is both enjoyable and highly effective.
I would rather drink toilet water than waste my life away on the dreadmill. Rather, I opt to hit the heavy bag, jump rope, run hill sprints, stadium steps or hit the beach and perform functional circuits in the sand. The key factor is that you must enjoy it at some level. Another great option is to get an inspiring friend or coach to join you. Whatever you do make it fun.