How I Learned the Importance of Cardio the Hard Way

When I am training clients the first time, I often hear this one sentence: “I don’t want to go jogging today, I don’t want to lose my muscles!” This is a deadly misconception. It is completely irrational, unhealthy and unscientific.

As Will Smith said, cardiovascular endurance training is one of the keys to a great life,

The keys to life are running and reading. When you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you and says, “Oh I’m tired. My lung’s about to pop. I’m so hurt. There’s no way I can possibly continue.” You want to quit. If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running, you will know to not quit when things get hard in your life.

While jogging might not be the most fun activity to do. At least for most of us. It is nonetheless crucial to implement cardio training in your workout schedule. Not doing cardio is an excuse, to not deal with the pain of running long distance. The fear of losing your muscles is simply an excuse to not go for that hard, yet so important activity.

More often than not, cardio training can actually improve your prospects of gaining muscles. Partly by helping your body build muscles faster but also by increasing your life span. Increasing your life span is a big part in achieving muscle growth. Because one thing is for sure: If there’s a person that definitely can’t build muscle mass, it’s a dead one.

Learning The Importance Of Cardio – The Hard Way

I was never a big fan of doing cardio training, until I felt an unexpected and grave urgency to start doing so. Let’s go back two years.

At that time I was at a seminar for cardio training. We were asked to do a lactate test. This is a test where you run on a treadmill while getting your blood tested several times. After a certain period of time, about two minutes, the speed of the treadmill gets increased. The goal is to find out how much lactate your body is producing at a certain speed. The more lactate your body is producing, the more stress your body is currently dealing with. Also the more likely you are for having problems with heart disease or other underlying diseases.

We were starting out at about 7 kilometers per hour. This is an easy jogging tempo considered from today’s standpoint. But back then, this was exhausting. I was starting to sweat heavily after only three minutes of running with that speed. After the first blood test, we had to reduce the speed on the treadmill. I was expected to have a lactate level at about 0.8mmol/l. My lactate levels were about 2.5mmol/l. My stress levels were already going through the roof.

At that time I was also founding my business and my youtube channel. Sleep loss, tons of stress, plus my complete neglecting of cardiovascular training has taken its toll. Me, a fitness trainer, completely healthy looking and muscular, was at a risk of heart disease. I felt like a scam-artist.

While it’s true that most of the top long-distance runners are really thin, cardio training is nonetheless important for many other key aspects of your life. Such as dealing with stress and improving your heart health. It even improves your blood circulation of your brain, which has been linked with increased intelligence.[1]

Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Cardio training is important to live a long and healthy life and performing at your highest level, both professionally and in your private life.

The Benefits For Muscle Growth

The number one reason I was afraid to go jogging or ride a bike on a continuous basis, was that I was afraid to lose my muscles. This meant that a completely biased and unscientific belief was preventing me from living my life to the fullest.

Just recently I ran 26 kilometers straight for fun. I think at this moment, I’m at one of the best shapes of my life, both physically and mentally. I am able to work long hours as a facility manager, online coach and content creator, plus I’m still able to train hard.

While it’s true that a calorie surplus is needed to gain muscles and cardio training is burning calories, this is an easy shortcoming to make up for. Having to eat more is a privilege. Most people in this world struggle to eat less.

Doing cardiovascular training on a regular basis can even help you to improve your muscle growth. Cardio training can reduce the time needed for recovery. Endurance training improves your blood circulation.[2] Blood circulation is important for transporting nutrients to your cells and removing toxins. Put cardio training in combination with a vegan diet and you’re absolutely boosting your results in the gym.

The downside of cardiovascular training for muscle growth is therefore easy to manage. The downsides of not doing cardio, are harder to deal with.

Not Doing Cardio Is Slowly Killing You

A professor of mine once told me that while weightlifting helps you deal with stress, cardio training helps you to relax. Low intensity cardiovascular training is crucial when it comes to increasing your vagal tone.[3]

An increased vagal tone, the measure of the activity of the longest and oldest nerve in your body – the vagus nerve, is linked with better control over your emotion and less likelihood to acquire stress.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one risk factor for death and disability in the US. While multiple factors are playing a role in the creation of this disease, such as nutrition. Cardiovascular endurance training is a good way to prevent and even cure that sickness. Jogging or even walking on a regular basis can improve your blood cholesterol and triglycerides level, indicators that help you live a long and healthy life. Doing endurance training seems to be a good price to pay then.

If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation. – Robert H. Butler

How To Implement Cardio In Your Schedule

To combat my high lactate levels, I was implementing sprints into my workout schedule. This is not good. I did not know that this form of high intensity training can even lead to more stress.

If you’re already an avid weight trainer, make sure you’re training cardio at separate days of your workout programs. Try to put as much time between your weight training and cardio training. This way your body has enough time for recovery and can focus on the build up of the two different training entities, increased muscle growth and blood circulation.

Implement cardiovascular training in your schedule, by following this exact order. Following this scheme is crucial for your long-lasting success:

  1. Train as often as you can.
  2. Train as long as you can.
  3. Train as fast as you can.

Implement cardiovascular training in your daily life. Walk to the grocery store instead of taking your car. You don’t have to go for a jog if you can’t do it. Instead just go for a walk. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you can’t – you’re still beating everyone that is sitting at home on the couch. The duration or the speed of your training don’t matter at the beginning. Try to do this for 3-4 times a week, you’re trying to create a healthy habit. I recommend doing cardio in the morning, when you’re still uninterrupted. The before or after breakfast discussion is trivial, you have to see what works for you. The most important thing is, to just get into the habit.

If you’re walking 3-4 times a week, you can increase the duration. Aim for 30-60 minutes each time. Day by day, try to walk a little bit longer each time. I like to use an audiobook or listen to good music. You can also find a good workout partner, this will even make it more likely for you to stick to the schedule.

If you manage to walk 3-4 times a week for 60 minutes, increase the speed of your exercise. Try to incorporate small jogging intervals in your walking. Don’t push yourself too hard. Make your training sustainable and enjoyable. At least for the beginning. With some time you will learn to appreciate the pain, in a non-masochistic way of course.

Featured photo credit: Pexel via pexels.com

Reference

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