How I Really Feel About Cardio

Monday, September 15, 2008
Ah, a brand new blog.

I like it, but please, let me know what you think when you visit - I always welcome input and comments from everyone about my thoughts (and about the design of this new blog).

I'll be trying to post here regularly (hopefully on a daily or semi-daily basis).

Without further ado, I decided to start things off by writing about my most controversial thoughts on exercise.

I don't like "cardio." I use the quotes because cardio means something very different in practice and reality.

In reality, cardio is jogging on the treadmill, riding the exercise bike and gliding on the elliptical. It's spending at least 20 minutes of continuous, moderate effort on the exercise. It's "aerobic" exercise. That's the cardio I don't like.

It's never the most popular opinion, and I get a lot of funny looks from people who have always been told that that is how you exercise. It's how we've been taught to lose weight and get a healthy heart. Yet I still don't like it.

I don't like it for many reasons:
-It takes a long time
-It's boring
-It's repetitive
-It has absolutely zero bearing on how we live our lives (i.e. unless you're an athlete, the only time you need aerobic endurance is when you're training for aerobic endurance)
-It's an inefficient way of training, especially if you want to lose weight, which most people do

Yet cardio is something that everyone should be doing. And no, I don't have some crazy double standard here. I guess the best way of expressing it is this: Everyone should do cardio, but few understand cardio.

Cardio isn't what I wrote above - it is simply a challenge for your circulatory system. The best way to tell if you're doing cardio is simply to notice if you're breathing hard. If you are, your heart and lungs are being challenged. And your heart, like any other muscle, adapts to regular challenges. And if you get yourself out of breath regularly, you will strengthen your heart.

I honestly believe that one of the biggest reasons people don't exercise enough is that they think it just takes too much time. And traditionally, it does. Traditionally, you work your heart by doing aerobic exercise. Then you work your other muscles with weights, one muscle at a time - biceps then triceps then abs then whatever other "problem area" you have (more on this in a later blog entry).

My goal is to help people understand that this piecemeal method of training (and the supposed differences between resistance training and cardio) has nothing to do with nature - nature has no regard for such arbitrary distinctions - and everything to do with old knowledge about exercise. My goal is to help you understand that exercise is one thing - regularly challenging your body to be better.

You can work every muscle in your body, including your heart, all at once. You just have to set aside what you've been taught about exercise and make better use of your time training.

Simple as that.


P.S. Don't forget to leave comments! I'd love to hear everyone's response to my newsletters/blogs.


sara said...

A blog is a great idea! How often will we be treated to new entries?

Dawn Robnett said...

Hi Mark!
So what you're saying is while we're in Fitcamp, as long as we're breathing hard (which we do) we're doing cardio. So it also doesn't matter if we're breathing so hard that we fall out of the aerobic zone and into the anaerobic zone?

Mark Haner said...

Hi Dawn,

The so-called "aerobic zone" is man-made creation.

The fact is that your heart and lungs always have the same task. It doesn't matter if you're exercising or sleeping - their job is distributing oxygen to your body. Regardless of whether or not oxygen (or glucose as the main alternative) is used as a primary energy source for the activity in question (which is how the term aerobic was created), your heart will, like every other muscle, adapt to the challenge (in its case, the ability to pump more blood).

Heart health isn't about aerobic endurance - it's about your heart's ability to circulate blood, and if you're breathing hard and your heart is pounding, that's what your heart is doing!