PART 5: Cardiovascular Training - Why?

PART 5: Cardiovascular Training - Why?

What sort of training should we be doing if we are interested in health?

In my last blog I wrote about why we should all be doing resistance training and how important it is for health and performance.

In this blog I will dig into why doing some conditioning work is important and more importantly - how to do it correctly.

Firstly, why do we need to get out of breath? Quite simply, our cardiovascular system is what keeps us alive, pumping blood from the heart, full of oxygen, to our muscles and helping us move, live etc. All that important stuff!

We live much more sedentary lives in the west than we are designed for, and if our cardiovascular system is not exercised, it will become weaker and more prone to disease. So when we get a little out of breath and sweaty we force our heart to work harder to pump blood around the body, we also encourage the growth and efficiency of our vascular network - the veins, arteries and capillaries that transport and distribute the blood (full of oxygen and nutrients) to the places it is needed in the body.

Now, not much of that will have been big news for most of you. The next step is to understand how we need to be doing this!

Essentially, if we are looking to be healthier, look a bit better naked and be able to walk up the stairs without getting out of breath we need to focus on fairly steady state, moderate intensity exercise. I would recommend variety to everyone - swim, cycle, walk, jog, do some circuits, mixed modal work, speed walk, yoga, pilates, flow work…really anything where you are moving for an extended period of time at a sustainable pace.

So, I am not advocating higher intensity work for those looking to purely look better naked and live a longer life. Why? Well, the science does seem to indicate that there is some short term benefits to high intensity work but the problems with it are:

  • Most people don’t know how to make it truly ‘high intensity’ - you need to be strong and experienced in training to really elicit the response it is meant to be provide.
  • If it is not very carefully paced, high intensity work soon becomes a bit of a shit show, a really tough couple of sets, followed by a steady decline in power output. Ending with not that much work done.
  • When done properly, it will seriously exhaust people long term and simply leads to burn out. There is a reason that athletes have off seasons…why would Joe Bloggs have superior recovery responses to the elite sports people in the world?
  • The stress response is just another stressor as far as the body is concerned. Too many of these and we exceed our capacity to adapt, so maybe we stop getting fitter, or stop losing body fat. Stress really is a killer and it also kills progress in the gym.

In general, I suggest 30-60 minutes of very steady exercise 2-3 times per week. Keep it just above, or at conversational pace and finish it feeling like you did some work, but not like you want to crawl into your grave!!!

I may have just blown your mind and completely rained on the parade of your HIIT sessions, but this is what I believe in after years of just seeing people stuck on hamster wheels in gyms. Take a step back and realise that harder is not always better.

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