Sunday, June 29, 2014

Health Post: Learning to love Cardio

Cardio! Ahhhh. The term is something that can make me think of sweating like a pig while being bored out of my mind at the same time.

As someone who's discovered that I need to have my brain actively occupied while I exercise (which is why I love yoga, because you got to think through the poses, and sports like football, because if you don't think while playing you'll end up a fool, or cross-training, which involves switching between various different exercises), the numbing repetition of, say, running on a treadmill or plugging away on an elliptical machine made me lose focus, concentration and totally zone out. Health journey discovery: Once my mind's not in it, my body follows.

So it's not a surprise, then, to learn that Cardio is my least favorite exercise to do. But when I couldn't deal with sprints during football matches and found myself losing endurance, I decided that, like it or not, I needed cardio in my life.

And who would've thought that cardio is the answer??

NOLA ActiveWear image from this inspiring Pinterest Board, Moving Together #AdditionElleMoves. Check it out for lots more Health At Every Size inspiration!
 I exercise 3-4 times a week now and dedicate one day for cardio. That usually means spending an hour at the office gym doing a cardio cross-training routine that involves:

  • 20-25 minutes running on the treadmill
  • 10-15 minutes on the rowing machine
  • 10-15 minutes on the stationary bike
  • 15-20 minutes body weight training
The rowing machine and bike I usually split into two or three sessions before and after my run, so as to avoid boredom. (Five minutes on the rowing machine is also a great active warm up that I find doesn't jolt my joints but wakes my muscles up and gets my heart rate going.) 

But the kicker here is the treadmill.I asked a friend to give me a conditioning routine to help me last longer when I run, because seriously, when I started 2 months ago I couldn't last 7 minutes running. What my friend advised was simple:
  • Start for 5 minutes at a brisk walking pace (for me this is 2.5-3kph)
  • Increase the pace by .5 kph for 30 seconds. (e.g. now you are at 3.5kph)
  • Decrease by .5 for 30 secs  (back at 3kph)
  • Increase by 1kph  30 secs (4kph)
  • Decrease by .5 (3.5kph)
  • Increase by 1 (4.5kph)
And so on, until you reach the peak speed you can deal with. In my case that's around 7.5kph. Each interval is only 30 seconds but it's great to gradually condition yourself to get used to speed.

After about 3 sessions of doing this conditioning routine I noticed my endurance has dramatically improved. Now I can do a 20-25 minute run without feeling like dying. I know that's not a big deal for hardcore runners, but for me that's quite an achievement!

Since adding my once-a-week cardio day the changes in my body have become more noticeable too, more than when I was just purely body weight / cross-training. That was when it finally clicked for me that what fitness advisors say is true: cardio really is the answer.

What about you? How do you feel about cardio? Any tips or tricks to get the heart rate pumping? Share in the comments!

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