When I say cardio, what do you think of? Increased heart rate through running, biking or hopping on the elliptical for long periods of time. Right? But that doesn’t have to be the only way to get cardio.

If you are anything like me, you also have a strong hatred for long distance endurance activities. I get bored and I often quit early. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t include cardio in to my weekly workouts.

I love cardio. I love getting my heart rate up, getting a good sweat, and for me cardio is a great stress relief. I have figured out what type of cardio works for me and hopefully through this article and trial and error, you will too!

THE SCIENCE BEHIND CARDIOVASCULAR FITNESS

Cardio at its simplest is really just increasing you heart rate to test your cardiovascular system. Over time with consistenc cardiovascular training your cardiovascular health will increase. It will take less oxygen for your heart and muscles to work.

Increased cardiovascular health can help to lower high blood pressure, decrease resting heart rate which both decrease stress on the heart. Other possible benefits of increased cardiovascular fitness include better sleep, increase immune system, decreased risk of heart disease, and an increase in weight regulation.

CARDIO AND RESISTANCE TRAINING

One of my favorite ways to incorporate cardio into my workout is intervals. In the summer I love to alternate sets of resistance training and sprints outside. Our gym has a great set up for this, but if you don’t have access to outdoor space or its to cold outside, hop on the treadmill. I like to do two minutes on the treadmill between resistance training. Increasing my speed every 30 seconds.

I know that there has been some controversy on whether cardio and resistance training can be combined. The real answer is it depends on your goals. If you are training for general health and strength, then absolutely! But if you are a powerlifter training for a meet, you probably shouldn’t be running miles at a time. But sprints could possibly be incorporated. I say that because of the different muscle fiber types used.

There are two types of skeletal muscle fiber types in our bodies, fast-twitch and slow-twitch. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are used in sprints and fast power movements. Slow-twitch muscle fibers are used in long distance or endurance activities. It can be beneficial to combine multiple exercise that use the same muscle fiber type.

In high school I was in powerlifting in the winter season and track and field in the spring season. These seasons over lapped and I was lifting and sprinting at the same time. But it did not have any adverse effects on my performance because the activities used the same muscle fiber type. If anything it was a welcomed change for me!

And I should mention that if you are training for health and wellness and not concerned about performance, there is no harm in mixing muscle types.

MY TOP 3 FAVORITE WAYS TO INCORPORATE CARDIO

  1. Outdoor sprints. I already mentioned this one, but honestly it hits all the bases for me. I get outside, I am exhausted doing them and I get to compete to match to beat each sprint.
  2. High reps & low weight. Okay hear me out, find a local high school with a track, I’m guess it is open to the public, at least on the weekends. You combine 1 and 2. Do a set of core, lower, and upper body exercises and end with a sprint. Repeat that 5 times and you have a great full body workout! But you spend an hour outside and got a little vitamin D (don’t forget your sunscreen). And if you not feeling the outdoor workout thats fine too! Grab some 5 or 10 pound dumbbells and check out this blog for at home workouts. Some of my favorite cardio exercises are burpees, split squats (pulses or jumps) squat jumps, jump rope or Mt. Climbers
  3. Incline walking. This is as great way to increase your heart rate but its still low impact. Plus there is the extra bonus and you can watch your favorite tv shows while doing it without bobbing up and down too much like you would while running. Incline walking is my go to if I know I should workout but I really don’t want to. It’s mindless, but still gets your body moving.

TRACKING CARDIO

Most people have a smart watch that can track their exercise, heart rate, steps, and so much more. If you don’t have one, but you want to track your heart rate, take your age minus 220. That is your MAX heart rate.

Now take that number and multiply it by 0.5, 0.7 and 0.85 separately. That will tell you 50%, 70% and 85% of your max heart rate. 50% to 70% of MAX heart rate is considered moderate exercise intensity and 70% to 85% is considered vigorous exercise intensity.

Now that you know those values you can measure your heart rate during exercise by finding your pulse on your wrist and counting the beats for 30 seconds. Multiply that by two and you have your heart rate in beats per minute! 

IMPORTANCE OF GETTING OUTSIDE

Everyone has heard that you should get at least 10,000 steps a day right? For me thats about 5 miles a day and pretty do-able because I am on my feet most of the day and in general an active person. But for someone who works from their desk that might not be as easily done.

Since the pandemic, research about getting outside as become increasingly more popular and applicable to everyday life. This means that getting outside for two hours a day, away from cars and concrete, may become the next 10,000 steps.

Like exercise, being outside has a tremendous amount of benefits. Some being increased energy and mood, boosted immune system, can enhance creativity, and so many more! Try getting outside on your lunch break, take a walk after dinner with your family, or do an outdoor workout (like below!)

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