By Michael Simmer BS, CSCS, LMT, FST
Cardio, a word that many seem to love, fear, or hate, and in some cases like mine a combination of the three. I find that most of the time, many of us hate the idea of doing cardio, but understand the necessary evil that cardio is. Not many people look forward to the idea of going for a run, or climbing the stairs or rowing for countless minutes on end, but if you go to most gyms in America especially during peak training hours, what pieces of equipment are in the most demand, the cardio pieces, meaning your treadmills, ellipticals, stair climbers, rowers etc. Why is this? Well many of us clients and trainers alike operate under this idea that cardio is dramatically needed in any workout routine to achieve any type of results, especially those with goals centered around weight loss. I am not here to debunk the idea that cardio or cardio machines do not work, I understand that there is a reason why every gym has cardio equipment and I am not about to change that. What I am looking to do is propose a different take on cardio, and one that may work better within someone jam packed schedule, in order to do this let’s first take a look at some of the current guidelines or recommendations are about cardio.
The American Heart Association (AHA) says you need to achieve 150 minutes a week of moderate intensity or achieve 75 minutes a week of vigorous intensity, this breaks down to about 30 minutes over 5 days per week. These recommendations are in line with what the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends as well, encouraging us to it 150 or 75 minutes a week respectively. ACSM also encourage that the 150 minutes a week be a combination of moderate to high intensity levels. Both the AHA and ACSM along with the US Department of Health suggest that moderate exercise is when a person is working hard enough that they can still talk though not hold a long conversation or sing, while high intensity is when a person is working hard enough that they cannot say more than a few words without needing to stop for breath. Now these are just the recommended values for a person to stay healthy, these values do not factor in a person’s current fitness level or goals, when it comes to weight loss or muscle gain, and that is where having a proper routine and diet comes into play, of course reach out to any of your coaches for advice or schedule a meeting to talk about your fitness goals.
Now that we have an idea of what we need to do, what exactly is cardio? If I was to ask most people on the street what is cardio I am willing to bet that most would say running. While yes of course this would be cardio and a great form of cardio, it is not the only form. Really, I could argue that any exercise could be cardio since all exercise places stress on the cardiovascular system. Weight Lifting, Hiking, Yoga all place a demand on the cardiovascular system in a way that a person may be able to talk but not be able to sustain a full conversation, so they all would fall under the guidelines of the AHA and ACSM. The thing is when most of us go to do cardio, we stay at the same level and intensity for a long period of time be it 60 minutes or more, to try and reach the demands required to help reach our fitness goals. The other issue many of us have with cardio is the mundaneness of it all, it’s not that entertaining to be in the same spot for over an hour like when on a piece of cardio equipment, lets be honest it can just be boring, so how can we spice the idea of cardio up a bit? That’s where Metabolic Training comes in.
So, just what is metabolic training? Well that gets tricky since there is no one clear definition of what metabolic training is. There is however a clear direction in the term, and that is metabolic meaning exercise that impacts a person’s metabolism, and in this case exercises that help speed up a person’s metabolism and ability to turn food into fuel. The way our metabolism works in the different states it can be in throughout the day including when we sleep is amazing, but much too long to go into in this post, I encourage you to reach out to your coaches if you wish to learn more about metabolism and specifically fuel metabolism. Now again for the sake of this post, we are just looking at metabolic, being a way to impact or metabolism through bouts of exercise. When it comes to us and most trainers in the industry the idea of metabolic training will break down to any bout of exercise that is high intensity and usually will be referred to as High Intensity Interval Training or HIIT. This structure places a high demand on the body and on our metabolic system while allowing very little rest in between rounds. This HIIT style of training as shown increased benefits not just during a workout but post workout as well, allowing a person’s metabolism to continue burning at a high level, as it tries to get all the systems back to a normal post exercise state which can take anywhere from around an hour to 24 hours, this high active metabolism post workout will continue to burn calories at a higher level than one might see with a long steady state version of a cardio workout like jogging on a treadmill. If this style of training can produce similar and in some cases better results than your normal cardio routine, and do it in much less time, this would allow a person to focus on other forms of training during their workout, which again could lead to faster results. There have been numerous studies done centered around HIIT training, one done by Michele Olsen in 2013, had a group perform a Tabata, something many of you here at pulse should know all about, again a Tabata is 20 seconds of work with a 10 second rest for 8 rounds which equals 4 minutes total. The study showed that combined during and 30 minutes post Tabata, the group averaged a total of 135 calories burned in just a 4 minutes bout of exercise. Compare that to most studies showing an average of around 100 calories burned per mile run. I like the idea of being able to do a 4-minute work load, and achieve the same if not better results, while being a bit more exciting then running on a treadmill.
This is not meant to say that all traditional cardio should be exiled and never done again, this is instead to offer a different approach that can be as good and in some cases more rewarding. If you are someone who enjoys going out for a run every now and then, I encourage you to keep that up, now if you are someone who dreads the idea of being on a treadmill or any cardio machine, this is another approach you can take to achieve the results you are hoping to gain, with a little less dread then staring down another 60 minutes of steady cardio. The fitness industry is always changing and it is important that we change with it, if we just continue to do the same things over and over our bodies will become use to it and they won’t need to adjust to those demands any longer, a quick shake up like using a HIIT or Tabata program in the middle and end of your weight lifting sessions can do wonders for you and your metabolism, while not sacrificing your lift, and also help you avoid setting aside a whole workout to run or walk or climb staring at a wall.
If you wish to gain more information on metabolic resistance training and its benefits please join us here at Pulse for our September Learn and Burn, on September 30th at 10am and then stay at 11 am to experience some MET for yourself. Contact us today for more information.