The Cardio Factor

by Bobby Rock

With so much of our effort focused on lifting weights for maximum muscular conditioning, we have to remember the importance of cardiovascular training, as well. Cardio work is not only essential for our overall state of health and wellness, but also for “going the distance” in virtually any kind of arduous performing or training environment, including weightlifting.

Cardio training involves those aerobic activities that condition the heart, lungs, and circulatory system. These include running, cycling, swimming, kickboxing, brisk walking, and pretty much any other activity that jacks up your heart rate, including the use of classic cardio equipment like the treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike, and Stairmaster. You can either engage a single, preferred cardio exercise for every workout or switch it up each time. The only real guidelines are that you do some cardio work at least three times a week, for a minimum 30 minutes per session, and that your heart rate stays consistently elevated throughout the workout.

Running has been my primary choice of cardio for years, 
but it’s certainly not the only option...

Here are a few other suggestions:

Warm-up/Cool Down: Always start your cardio workout with a five-minute warm-up and end it with a five-minute cool down.  This will aid the body in a smooth transition to and from the increased heart rate, and also help to avoid injury or undue fatigue.

Weights First, Cardio Second: When doing cardio and weight-training in the same workout, always do your cardio training after lifting for maximum benefit. This way, you will utilize most of your glycogen (carbohydrate) stores in the muscles for optimal weightlifting intensity, which will then cause the body to utilize more fat stores during your cardio work afterward. 

Intensity Level: (For general conditioning.) On an intensity scale of one to ten (with ten being max capacity), maintain your cardio workout at a level seven; vigorous enough to get the heart pumping, but not too intense that you couldn’t maintain a conversation. 

Circuit Training: On those occasions when you’re pressed for time and you need to combine your lifting and cardio in one quick workout, perform three to five weight-training exercises back-to-back, with no rest between sets. This will keep your heart rate elevated and essentially turn your lifting session into a cardio workout.

Multitask: When using cardio equipment at home or in the gym, consider reading, returning phone calls, or listening to music or audiobooks.  This can help make your cardio workout time even more of a "non-negotiable" part of your lifestyle.

Commit to cardio training as a lifelong activity and enjoy more energy and endurance, less body fat, greater health and conditioning, and the likelihood of a longer lifespan.