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How I Learned the Importance of Cardio the Hard Way

How I Learned the Importance of Cardio the Hard Way

When I am training clients the first time, I often hear this one sentence: “I don’t want to go jogging today, I don’t want to lose my muscles!” This is a deadly misconception. It is completely irrational, unhealthy and unscientific.

As Will Smith said, cardiovascular endurance training is one of the keys to a great life,

The keys to life are running and reading. When you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you and says, “Oh I’m tired. My lung’s about to pop. I’m so hurt. There’s no way I can possibly continue.” You want to quit. If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running, you will know to not quit when things get hard in your life.

While jogging might not be the most fun activity to do. At least for most of us. It is nonetheless crucial to implement cardio training in your workout schedule. Not doing cardio is an excuse, to not deal with the pain of running long distance. The fear of losing your muscles is simply an excuse to not go for that hard, yet so important activity.

    More often than not, cardio training can actually improve your prospects of gaining muscles. Partly by helping your body build muscles faster but also by increasing your life span. Increasing your life span is a big part in achieving muscle growth. Because one thing is for sure: If there’s a person that definitely can’t build muscle mass, it’s a dead one.

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    Learning The Importance Of Cardio – The Hard Way

    I was never a big fan of doing cardio training, until I felt an unexpected and grave urgency to start doing so. Let’s go back two years.

    At that time I was at a seminar for cardio training. We were asked to do a lactate test. This is a test where you run on a treadmill while getting your blood tested several times. After a certain period of time, about two minutes, the speed of the treadmill gets increased. The goal is to find out how much lactate your body is producing at a certain speed. The more lactate your body is producing, the more stress your body is currently dealing with. Also the more likely you are for having problems with heart disease or other underlying diseases.

    We were starting out at about 7 kilometers per hour. This is an easy jogging tempo considered from today’s standpoint. But back then, this was exhausting. I was starting to sweat heavily after only three minutes of running with that speed. After the first blood test, we had to reduce the speed on the treadmill. I was expected to have a lactate level at about 0.8mmol/l. My lactate levels were about 2.5mmol/l. My stress levels were already going through the roof.

    At that time I was also founding my business and my youtube channel. Sleep loss, tons of stress, plus my complete neglecting of cardiovascular training has taken its toll. Me, a fitness trainer, completely healthy looking and muscular, was at a risk of heart disease. I felt like a scam-artist.

      While it’s true that most of the top long-distance runners are really thin, cardio training is nonetheless important for many other key aspects of your life. Such as dealing with stress and improving your heart health. It even improves your blood circulation of your brain, which has been linked with increased intelligence.[1]

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      Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Cardio training is important to live a long and healthy life and performing at your highest level, both professionally and in your private life.

      The Benefits For Muscle Growth

      The number one reason I was afraid to go jogging or ride a bike on a continuous basis, was that I was afraid to lose my muscles. This meant that a completely biased and unscientific belief was preventing me from living my life to the fullest.

      Just recently I ran 26 kilometers straight for fun. I think at this moment, I’m at one of the best shapes of my life, both physically and mentally. I am able to work long hours as a facility manager, online coach and content creator, plus I’m still able to train hard.

      While it’s true that a calorie surplus is needed to gain muscles and cardio training is burning calories, this is an easy shortcoming to make up for. Having to eat more is a privilege. Most people in this world struggle to eat less.

      Doing cardiovascular training on a regular basis can even help you to improve your muscle growth. Cardio training can reduce the time needed for recovery. Endurance training improves your blood circulation.[2] Blood circulation is important for transporting nutrients to your cells and removing toxins. Put cardio training in combination with a vegan diet and you’re absolutely boosting your results in the gym.

      The downside of cardiovascular training for muscle growth is therefore easy to manage. The downsides of not doing cardio, are harder to deal with.

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      Not Doing Cardio Is Slowly Killing You

      A professor of mine once told me that while weightlifting helps you deal with stress, cardio training helps you to relax. Low intensity cardiovascular training is crucial when it comes to increasing your vagal tone.[3]

      An increased vagal tone, the measure of the activity of the longest and oldest nerve in your body – the vagus nerve, is linked with better control over your emotion and less likelihood to acquire stress.

        Cardiovascular disease is the number one risk factor for death and disability in the US. While multiple factors are playing a role in the creation of this disease, such as nutrition. Cardiovascular endurance training is a good way to prevent and even cure that sickness. Jogging or even walking on a regular basis can improve your blood cholesterol and triglycerides level, indicators that help you live a long and healthy life. Doing endurance training seems to be a good price to pay then.

        If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation. – Robert H. Butler

        How To Implement Cardio In Your Schedule

        To combat my high lactate levels, I was implementing sprints into my workout schedule. This is not good. I did not know that this form of high intensity training can even lead to more stress.

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        If you’re already an avid weight trainer, make sure you’re training cardio at separate days of your workout programs. Try to put as much time between your weight training and cardio training. This way your body has enough time for recovery and can focus on the build up of the two different training entities, increased muscle growth and blood circulation.

        Implement cardiovascular training in your schedule, by following this exact order. Following this scheme is crucial for your long-lasting success:

        1. Train as often as you can.
        2. Train as long as you can.
        3. Train as fast as you can.

        Implement cardiovascular training in your daily life. Walk to the grocery store instead of taking your car. You don’t have to go for a jog if you can’t do it. Instead just go for a walk. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you can’t – you’re still beating everyone that is sitting at home on the couch. The duration or the speed of your training don’t matter at the beginning. Try to do this for 3-4 times a week, you’re trying to create a healthy habit. I recommend doing cardio in the morning, when you’re still uninterrupted. The before or after breakfast discussion is trivial, you have to see what works for you. The most important thing is, to just get into the habit.

          If you’re walking 3-4 times a week, you can increase the duration. Aim for 30-60 minutes each time. Day by day, try to walk a little bit longer each time. I like to use an audiobook or listen to good music. You can also find a good workout partner, this will even make it more likely for you to stick to the schedule.

          If you manage to walk 3-4 times a week for 60 minutes, increase the speed of your exercise. Try to incorporate small jogging intervals in your walking. Don’t push yourself too hard. Make your training sustainable and enjoyable. At least for the beginning. With some time you will learn to appreciate the pain, in a non-masochistic way of course.

          Featured photo credit: Pexel via pexels.com

          Reference

          More by this author

          Florian Wüest

          Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

          Why You Should Keep a Fitness Journal to Jumpstart Weight Loss The Truth Behind Rapid Weight Loss and the Best Way to Shed Pounds How Long Does it Take to Build Muscle and Increase Fat Loss? How Vegan Bodybuilding Diet Keeps Hunger at Bay While Plant Based The Biggest Myth Debunked: The More Protein You Eat, the Faster You Build Muscles?

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          Last Updated on March 30, 2020

          Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

          Why You’re Feeling Tired All the Time (And What to Do About It)

          Feeling tired all the time?

          Have you ever caught yourself nodding off when you’re watching TV, listening to someone drone on during a meeting or even driving a car?

          I know I have, especially when I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive.

          Feeling tired all the time may be more widespread than you think. In fact, two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week.[1]

          If you’re tired of feeling tired, then I’ve got some great news for you. New research is helping us gain critical insights into the underlying causes of feeling tired all the time.

          In this article, we’ll discuss the latest reasons why you’re feeling tired all the time and practical steps you can take to finally get to the bottom of your fatigue and feel rested.

          What Happens When You’re Too Tired

          If you sleep just two hours less than the normal eight hours, you could be as impaired as someone who has consumed up to three beers.[2] And you’ve probably experienced the impact yourself.

          Here are some common examples of what happens when you’re feeling tired:[3]

          • You may have trouble focusing because memory and learning functions may be impaired within your brain.
          • You may experience mood swings and an inability to differentiate between what’s important and what’s not because your brain’s neurotransmitters are misfiring.
          • You may get dark circles under your eyes and/or your skin make look dull and lackluster in the short term and over time your skin may get wrinkles and show signs of aging because your body didn’t have time to remove toxins during sleep.
          • You may find it more difficult to exercise or to perform any type of athletic activity.
          • Your immune system may weaken causing you to pick up infections more easily.
          • You may overeat because not getting enough sleep activates the body’s endocannabinoids even when you’re not hungry.
          • Your metabolism slows down so what you eat is more likely to be stored as belly fat.

          Are you saying that feeling tired can make me overweight?

          Unfortunately, yes!

          Feeling tired all the time can cause you to put on the pounds especially around your waist. But it is a classic chicken and egg situation, too.

          Heavier people are more likely to feel fatigued during the day than lighter ones. And that’s even true for overweight people who don’t have sleep apnea (source: National Institutes of Health).

          Speaking of sleep apnea, you may be wondering if that or something else is causing you to feel tired all the time.

          Why Are you Feeling Tired All the Time?

          Leading experts are starting to recognize that there are three primary reasons people feel tired on a regular basis: sleep deprivation, fatigue and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS).

          Here’s a quick overview of each root cause of feeling tired all of the time:

          1. Tiredness occurs from sleep deprivation when you don’t get high-quality sleep consistently. It typically can be solved by changing your routine and getting enough deep restorative sleep.
          2. Fatigue occurs from prolonged sleeplessness which could be triggered by numerous issues such as mental health issues, long-term illness, fibromyalgia, obesity, sleep apnea or stress. It typically can be improved by changing your lifestyle and using sleep aids or treatments, if recommended by your physician.
          3. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a medical condition also known as Myalgic Encephalomyelitis that occurs from persistent exhaustion that doesn’t go away with sleep.

          The exact cause of CFS is not known, but it may be due to problems with the immune system, a bacterial infection, a hormone imbalance or emotional trauma.

          It typically involves working with a doctor to rule out other illnesses before diagnosing and treating CFS.[4]

          Always consult a physician to get a personal diagnosis about why you are feeling tired, especially if it is a severe condition.

          Feeling Tired vs Being Fatigued

          If lack of quality sleep doesn’t seem to be the root cause for you, then it’s time to explore fatigue as the reason you are frequently feeling tired.

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          Until recently, tiredness and fatigue were thought to be interchangeable. Leading experts now realize that tiredness and fatigue are different.

          Tiredness is primarily about lack of sleep.

          But fatigue is a perceived feeling of being tired that is much more likely to occur in people who have depression, anxiety or emotional stress and/or are overweight and physically inactive (source: Science Direct).

          Symptoms of fatigue include:

          • Difficulty concentrating
          • Low stamina
          • Difficulty sleeping
          • Anxiety
          • Low motivation

          These symptoms may sound similar to those of tiredness but they usually last longer and are more intense.

          Unfortunately, there is no definitive reason why fatigue occurs because it can be a symptom of an emotional or physical illness. But there are still a number of steps you can take to reduce difficult symptoms by making a few simple lifestyle changes.

          How Much Sleep Is Enough?

          The number one reason you may feel tired is because of sleep deprivation which means you are not getting enough high-quality sleep.

          Most adults need 7 to 9 hours of high-quality, uninterrupted sleep per night. If you’re sleep deprived, the amount of sleep you need increases.

          So, quantity and quality do matter when it comes to sleep.

          The key to quality sleep is being able to get long, uninterrupted sleep cycles throughout the night. It typically takes 90 minutes for you to reach a state of deep REM sleep where your body’s healing crew goes to work.

          Ideally, you want to get at least 3 to 4 deep REM sleep cycles in per night. That’s why it’s so important to stay asleep for 7 or more hours.

          Research also shows that people who think they can get by on less sleep don’t perform as well as people who get at least seven hours of sleep a night[5] So, you should definitely plan on getting seven hours of deep restorative sleep every night.

          If you are not getting 7 hours of high-quality sleep regularly, then sleep deprivation is most likely reason you feel tired all the time.

          And that is good news because sleep deprivation is much simpler and easier to address than the other root causes.

          It’s also a good idea to rule out sleep deprivation as the reason why you are tired before moving on to the other possibilities such as fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which may require a doctor for diagnosis and treatment.

          4 Simple Changes to Reduce Fatigue

          Personally, I’m a big believer in upgrading your lifestyle to uplift your life. I overcame chronic stress and exhaustion by making these four changes to my lifestyle:

          1. Eating healthy, home-cooked meals versus microwaving processed foods or eating out
          2. Exercising regularly
          3. Using stressbusters
          4. Creating a bedtime routine to sleep better

          So, I know it is possible to change your lifestyle even when you’re working crazy hours and have lots of family responsibilities.

          After I made the 4 simple changes in my lifestyle, I no longer felt exhausted all of the time.

          In addition, I lost two inches off my waist and looked and felt better than ever.

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          I was so excited that I wanted to help others replace stress and exhaustion with rest and well-being, too. That’s why I became a Certified Holistic Wellness Coach through the Dr. Sears Wellness Institute.

          Interestingly enough, I discovered that Dr. Sears recommends a somewhat similar L.E.A.N. lifestyle:

          • L is for Lifestyle and means living healthy including getting enough sleep.
          • E is for Exercise and means getting at least 20 minutes of exercise a day ideally for six days a week.
          • A is for Attitude and means thinking positive and reducing stress whenever possible.
          • N is for Nutrition and means emphasizing a right-fat diet, not a low-fat diet.

          The L.E.A.N. lifestyle is a scientifically-proven way to reduce fatigue, get to the optimal weight and to achieve overall wellness.[6]

          And yes, there does seem to be an important correlation between being lean and feeling rested.

          But overall based on my personal experience and Dr. Sear’s scientific proof, the key to not feeling tired all of the time does seem to be 4 simple changes to your lifestyle.

          L — Living Healthy

          Getting enough high-quality sleep every day is the surefire way to help you feel less fatigued, more rested and better overall.

          So, whether you’re sleep deprived or potentially suffering from fatigue or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, you probably want to find a way to sleep better.

          In fact, if you aren’t getting enough sleep, your body isn’t getting the time it needs to repair itself; meaning that if you are suffering from an illness, it’s far more likely to linger.

          As unlikely as it sounds, though, fatigue can sometimes make it difficult to sleep. That’s why I’d recommend taking a look at your bedtime routine before you go to bed and optimize it based on sleep best practices.

          Here are 3 quick and easy tips for creating a pro-sleep bedtime routine:

          1. Unplug

          Many of us try to unwind by watching TV or doing something on an iPhone or tablet. But tech can affect your melatonin production due to the blue light that they emit, fooling your body into thinking it’s still daytime.

          So turn off all tech one hour before bed and create a tech-free zone in your bedroom.

          2. Unwind

          Do something to relax.

          Use the time before bed to do something you find relaxing such as reading a book, listening to soothing music, meditating or taking an Epsom salt bath.

          3. Get Comfortable

          Ensure your bed is comfortable and your room is set up for sleep.

          Make sure you room is cool. 60-68 degrees is the ideal temperature for most people to sleep.

          Also, it’s ideal if your bedroom is dark and there is no noise.

          Finally, make sure everything is handled (e.g., laying out tomorrow’s clothes) before you get into your nice, comfy bed.

          If your mind is still active, write a to-do list to help you fall asleep faster.[7]

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          Above all, be gentle with yourself and count your blessings, some sheep or whatever helps.

          This article also offers practical tips to build a bedtime routine: How to Build a Good Bedtime Routine That Makes Your Morning Easier

          E — Exercise

          Many people know that exercise is good for them, but just can’t figure out how to fit it into their busy schedules.

          That’s what happened in my case.

          But when my chronic stress and exhaustion turned into systemic inflammation (which can lead to major diseases like Alzheimer’s), I realized it was time to change my lifestyle.

          As part of my lifestyle upgrade, I knew I needed to move more.

          My friends who exercise all gave me the same advice: find an exercise you like to do and find a specific time in your schedule when you can consistently do it.

          That made sense to me.

          So, I decided to swim.

          I used to love to swim when I was young, but I hadn’t done it for years. The best time for me to do it was immediately after work, since I could easily get an open swim lane at my local fitness club then.

          Also, swimming became a nice reason for me to leave work on time. And I got to enjoy a nice workout before eating dinner.

          Swimming is a good way to get your cardio or endurance training. But, walking, running and dancing are nice alternatives.

          So find an exercise you love and stick to it. Ideally, get a combination of endurance training, strength training and flexibility training in during your daily 20-minute workout.

          If you haven’t exercised in a while and have a lot of stress in your life, you may want to give yoga a try because you will increase your flexibility and lower your stress.

          A — Attitude

          Stress may be a major reason why you aren’t feeling well all of the time. At least that was the case with me.

          When I worked 70 hours per week as a High-Tech Executive, I felt chronically stressed and exhausted. But there was one thing that always worked to help me feel calmer and less fatigued.

          Do you want to know what that master stress-busting technique was?

          Breathing.

          But not just any old breathing. It was a special form of deep Yogic breathing called the “Long-Exhale Breathing” or “4-7-8 breathing” or “Pranayama” in Sanskrit).

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          Here’s how you do “Long-Exhale Breathing”:

          1. Sit in a comfortable position with your spine straight and your hand on your tummy (so you know you are breathing deeply from your diaphragm and not shallowly from your chest)
          2. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your diaphragm with your mouth closed while you count to 4 (ideally until your stomach feels full of air)
          3. Hold your breath while you count to 7 mentally and enjoy the stillness
          4. Breathe out through your mouth with a “ha” sound while you count to 8 (or until your stomach has no more air in it)
          5. Pause after you finish your exhale while you notice the sense of wholeness and relaxation from completing one conscious, deep, long exhale breath
          6. Repeat 3 times ensuring your exhale is longer than your inhale so you relax your nervous system

          This type of “long-exhale breathing” is scientifically proven to reduce stress.

          When your exhale is twice as long as your inhale, it soothes your parasympathetic nervous system, which regulates the relaxation response.[8]

          Plus, this is a great technique for helping you get to sleep, too.

          N — Nutrition

          Diet is vital for beating fatigue – after all, food is your main source of energy.

          If your diet is poor, then it implies you’re not getting the nutrients you need to sustain healthy energy levels.

          Eating a diet for fatigue doesn’t need to be complicated, time-consuming though.

          For most people, it’s just a case of swapping a few unhealthy foods for a few healthier ones, like switching from low-fiber, processed foods to whole, high-fiber foods.

          Unless your current diet is solely made up of fast food and ready meals, adjusting to a fatigue-fighting diet shouldn’t be too much of a shock to the system.

          Here’re 9 simple diet swaps you can make today:

          1. Replace your morning coffee with Matcha green tea and drink only herbal tea within six hours of bedtime.
          2. Add a healthy fat or protein to your any carb you eat, especially if you eat before bed. Please note that carb-only snacks lead to blood-sugar crashes that can make you eat more and they can keep you from sleeping.
          3. Fill up with fiber especially green leafy vegetables. Strive to get at least 25g per day with at least 5 servings (a serving is the size of your fist) of green vegetables.
          4. Replace refined, processed, low-fiber pastas and grains with zucchini noodles and whole grains such as buckwheat, quinoa, sorghum, oats, amaranth, millet, teff, brown rice and corn.
          5. Swap natural sweeteners for refined sugars and try to ensure you don’t get more than 25g of sugar a day if you are a woman and 30g of sugar a day if you are a man.
          6. Replace ice cream with low-sugar alternatives such as So Delicious Dairy-Free Vanilla Bean Coconut Ice Cream.
          7. Swap omega-6, partially-hydrogenated oils such as corn, palm, sunflower, safflower, cotton, canola and soybean oil for omega-3 oils such as flax, olive and nut oils.
          8. Replace high-sugar yoghurts with low-sugar, dairy-free yoghurts such as Kite Hill Plain Yoghurt with 1g sugar or Lifeway Farmer Cheese with 0g sugar.
          9. Swap your sugar-laden soda for sparkling water with a splash of low-sugar juice

          Also, ensure your diet is giving you enough of the daily essential vitamins and minerals. Most of us don’t get enough Vitamin D, Vitamin B-12, Calcium, Iron and Magnesium. If you are low on any of the above vitamins and minerals, you may experience fatigue and low energy.

          That’s why it’s always worth having your doctor check your levels. If you find any of them are low, then try to eat foods rich in them.

          Alternatively, you might consider a high-quality multi-vitamin or specific supplement.

          The Bottom Line

          If you are tired of feeling tired, then there is tremendous hope.

          If you are tired because you are not getting enough high-quality sleep, then the best remedy is a bedtime routine based on sleep best practices.

          If you are tired because you have stress and fatigue, then the best remedy are four simple lifestyle changes including:

          • Enough High-Quality Sleep with Bedtime Routine
          • Regular Exercise You Love
          • Stress Reduction with Long-Exhale Breathing
          • Fatigue-Reducing Diet

          Overall, adopting a healthier lifestyle Is the ideal remedy for feeling more rested and energized.

          More Tips to Help You Rest Better

          Featured photo credit: Cris Saur via unsplash.com

          Reference

          [1] YouGov: Two-fifths of Americans are tired most of the week
          [2] National Safety Council: Is Your Company Confronting Workplace Fatigue?
          [3] The New York Times: Why Are We So Freaking Tired?
          [4] Mayo Clinic: Chronic fatigue syndrome
          [5] Mayo Clinic: Lack of sleep: Can it make you sick?
          [6] Ask Dr. Sears: The L.E.A.N. Lifestyle
          [7] American Psychological Association: Getting a Good Night’s Sleep
          [8] Yoga International: Learning to Exhale: 2-to-1 Breathing

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