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Last Updated on February 27, 2018

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.

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          How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

          How to Control Your Thoughts and Become the Master of Your Mind

          Your mind is the most powerful tool you have for the creation of good in your life, but if not used correctly, can also be the most destructive force in your life.

          Your mind, more specifically, your thoughts, affect your perception and therefore, your interpretation of reality.

          I have heard that the average person thinks around 70,000 thoughts a day. That’s a lot, especially if they are unproductive, self-abusive and just a general waste of energy.

          You can let your thoughts run amok, but why would you? It is your mind, your thoughts; isn’t it time to take your power back? Isn’t it time to take control?

          Choose to be the person who is actively, consciously thinking your thoughts. Become the master of your mind.

          When you change your thoughts, you will change your feelings as well, and you will also eliminate the triggers that set off those feelings. Both of these outcomes provide you with a greater level of peace in your mind.

          I currently have few thoughts that are not of my own choosing or a response from my reprogramming. I am the master of my mind, so now my mind is quite peaceful. Yours can be too!

          Who Is Thinking My Thoughts?

          Before you can become the master of your mind, you must recognize that you are currently at the mercy of several unwanted “squatters” living in your mind, and they are in charge of your thoughts. If you want to be the boss of them, you must know who they are and what their motivation is, and then you can take charge and evict them.

          Here are four of the “squatters” in your head that create the most unhealthy and unproductive thoughts:

          1. The Inner Critic

          This is your constant abuser. He is often a conglomeration of:

          • Other people’s words; many times your parents.
          • Thoughts you have created based on your own or other peoples expectations.
          • Comparing yourself to other people, including those in the media.
          • The things you told yourself as a result of painful experiences such as betrayal and rejection. Your interpretation creates your self-doubt and self-blame, which are most likely undeserved in cases of rejection and betrayal.

          He is motivated by pain, low self-esteem, lack of self-acceptance and lack of self-love.

          Why else would he abuse you? And since “he” is actually you– why else would you abuse yourself? Why would you let anyone treat you this badly?

          2. The Worrier

          This person lives in the future; in the world of “what ifs.”

          He is motivated by fear which is often irrational and with no basis for it.

          Occasionally, he is motivated by fear that what happened in the past will happen again.

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          3. The Reactor or Trouble-Maker

          He is the one that triggers anger, frustration and pain. These triggers stem from unhealed wounds of the past. Any experience that is even closely related to a past wound will set him off.

          He can be set off by words or feelings. He can even be set off by sounds and smells.

          He has no real motivation; he has poor impulse control and is run by past programming that no longer serves you, if it ever did.

          4. The Sleep Depriver

          This can be a combination of any number of different squatters including the inner planner, the rehasher, and the ruminator, along with the inner critic and the worrier.

          His motivation can be:

          • As a reaction to silence, which he fights against
          • Taking care of the business you neglected during the day
          • Self-doubt, low self-esteem, insecurity and generalized anxiety
          • As listed above for the inner critic and worrier

          How can you control these squatters?

          How to Master Your Mind

          You are the thinker and the observer of your thoughts. You must pay attention to your thoughts so you can identify “who” is running the show; this will determine which technique you will want to use.

          Begin each day with the intention of paying attention to your thoughts and catching yourself when you are thinking undesirable thoughts.

          There are two ways to control your thoughts:

          • Technique A – Interrupt and replace them
          • Technique B – Eliminate them altogether

          This second option is what is known as peace of mind!

          The technique of interrupting and replacing is a means of reprogramming your subconscious mind. Eventually, the replacement thoughts will become the “go to” thoughts in the applicable situations.

          Use Technique A with the Inner Critic and Worrier and Technique B with the Reactor and Sleep Depriver.

          For the Inner Critic

          When you catch yourself thinking something negative about yourself (calling yourself names, disrespecting yourself, or berating yourself), interrupt it.

          You can yell (in your mind), “Stop! No!” or, “Enough! I’m in control now.” Then, whatever your negative thought was about yourself, replace it with an opposite or counter thought or an affirmation that begins with “I am.”

          For example, if your thought is, “I’m such a loser,” you can replace it with, “I am a Divine Creation of the Universal Spirit. I am a perfect spiritual being learning to master the human experience. I am a being of energy, light, and matter. I am magnificent, brilliant, and beautiful. I love and approve of myself just as I am.”

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          You can also have a dialogue with yourself with the intention of discrediting the ‘voice’ that created the thought, if you know whose voice it is:

          “Just because so-and-so said I was a loser doesn’t make it true. It was his or her opinion, not a statement of fact. Or maybe they were joking and I took it seriously because I’m insecure.”

          If you recognize that you have recurring self-critical thoughts, you can write out or pre-plan your counter thoughts or affirmation so you can be ready. This is the first squatter you should evict, forcefully, if necessary:

          • He riles up the Worrier.
          • The names you call yourself become triggers when called those names by others, so he also maintains the presence of the Reactor.
          • He is often present when you try to fall asleep so he perpetuates the Sleep Depriver.
          • He is a bully and is verbally and emotionally abusive.
          • He is the destroyer of self-esteem. He convinces you that you’re not worthy. He’s a liar! In the interest of your self-worth, get him out!

          Eliminate your worst critic and you will also diminish the presence of the other three squatters.

          Replace him with your new best friend who supports, encourages, and enhances your life. This is a presence you want in your mind.

          For the Worrier

          Prolonged anxiety is mentally, emotionally and physically unhealthy. It can have long-term health implications.

          Fear initiates the fight or flight response, creates worry in the mind and creates anxiety in the body.

          You should be able to recognize a “worry thought” immediately by how you feel. The physiological signs that the fight or flight response of fear has kicked in are:

          • Increased heart rate, blood pressure, or surge of adrenaline
          • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
          • Muscles tense

          Use the above stated method to interrupt any thought of worry and then replace it. But this time you will replace your thoughts of worry with thoughts of gratitude for the outcome you wish for.

          If you believe in a higher power, this is the time to engage with it. Here is an example:

          Instead of worrying about my loved ones traveling in bad weather, I say the following (I call it a prayer):

          “Thank you great spirit for watching over _______. Thank you for watching over his/her car and keeping it safe, road-worthy, and free of maintenance issues without warning. Thank you for surrounding him/her with only safe, conscientious, and alert drivers. And thank you for keeping him/her safe, conscientious, and alert.”

          Smile when you think about it or say it aloud, and phrase it in the present tense; both of these will help you feel it and possibly even start to believe it.

          If you can visualize what you are praying for, the visualization will enhance the feeling so you will increase the impact in your vibrational field.

          Now take a calming breath, slowly in through your nose, and slowly out through the mouth. Take as many as you like!

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          Replacing fearful thoughts with gratitude will decrease reactionary behavior, taking the steam out of the Reactor.

          For example:

          If your child gets lost in the mall, the typical parental reaction that follows the fearful thoughts when finding them is to yell at them.

          “I told you never to leave my sight.” This reaction just adds to the child’s fear level from being lost in the first place. Plus, it also teaches them that mom and/or dad will get mad when he or she makes a mistake, which may make them lie to you or not tell you things in the future.

          Change those fearful thoughts when they happen:

          “Thank You (your choice of Higher Power) for watching over my child and keeping him safe. Thank you for helping me find him soon.”

          Then, when you see your child after this thought process, your only reaction will be gratitude, and that seems like a better alternative for all people involved.

          For the Trouble-Maker, Reactor or Over-Reactor

          Permanently eliminating this squatter will take a bit more attention and reflection after the fact to identify and heal the causes of the triggers; but until then, you can prevent the Reactor from getting out of control by initiating conscious breathing as soon as you recognize his presence.

          The Reactor’s thoughts or feelings activate the fight or flight response just like with the Worrier. The physiological signs of his presence will be the same. With a little attention, you should be able to tell the difference between anxiety, anger, frustration, or pain:

          • Increased heart rate and blood pressure; surge of adrenaline
          • Shallow breathing or breathlessness
          • Muscles tension

          I’m sure you’ve heard the suggestion to count to ten when you get angry—well, you can make those ten seconds much more productive if you are breathing consciously during that time.

          Conscious breathing is as simple as it sounds; just be conscious of your breathing. Pay attention to the air going in and coming out.

          Breathe in through your nose:

          • Feel the air entering your nostrils.
          • Feel your lungs filling and expanding.
          • Focus on your belly rising.

          Breathe out through your nose:

          • Feel your lungs emptying.
          • Focus on your belly falling.
          • Feel the air exiting your nostrils.

          Do this for as long as you like. Leave the situation if you want. This gives the adrenaline time to normalize.

          Now you can address the situation with a calmer, more rational perspective and avoid damaging behavior.

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          One of the troubles this squatter causes is that it adds to the sleep depriver’s issues. By evicting, or at least controlling the Reactor, you will decrease reactionary behavior, which will decrease the need for the rehashing and ruminating that may keep you from falling asleep.

          Master your mind and stop the Reactor from bringing stress to you and your relationships!

          For the Sleep Depriver

          (He’s made up of the Inner Planner, the Rehasher and the Ruminator, along with the Inner Critic and the Worrier.)

          I was plagued with a very common problem: not being able to turn off my mind at bedtime. This inability prevented me from falling asleep and thus, getting a restful and restorative night’s sleep.

          Here’s how I mastered my mind and evicted the Sleep Depriver and all his cronies.

          1. I started by focusing on my breathing—paying attention to the rise and fall of my belly—but that didn’t keep the thoughts out for long. (Actually, I now start with checking my at-rest mouth position to keep me from clenching.)
          2. Then I came up with replacement strategy that eliminated uncontrolled thinking—imagining the word in while breathing in and thinking the word out when breathing out. I would (and do) elongate the word to match the length of my breath.

          When I catch myself thinking, I shift back to in, out. With this technique, I am still thinking, sort of, but the wheels are no longer spinning out of control. I am in control of my mind and I choose quiet.

          From the first time I tried this method I started to yawn after only a few cycles and am usually asleep within ten minutes.

          For really difficult nights, I add an increase of attention by holding my eyes in a looking-up position (Closed, of course!). Sometimes I try to look toward my third eye but that really hurts my eyes.

          If you have trouble falling asleep because you can’t shut off your mind, I strongly recommend you try this technique. I still use it every night. You can start sleeping better tonight!

          You can also use this technique any time you want to:

          • Fall back to sleep if you wake up too soon.
          • Shut down your thinking.
          • Calm your feelings.
          • Simply focus on the present moment. 

          Becoming the Master of Your Mind

          Your mind is a tool, and like any other tool, it can be used for constructive purposes or for destructive purposes.

          You can allow your mind to be occupied by unwanted, undesirable and destructive tenants, or you can choose desirable tenants like peace, gratitude, compassion, love, and joy.

          Your mind can become your best friend, your biggest supporter, and someone you can count on to be there and encourage you. The choice is yours!

          Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

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