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Last Updated on December 16, 2020

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.

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.

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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]

    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.

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    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.

    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]

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    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.

    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:

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    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

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    Florian Wüest

    Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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    Last Updated on April 19, 2021

    15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

    15 Static Stretches to Totally Enhance Your Workout Routine

    Stretching is one of those aspects of fitness that many people conveniently forget about. Perhaps you’re one of those who consider stretching nothing but a mere chore meant for ballerinas and gymnasts. While they are great for both, static stretches can offer a boost to any workout routine for people of all fitness levels.

    Irrespective of your reasons for working out, be it for sports or personal fitness, one thing is certain: stretching can help you. Static stretches come with myriads of benefits, such as improvement in flexibility and reduction in muscle tightness, which ultimately allow you to go through your workout routines with greater efficiency.

    For the purpose of this article, we’ll zero in on several great static stretches and take a look at the benefits and when they should be done.

    Benefits of Static Stretches

    Static stretches come with tons of benefits that can help you make the most of your workout routine. Some of them include:

    Improved Flexibility

    If you want to perform better, flexibility is of tremendous importance, irrespective of the specific workouts you do. Luckily enough, static stretches are all you need to get all the flexibility you desire.

    Flexibility, also known as the range of motion (ROM) around a joint, has been shown by several studies to be improved by static stretching.[1]

    Although the specific mechanism through which this occurs is still unclear, static stretches have been shown to greatly increase muscle and joint flexibility[2] and tissue length[3], which work in tandem to make your workout more effective.

    Prevent Injuries

    If you’re looking to push yourself to your training limits without coming down with injuries, then stretching will do you a great service. Research has shown time and again that performing the right stretches pre- and post-workout greatly helps with injury prevention.[4]

    Think of it this way:

    When you stretch, you literally push your joints and muscle fibers to their limit. This increases the stretch tolerance in these muscles and joints over time, and the increased tolerance allows you to perform more rigorous exercises without negatively impacting your body or risking an injury.

    Increased Blood Flow to the Joints

    Another benefit of stretching is increased blood flow – and by extension, nutrient supply – to the joints and muscles of the target areas. This, in turn, improves the performance of these muscles and joints due to the availability of more nutrients, improved oxygenation, and removal of metabolites.

    For static stretching, though, the mechanism of action isn’t as straightforward. When stretching statically, blood flow (capillary oxygenation) temporarily reduces due to vascular compression.

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    However, immediately after releasing the stretch, the blood flow to these areas nearly doubles the pre-stretching levels.[5]

    Improvement in Recovery

    If you’ve been working out for some time, then you’ve probably discovered that a rigorous workout session can leave you battling sore muscles for days.

    Recovery essentially means getting rid of this soreness and returning your muscle fibers back to their tip-top condition.

    Research has shown that practicing static stretches after your workout session helps to reduce muscle soreness. And while some may argue that this effect is minimal, the fact still remains that stretching does help shorten your recovery time.

    Stretching allows tissues to be better hydrated after the induced tension is released, and this encourages reduced inflammation and faster repair of such tissues.

    Other reasons why you really should incorporate stretching into your workout include:

    • Improved relaxation
    • Increased movement efficiency
    • Reduction in the risk of lower back pain
    • Reduction in muscle tension
    • Improvement in neuromuscular coordination
    • Improvement in balance and postural awareness
    • Relief from cramping

    15 Static Stretches to Enhance Your Workouts

    Here are some amazing exercises that will keep your body in tip-top condition and take your workout routine to the next level.

    1. Neck Stretch

      While sitting tall or standing, place your right arm gently on the right side of your head, and place the other arm out to your side. Slowly pull your head towards your right shoulder until you can feel the stretch on the left side of your neck. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing, and repeat for the opposite side.

      Many people tend to hold stress and tension in their neck and shoulders. If you find this is the case, this is one of the best static stretches to use for a muscle release in this area.

      2. Chest Stretch

        Stand upright, with your fingers interlocked behind your back, near your buttocks. While keeping your shoulder blades together and your back straight, push your arms up behind you until you feel the stretch in your chest. Hold for about 20-30 seconds before releasing.

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        3. Cross-Body Shoulder Stretch

        Shoulder Cross-Arm Stretch « CASS FITNESS

          Stand upright or sit up tall on a chair or mat, and extend one arm out in front to shoulder height. Grab the extended arm with your other arm, and pull it towards your chest while keeping the extended arm straight. Continue the pull until you feel the stretch in your shoulder. Hold for 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

          4. Triceps Static Stretch

            Lift your arms overhead, with both arms slightly behind your head and bent at the elbow. Use your right hand to pull your left elbow until you feel a stretch in your triceps. Hold for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other arm.

            Many know this stretch from gym class, but it really is one of the best static stretches for the arms.

            5. Biceps Stretch

            Arm Exercises | Seated Bent-Knee Biceps Stretch

              Sit on the floor with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. With your fingers pointing away from your body, place your two palms flat on the floor behind you. While your hands are steadily in place, slowly slide your butt downward toward your feet until you can feel the stretch in your biceps, shoulders, and chest. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing.

              6. Wrist Stretch

              11 Best Tennis Elbow Exercises For Pain Free Mobility [PDF]

                While standing up straight or sitting tall, extend your right arm forward to shoulder height with your fingers pointing toward the ceiling. Grab your right fingers with your left hand, and pull your right hand to bend the wrist until you can feel the stretch. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite arm.

                7. Side Stretch

                  Stand straight with your feet hip-width apart. Take your right arm and reach over your head towards your left side while bending your side. Keep bending your side slowly until you can feel a stretch on your right side. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the opposite side.

                  The muscles down your side body are notoriously difficult to stretch out. This is one of the best static stretches to try on a consistent basis to get them loosened up.

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                  8. Abdominal Static Stretch

                    Lie down on your stomach with your face towards the ground and your palms facing the floor as though you’re about to do a push up. While keeping your pelvis firmly on the floor, gently push your upper body up from the ground. This should make your feel some stretch in your abs. Maintain this position for about 30 seconds before releasing.

                    9. Reclined Spinal Twist

                    Supta Matsyendrasana - Supine Spinal Twist - Yogaasan
                      Lie down, with your arms extended to the sides and placed on the floor. While keeping the right leg straight, pull up your left knee towards your chest, tilt it toward your right side, and then drop it slowly over your extended right leg.

                      Keep your shoulder blades flat on the ground, and you should feel the stretch around your back. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the opposite side.

                      10. Knees to Chest

                      Knee-to-chest exercise from Physical Therapists' Advice to Manage Pain at Home - The Active Times

                        Lie on the ground facing the ceiling, with your knees bent. Hold your shins, and pull your knees toward your chest. This should make you feel some stretch in your lower back. Hold for about 30 seconds before releasing. If you’re looking to loosen up your back muscles, this is one of the static stretches you can do daily.

                        11. Hip Flexor Static Stretch

                        How to Do the Standing Lunge Stretch

                          Stand upright in a standard lunge position, and place your two hands on your hips. Step out on your right foot into mini-lunge position, without your knee going beyond your right toe. Hold for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left side.

                          12. Figure 4 Stretch

                          How to Do a Figure 4 Stretch | Openfit

                            Sit tall on the ground with both knees bent and both feet on the floor. Lift your right leg and cross it over your left thigh, while your left knee remains bent. Pull both legs inwards toward your abdomen for a deep stretch of your glutes. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat with the other leg.

                            13. Standing Quad Stretch

                              Stand tall while maintaining a straight posture. With your left hand, grab a pole, wall, or anything durable for balance. With your right hand, grab your right foot and pull up your heels until they touch your buttocks.

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                              Keep your knees close together while doing this, push your hip forward, and you should feel the stretch in your quadriceps. Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the other side. This is one of the best static stretches for the quads.

                              14. Hamstring Stretch

                                Sit on the floor with your right leg extended straight in front of you and your left leg bent. Reach forward with your right hand, and touch your right toes. This should cause a stretch in your right hamstring.

                                Hold this position for about 30 seconds, and repeat for the left leg. If you’re unable to reach your toes, try holding your shin instead, but seek to go further every time you perform the stretch until you can touch your toes.

                                15. Calf Stretch

                                  Sit on the ground and extend your right foot straight in front of you. Gently pull your right toes backwards with your right hand. This should cause a noticeable stretch in your calf.

                                  Hold this position for about 30 seconds and repeat for the left leg, if you’re unable to reach your toes, use a rope or towel to pull your toes inward.

                                  Bonus: Stretch With a Resistance Band

                                  Resistance bands offer a unique benefit from free weights and create tension throughout your movement. Get the free 30 Day Resistance Band Full Workout Challenge, and challenge yourself to stretch with a resistance band.

                                  When Should You Do Static Stretches?

                                  Static stretching is great when done correctly and at the right time. Over the years, research has shown that static stretching produces best results when done after working out or on rest days,[6] but not as a part of warm up routines before an explosive workout session.

                                  This is because static stretches have a cool-down effect on each muscle group and are more effective when done after the muscles are already warm.

                                  That doesn’t mean you must never ever perform static stretches before working out, but do it sparingly. Dynamic stretches, which involve more movement, are generally recommended for warming up as it helps the body prepare better for the work ahead.

                                  The Bottom Line

                                  Carving out the body of your dreams isn’t only about lifting weights and running. You need to keep your body “elastic” if you’re going to make the most of your training, and that’s the whole point of static stretches.

                                  Starting today, be sure to incorporate these static stretching exercises into your routine, and in no time, you’ll find yourself recovering faster and performing better than ever before.

                                  More Tips on Stretching

                                  Featured photo credit: Alora Griffiths via unsplash.com

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