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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

    More by this author

    Florian Wüest

    Qualified and experienced fitness trainer and online coach.

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    Published on July 23, 2021

    7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation

    7 Best Foam Rollers for Muscle Relaxation

    Foam rollers are one of those pieces of equipment where if you do it right, they can provide you with a deep-tissue massage. They’re commonly cylinder-shaped and they push up against sore muscles while you lay on the floor.

    Because foam rollers are such handy tools, there is a wide selection of foam rollers you can choose from. Depending on what kind of exercises you do, a foam roller can aid in relaxing different muscles in your body. Below, I picked out the best foam rollers available on the market depending on the types of exercises and needs that you have.

    How I Picked the Best Foam Rollers

    Before jumping into the list, here are the criteria that I used when putting together this list of best foam rollers.

    • Weight – Foam rollers, as their name suggests, are designed to be light enough for you to roll around without exerting effort.
    • Compact – Because you’re laying on the ground, you want to have plenty of space. As such, a roller should allow you to lay down and easily perform the exercises you need without too much issue.
    • High-density – The material should also be dense enough so that you won’t accidentally crush the roller under your own weight. The rollers on this list are very durable.

    1. Best Overall: LuxFit Premium High-Density Foam Roller

      From dealing with sports injuries to relieving tension points in your body post-workout, this premium high-density foam roller is the best. This foam roller is entirely made from molded polypropylene foam, which means that it has a high density and won’t be losing its shape for a very long time, even if you use it daily.

      Beyond that, it can also repel liquid so it won’t get soggy or wet if you’re particularly sweaty or you’re using the roller near water.

      It comes in three different sizes and can be used to assist your core, cover spinal stabilization, balance, re-educating your muscles, and boost stamina.

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      Pick up LuxFit’s foam roller here.

      2. Best Grid: TriggerPoint GRID Foam Roller

        If you’re new to foam rollers, this one might be the best choice for you. The reason for that is that each purchase of these TriggerPoint GRID foam rollers comes with a free online instructional video. This video shows you the best practices and how to use a foam roller properly.

        As for the roller itself, the big benefit here is the overall design. It has a rigid hollow core, and the materials used to make this roller are rigid so it won’t be breaking down easily.

        Another aspect to it is its multi-dimensional surface, making it a go-to roller for masseuses to athletes. These rollers can also assist in oxygen flow and heal tissues.

        Pick up TriggerPoint’s foam roller here.

        3. Best for Physical Therapy: Rolling With It Therapeutic Grade Premium EVA Foam Roller

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          Even though this roller is fantastic for physical therapy, it can also be helpful for general use, particularly before you go to work out. By rolling in advance, you’re allowing your muscles to get warmed up for the exercises that you’re doing.

          This is big because when muscles are more relaxed, you’ll be able to extend the period of your workout. You’ll want to care about this if you normally do high-impact routines such as Crossfit, bodybuilding, or general weight training.

          Using this regularly is smart and unlike LuxFit’s roller, this one is eco-friendly and resists flaking and chipping.

          Buy Rolling With It Therapeutic’s foam roller here.

          4. Best Half Roller: OPTP PRO-ROLLER Soft Density Foam Roller

            While rollers are nice, they do have a tendency to slip and slide around. If you prefer to stay still and relax your muscles, OPTP’s half-roller will be a good fit. It’s highly durable with its cross-linked, closed-cell foam. Because of that, it has a perfect balance between softness and firmness.

            Beyond that, because it’s a half roller, you have the option between a flat surface or a rounded surface for versatility. If you’re looking for a softer roller, this one is a good option.

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            Buy OPTP’s foam roller here.

            5. Best Stick: Tiger Tail Massage Stick

            While your standard rollers are great for back rolling, they’re only able to cover large areas of muscles. This becomes an issue if you’re looking to relieve tension to smaller muscles or in specific areas.

            This is where massage sticks are able to shine as they pinpoint specific areas in your body. Out of the various massage sticks we’ve checked, the one from Tiger Tail is ideal. It has three size options to pick from (11-inch, 18-inch, and 22-inch) letting you have good flexibility in what you’re looking for.

            The Tiger Tail is made from a high-quality, non-absorbent, and non-deteriorating closed-cell foam. This ensures that it won’t hurt your skin when using it, making cleaning easier, too. It’s also ergonomically designed so that your hands won’t tire out when using it.

            Buy Tiger Tail’s massage stick here.

            6. Best for Cyclists: Kieba Massage Lacrosse Balls for Myofascial Release

              While it’s no foam roller, lacrosse balls are excellent ways to relieve tension in areas where foam rollers are awkward to reach, such as shoulders, glutes, and neck. All in all, they’re a great addition to your muscle relaxation routine.

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              Every purchase of these lacrosse balls provides you with two balls to use. Through these durable balls, you’ll be able to reach smaller muscle groups easier than you could with any typical foam roller.

              Purchase Kieba’s massage lacrosse balls here.

              7. Best for Shoulders: RumbleRoller Beastie Bar and Stands

                Lastly, if you’re looking for a great way to relax your shoulders, this product from RumbleRoller is ideal. The thing with foam rollers is that reaching your shoulders with these rollers can be awkward. Paired up with shoulders tend to carry a lot of stress, we’re more likely to experience muscle pain in that area.

                Instead of pulling out your roller, this option could be significantly better. This wand features two “Beasties,” which are spiky foam massage balls. Similar to Lacrosse balls, these are able to target small pressure points on your body—in this case, your shoulders and neck.

                It comes with stands that are detachable so you can use just the ball to relieve various points over your body too if need be. Each of the balls is durable and firm so you shouldn’t have issues in relieving muscle pain.

                Buy RumbleRoller’s beastie bar here.

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                Final Thoughts

                You don’t need to be constantly seeing a masseuse whenever you experience muscle pain. In many cases, it’s simply that you put your body through a bit too much stress. Whether it’s from your posture or from working out, foam rollers and other physical therapy tools can help you in dealing with those aches and pains. Just try out a few products from this list of the best foam rollers out there, and choose one that best fits your needs.

                Featured photo credit: Ambitious Creative Co. – Rick Barrett via unsplash.com

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