Cardio: Breaking It Down

running in the morning

When it comes to how to structure your workouts you must consider the goals you have in mind. According to the National Institutes of Health, do 30-45 minutes of moderately intense cardio 3-5 days per week for weight loss. So, then you ask yourself, does it matter if that amount of time is done consecutively? What about the time of day or what you eat and when you eat it around your cardio workout? Or, what if your goal is not weight loss?

The Internet won’t answer all those questions for you unless you spend countless hours researching, then cueing in everything you understand about your own body, and then putting it all together in a logical, scientific, and sound manner. In fact, we can say this is true for just about every health question someone may have. As professionals in this field, let us shed some light on the major cardio questions.

First, lets address the fact that the holidays are just around the corner and we know many of you are concerned about packing on some pounds. So, considering that after 1 hour of resistance exercise your metabolism is revving about 25% higher than your norm, we suggest that you workout before your tasty holiday meals. Think about your habits and personality: Will you feel motivated to do cardio the day after a holiday evening? If not, then make sure to get your exercise on before the festivities begin. Whatever your interests may be cardio-wise, the important thing is to come from a place of joy rather than worry.

Having said that, please do make sure that you do not have any joint issues before you start up a cardio program. Running is considered a high-impact exercise and it will, without a doubt, exacerbate any issues of the knees, ankles, and/or hips. Also, if you have any lower back weaknesses or conditions, running should be temporarily avoided. Try the recumbent bike or, if you are in a healthier condition, try the elliptical machine. Swimming is the ultimate no-impact cardio exercise, but it may be difficult to get to the pool in the winter. Whether you do or don’t have any joint issues, please do properly warm-up even prior to a cardio session. If you are planning on running or jumping then start off with something slower and more controlled. Even professional athletes hurt themselves if they do not warm-up properly.

Generally speaking, if weight loss is your goal, an endurance based resistance training program, such as circuit training combined with straight cardio sessions of 30-60 minutes, would be optimal 3-5 times per week. If shaping and toning is your goal, be sure to do your cardio after your resistance training. You need to save your best energy and mental focus for your resistance exercises. When you are fatiguing, which could be anywhere from 30-60 minutes into your resistance-based workout, hop on the cardio machines. Dance, run, or hike for 20-30 minutes for some fat burning and, frankly, some all around burning including muscles. When you get to this point of your workout your body is most likely catabolic, which means that your muscles are breaking down.

Our recommendation is to make sure you have your post-workout protein-loaded meal or shake within 30 minutes after exercise. That way the fat goes and the muscle stays. For bodybuilding, don’t do any cardio except walking or perhaps super slow hiking.

It’s also important to switch up your cardio every few weeks or every week for athletic level training. Mix up the intensity. Make sure to listen to your body if you feel like you’re forcing it. It’s always okay to dial it back and still get a great cardio session in. We absolutely do not need to be doing cardio at our maximum effort level every single time. In fact, most of the time you don’t need to push to your max. Unless you are a professional athlete, there is no reason to push that hard long-term.
Training hard all the time is hard on your joints and bones. Though resistance training actually increases bone density, if you over-train, then it can have the opposite effect. The same is true for so many other healthy habits- you overdo it and it will have an adverse effect. Protect and support your body if cardio is part of your fitness plan. Consume enough nutrients and hydrate. Water alone is not enough. Electrolytes, but not sugar filled Gatorade, are the way to go. Take joint supplements like turmeric or hyaluronic acid. The turmeric aids in reducing inflammation and the hyaluronic acid is hydrating.

Interval training is another extremely smart way to go. We recommend doing no more than 20 minutes of it though. Reason being that the cumulative effect of it is powerful. To put it in perspective, the amount of calories you burn jogging for one hour versus doing 20 minutes of interval cardio is comparable. Here is an example of interval training on a treadmill:

  • Warm-up walking 2-5 minutes
  • Low-grade sprint 60 seconds
  • Brisk walk 90 seconds
  • Sprint 60 seconds
  • Brisk walk 90 seconds
  • Sprint 60 seconds
  • Walk 90 seconds
  • Faster sprint 60 seconds
  • Walk 90 seconds
  • Fastest sprint 60 seconds
  • Walk 90 seconds
  • Cool down 2-5 minutes

We can continue discussing cardio for many reasons! So, let’s hear from you! We want to know what questions you have about cardio! Email us at

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