Are You a Cardio Clown?

A very common complaint I hear.. “I’ve been working out 5 days a week for 6 months and my weight has barely budged. I look almost the same! WHY?!!”

If you’re one of those people whose bought a gym membership (perhaps with an enthusiastic friend) and decided that this is the time where you’re going to make a change in your life and improve your health, or get the body you’ve always wanted, only to be frustrated and discouraged after months of dedicated workouts that leave you out of breath, then this is the information you’ve been looking for. Here’s one of the reasons why you might look the same as when you first started, and what you can do to make that needed change.

DON’T BE A CARDIO CLOWN – You might be one of those people who come 4, 5 or even 6 times a week and jump on your favourite cardio machine for an hour (or more). The word “cardio” means heart, and although cardio exercises are great for your heart and lungs, it limits the extent of how much calories you burn and the extent of which you can tone your body. I know what you’re thinking “The cardio machine says I burnt 1200 Calories in a single workout!” Here’s how the cardio machines work. Usually when you begin, it asks for your age, weight and sometimes measure’s your heart rate. What it calculates is your approximate BMI (body mass index) or what SHOULD be your BMI. Based on these numbers it ASSUMES that you have a certain amount of muscle mass that will burn “X” amount of calories. Usually these numbers are exaggerated because otherwise no one would buy the machines… we all like to feel good after a workout. So you may actually be burning less calories than what the machines tell you.
Cardio exercises are great for people looking to improve what’s called their body’s “oxygen consumption”. Oxygen consumption is the amount of oxygen in milliliters per minute required by the body for normal aerobic metabolism; normally about 250 ml/ minute. For people with respiratory problems, or heart conditions, it’s an important way for them to regain optimal function of their heart and lungs. The other group of people who cardio benefits is long distance runners, swimmers, and mountain climbers. Any sport that requires a high endurance or use of oxygen at an above average rate requires extra cardio training.
If you’re overdoing it on the cardio, you may actually be doing more harm than good to your body. Excessive exercise can force your body into what’s called “an anaerobic state” which means that the oxygen supply to your cells is now depleted or very limited. Cells then begin to use anaerobic energy which causes a buildup of lactic acid (this is what causes the “burn”). When you do this excessively your body starts looking for extra sources of energy to use. Some of this energy is fat, but a lot of it can be the protein in your body – ie your muscles. Once you start to lose muscle tissue, you’re breaking down. Think about it – your muscles are responsible for burning calories in your body, therefore if you lose muscle, you’re losing the ability to burn calories. When you lose muscle, guess what your body is replacing it with – FAT. Hence it turns into a vicious cycle. At the end of the day, you lose maybe a little bit of weight, but not in the right places, and you’re nowhere near the results you were hoping for.

Moral of the story – If you’re looking to get fit and toned, it’s about finding a balance in your workout. A very important part of that balance includes proper weight or resistance training, endurance training, functional training, yoga, and SOME cardio. Beginners should be working out only about 3 times a week for 45 min to an hour, and with the proper guidance from their family doctor and a certified trainer who understands these key concepts.

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