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The Truth about Cardio

Here is something I hear all the time; “when do I do my cardio?”

My response is simply to tell people never. I do not see any need for people to do cardio only workouts.

The belief that we need to stems from this bodybuilding/gym tradition, which requires that low intensity cardio focused workouts be performed on seperate days from strength training. This is a process used by bodybuilders and fitness copetitors to minimize muscle breakdown while burning body fat.

What many people do not realize is the amount of time these dedicated individuals put into training. Many people in this field typically do strength training worouts 6 times a week for 60-90 minutes and then in addition to that perform another 4-7 90 minute cardio workouts at low intensity.

Will this system get you lean and strong? Yes. How many of you have time for 12 to 14 60-90 minute workouts per week?

Resultant from this philosophy is the idea that the only way to lose body fat and keep your heart healthy is to do long cardio training exercise 3-4 times a week. This is absolutely not the case. These cardio workouts are alos not neccesary to improve and maintain your heart health.
Thats right, you do not have to do cardio workouts to keep your heart healthy, strong, and free of disease.

Here are my thoughts.

Your body was never designed to work each body system independantly. Everything you do from daily life chores, to sports and recreation, to sleeping, and almost any other activity you do requires that your cardiovascular system works in conjunction with your muscular system, lymphatic system, circulatory system, and neurological system (thats your brain and body control) and every other thing that occurs inside your skin.

Why would we train that seperately then? Why would we work the muscles one day and the heart and lungs the next? Why would we do days of just flexibility and balance training and not train your body to be flexibly and balanced while it is also using your muscles and heart and lungs? The answer is that we should not be seperating these things.

Your cardio system, muscular system, and your nuerological system should all be trained TOGTHER. And sorry, jogging/walking on a treadmill, sitting on a stationary bike, and mindlessly going through the paces on an elliptical trainer does not accomplish this.

What we all should be focused on is making your muscles stronger (resistance training, not neccessarily weight training), while at the same time improving your heart and lung health (cardiovascular training) and challenging your brain (neurological system) to coordinate the whole thing.

 This can be accomplished many ways. Here are some examples:

-instead of a stationary bike get on a real bike and go mountain biking

-try rock climbing

-bootcamp style workouts (old fashioned military stuff, you know, pushups, stairs, squats, hill sprints and all that really fun stuff)

-HITT style programs

-martial arts/kickboxing etc

This is not an exclusive or exhaustive list by any means. The common theme here is that all of these activities challenge your muscles, heart and lungs, and your mind all at the same time.

What is lacking from most cardio workouts is strength training through full ranges of motion. Sorry but the ellipticals, treadmills, stationary bikes, spin bikes do not provide this. Walking, running, and swimming also do not provide these things (running and swimming can be adjusted to provide some of these benefits).

The whole point of this blog is to inform you that for the majority of the population (wanting to lose weight, ‘tone up’, improve their fitness, improve sports performance etc) there is no need to perform cardio workouts. This is a big fat myth.

The journal of Strength and Conditioning published an article in March 2008 detailing the aerobic fitness improvements in recreational rock climbers. The subjects of the study participated in 120 minutes of climbing per week and the average participant age was 42 years old.

What did the study find? That in 2 hours of rock climbing per week with no additional exercise the aerobic profile of this activity was classified in the excellent category as set by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM). Thats right. 2 hours weekly rock climbing meets the requirements set out to keep your heart and lungs happy and healthy.

And rock climbing provides the added benefits of strength training, improving flexibility, and improved neuorological functioning. Let’s see a treadmill or elliptical ellicit all of those responses in 2 hours per week. I am not even going to get into the positive changes to your hormones that come from strength based activities.

I hear the question all the time….’what about doing cardio?” If you love doing cardio then keep on going. But I want people to recognize that you DO NOT HAVETO DO CARDIO only training, in fact cardio only training can work against you.

Yes, if you only do cardio training and your goal is weight loss, strength gain, ‘toning’, or long term commitment to a program you are on the wrong track.

The longer you can do any activity the slower your metabolism must be and the better your body must become at conserving energy. Thats right, you are slowing your metabolism down. The longer you can do an activity the less muscle and strength you will have because you can not sustain that type of body tissue for extended periods of time, it simply takes too much energy. The longer you do the same activity over and over again the less likely you are to be stimulated enough to continue the program.

Here is the jist of what I am getting at. I am not saying cardio is bad. You need to exercise your heart and lungs. I am saying that the current beliefs and practices guiding how we maintain our cardiovascular health are totally misguided. We need to change how people are exercising in order to improve the long term health and well-being of our culture.

For all you runners, marathoners, cyclists and other endurance athletes out there take heed to what I am about to say before tearing a strip off me (which I always welcome anyway). I am not saying these cardio exercises are bad for you. I am saying that they do not line up with most peoples goals.

If you compete or have an interest in these endurance activities then it is fine to do them and you can do them safely and effectively. But also note this, if you exclusively do endurance activities and do not cross train with strength based and full range of motion activites then you are damaging your bodies very badly and need to adjust your workouts accordingly or you will pay the price inthe long term.


Sum it up! You do not need to do cardio training on its own. Trash your elliptical and get rid of your clothes rack (I mean super dusty treadmill). Find something you enjoy that can acomplish all of the things you need at the same time. It is more effective, more efficient, and you are more likely to stick to it and yes, you are more likely to enjoy it!


Things We Think Are Healthy

There are definitely some things in our culture that we think are synonymous with ‘healthy’ when in fact they may not be.

It comes down to some flashy marketing and companies have used these trends to ingrain in us a false idea of healthy food.

Let me pretense this (I have to do that a lot) by saying that I am not going to go into great depth withthe details. If there is something you do not agree with, before you get angry and frustrated and write me nasty emails, do some research. Learn about the topics and the science behind it. If you still do not agree with me, then write me nasty messages. I can take it.

Things we think are healthy but are not necessarily so:

1. Vegetarian

Just becasue something is labelled vegetarian does not mean it is good for us! I can not tell you how many times I have been out to dinner and everyone feels a sense of self righteousness by ordering the vegetarian dish.  Guess what, this does not mean you are making the healthiest choice on the menu.

This does not mean that vegetarian foods can not be healthy, but vegetarian simply means it is not animal based. It does not mean the option is not filled with transfats, or sugar, or white flours, or a host of other things that are not good for you.

2. Organic

This is essentially the same as the above comments on vegetarian. Sure there are no additives or chemicals, but is there excessive amounts of sugars, or unhealthy fats? You can have a deep fried chicken sandwich covered in mayo and a side of fries and onion rings that is all organic. Doesn’t sound too healthy does it?

3. Low Fat (or fat free) 

I could write an entire book on this one! Low fat diets are not healthy diets. Your diet should consist of a minimum of 20% healthy fat sources, some argue that around 30% is an even better ratio. The key is that the fats in your diet should be healthy fats, poly and mono-unsaturated fats rich in omega 3-6-9’s.

Low fat products often remove fat and replace it with sugars and other fillers that are the real culprit of the obesity and diabetes issues facing our society today. We need fat in our diet!
Learn about what you need in your diet and how to eat. The best source on the market right now is The South Beach Diet. It breaks down the science of your nutrition and effective strategies very well. It is a good overview of the nutritional programming I use with the majority of my clients.

Always ask yourself who is giving you nutritional advice. Should they be giving you advice? What are their qualifications to provide that advice? Where did they hear it?

Or maybe they read it on a cereal box…

The Cost of Personal Training

First lets compare you and a car. I know, you are vastly more complex than a car and require more maintenance, and have to last much longer with no warranty or ability to replace parts or get service. But other than that things are quite similar. For our bodies we have to fuel, wash, keep active and lubricated, and keep it looking nice, just like a car.

Here is something to think about. Your car breaks so you go to the mechanic. It makes funny sounds so you research on the Internet what the problem might be and then take it to the mechanic when you realize it is beyond the scope of your knowledge base.

What about our bodies and health though? Even though we are infinitely more complex, require more service and maintenance, we for some reason think we can plow through life without learning how to care for our bodies properly. Just like your car, if you do not keep up the maintenance and care it will start to fall apart and eventually stop working altogether.

Why do we not seek professional help for our body? We will hear any random promise or gimmick about our health and are ready to jump on the band wagon and believe whatever we hear.

Or we speak to the wrong professional thinking that there is one stop shopping for our bodies. You wouldn’t take your BMW to the Ford dealer for service. There are a variety of professionals where your body is concerned.

If you are injured physiotherapy can help, tight muscles, see a masseuse, chronic back pain, chiropractors have vast expertise, and doctors are great at diagnosing and treating illness, injury, and disease.

If you want to improve your physical fitness, lifestyle, and learn to manage your weight, good personal trainers are the professional to seek. The same applies if you want to train for any specific sport or other athletic endeavour, you need to seek the advice of an strength and conditioning coach.

I think that there are many reasons that people do not utilize trainers but the most common one I hear is that its too expensive. So lets take a look at what training really costs.

Sessions in general range from $40 to $100 per session (usually 60 minutes). Really, this is on par with chiropractic, massage, physiotherapy, and many other health service providers. Often, you will receive discounts based on purchasing more sessions.

Most people train 2 or 3 times a week. So lets average the price of the sessions to $60 a session to do some math.  Training 2x weekly is a good place to start (if you are doing your homework!), which is going to cost you $120 a week. This may sound like a lot but look at it this way; go out for dinner two nights ($70 with a couple of drinks), morning coffee ($14), and a few miscellaneous items ($25). There we are, $109 gone for the week.

Essentially, this is the same cost as training for the week. Whats the difference though? One of the groups above you truly waste. You either store it all as fat or it passes right through you, nothing like peeing away your money!

The other is the cost of your personal trainer. What do you get from that? Motivation, inspiration, a workout program, years added to your life, improved quality of life, better physical appearance, decreased risk of diseases including cancer and diabetes, just to name a few.

I know what you are thinking, this means you have to give up all your favorite things and sacrifice your social life. Well, suck it up and deal with it. This is not forever. This is for a few weeks to help change your life for the better. Even if you are already in great physical shape a good trainer can change the way you feel and think about fitness.

You don’t have to give up social stuff forever, I am merely trying to make you see that for what a trainer can do for you the money is not really all that expensive.

Instead of your $700 a year membership at the gym you rarely use, invest the cash in a trainer that can actually change your life. Or you can waste the money slaving away on a treadmill or wandering around equipment you have no idea how to use.

And there are other savings that many people do not even think about. Many people can decrease or eliminate medications and other drugs once they get their health in check, which can save thousands of dollars. Home exercise equipment that becomes useless after a month or so can cost over $3000 for a single piece. A good trainer can show you how to get a better workout with no equipment.

And how do you even put a value on how much better you will feel? How do you measure improved quality of life and adding yeas to your life? Does thousands or hundreds of thousands even cover that? Playing with grand kids, living a year or two longer, being able to stay active and healthy and mobile as you age, accomplishing some long thought dream or goal by trying a trip or new activity. How do you place a value on that?

What is going to help you accomplish those things? A fad book?  A new DVD set? A generic gym membership? Or a personalized lifestyle change designed by a health and fitness professional?

Remember that not all trainers are worth the money, I would say 80% are not. Read my blog on the dangers of personal trainers and what to watch for when looking for a trainer. A good one is worth more than they charge, a bad one, you might as well have those dinner and drinks.

And please do not take this post as a sales pitch. Train with me or my staff, go to another training location in town or whatever town or city you are from. The key is that the person you work with is right for you and can help you. Not every trainer and facility is right for you just as you might not be right for the trainer. Interview them, talk to their clients, do a trial session with them. You don’t have to buy a years worth of training. I have found over the years that 10 sessions is a great way to get started, and for may, 10 sessions is all they ever need.

You don’t need a trainer forever, some people choose that. You don’t NEED that. Let them help educate and teach you how to take care of yourself, that is really their job. Nothing more and nothing less.

Now get off the Internet and go change your life!


HIT Training Sample (Part 2 of 2)

Sorry for the delay!

This one will be brief but I promised a sample HIT program. Remember that the goal with this style of workout is to workout for a shorter period of time with a higher intensity level. This will help rev up your metabolism and improve your cardiovascular function way more effectively than traditional cardio training.

You can use any of the regular activities you enjoy. Running, cycling, rowing are all good examples. My favorites include jumping rope, running stairs, and plyometric jumps (jump onto a 6-14 inch box or step).

How do you make this a HIT program? There is no one set pattern, you can put it together an infinite number of ways. For this example we will use time blocks.

Continue reading HIT Training Sample (Part 2 of 2)

HIT Training (Part 1 of 2)

What is HIT training? This is simply a term used to describe workouts that actually provide you with a significant benefit in a reasonable period of time.


Have you ever watched friends or family members slave away on a treadmill or exercise bike for hours and hours? Ever notice how after a few weeks they stop doing it and after a few months they still have not improved their health and fitness level?


This is usually because they are not really doing enough to force their body to get stronger. Unless you are challenging your body with new stresses and placing demands on it that are above and beyond what it is used to, then it is not going to respond. It doesn’t need to.


Instead we want to increase the intensity of your program so that your body has a new stimulus to adapt to.


Assuming you have no injuries and already have a decent base level of conditioning you can begin HIT training. If you do not meet those criteria you should seek the assitance of a personal trainer or fitness coach to make sure that you initiate a fitness program that will keep you injury free and prepare you for a HIT program.


What is a HIT program?


Here is the simple answer: it is exercise that makes you sweat and breathe hard and forces you to limit your workout to 30 minutes or less.


Doesn’t sound too easy does it?


That is because it isn’t easy. Easy programs are lazy programs and lazy programs are ineffective programs.


A HIT program pushes the limits of what you can do. It forces your body to adapt by getting stronger and more efficient, which increases your metabolism and improve your cardiovascular health


Many people think that the best way to lose body fat is to exercise at 60% of their maximum effort for 45-60 minutes. Where does this come from? Those stupid stickers on the treadmills that show the ‘fat burning zone.’ That is some of the best marketing the fitness industry has ever conceived!


Sorry, but this is not the case! Read on and I will do a few math calculations for you.



We will use a 180 pound, male around 30 years of age as our example. If you are older, younger, heavier, lighter, or a different sex, than the base metabolic rates and calories used numbers will be a little bit different, but the principles will be the same.


So our case study wants to burn off body fat and keep muscle. So he decides to incorporate some cardio into his program. To preserve muscle he is going to stay at 60% of his max heart rate and do an hour long session on the treadmill.

            Treadmill, 60 minutes @ 4mph: Overall calories burned = 340

                                                             60% calories from BF = 204

                                                             40% calories from glycogen and muscle catabolism


Now let us say that our guy decides that he hates watching Oprah for an hour 5 times a week and wants to shorten his time on the treadmill. He ups his intensity to 80% of his max heart rate, which is not sustainable for a solid hour, so he is going to do a half hour session. This means that with commercials Oprah viewing is limited to a mere 20 minutes.

            Treadmill, 30 minutes @ 6.5mph: Overall calories burned = 450

                                                                 40% calories from BF = 180

                                                                 60% calories from glycogen and muscle catabolism


Well you might say at this point, more fat burned during the lower intensity session it is a better way to decrease body fat. This is the reason that many have decided to use the less effective system. There are other variables that we need to consider with this example.


1.      There was only a total of 24 calories less BF burned with the high intensity set, that’s only 3 dietary grams of fat.

2.      Don’t ignore the fact that the high intensity program is HALF AS LONG, only 30 min.

3.      While the amount of non-fat calories is higher, with the shorter duration, the majority of those calories will come from stored muscle and liver glycogen, not muscle catabolism. It is at high intensities longer then the 30 minute mark that the muscle catabolism becomes an issue, and then mostly if the right nutrition is not in place.

4.      The cardiovascular system would have to work at a much higher level during the shorter and higher intensity workout leading to more health benefits for the heart and lungs than the low intensity program provides. 

5.      He couldn’t even pay attention to Oprah because he was working too hard.



There are other important aspects that need to be recognized as well. Intense exercise has been shown to increase metabolic rate much longer then low intensity exercise and the positive hormone response from intense exercise.


We will use the conservative estimates for our purposes. Exercise 70% or higher of maximum intensity has been shown to increase metabolic rate from 5-19% for up to 38 hours after the cessation of exercise (‘Impact of energy intake and exercise on resting metabolic rate’, Mole et al, Sports Medicine, vol 10, pp 72-87). Exercise below 70% does not have the same effect.


If we use our example above and say he experiences a 10% increase in base metabolic rate for 12 hours he will create an additional calorie deficit of 157 calories, based on a BMR of 3140 calories. This is in addition to the calories utilized during the session. If the extra calories are just over 100 per session we could drop a full cardio session from the 5 times a week schedule and burn almost the same number of overall calories over the course of the entire week.


If all the stuff I just wrote bored or confused you, don’t worry, next post will be on sample HIT programs!!!

Walking is Not a Fitness Program

I perform a lot of one on one health and fitness consultations for our corporate clients. There is one thing in particular that comes up all the time that drives me a little crazy. Walking.


When I am talking to someone new I need to know what their current activity consists of, what they think they should be doing from an activity perspective, and what they can see themselves pursuing for physical activity.


At least a few time a week I am told that the person is going to start walking or has already started walking. Even more entertaining for me is when I am told that they started walking for fitness but they no longer do. Why is that entertaining? Because this is a great example of the inability of walking as a primary exercise source to make you healthier and keep you healthy for the rest of your life!


Your going to start walking? When did you stop walking? Don’t you already walk all the time everyday? When you go to the kitchen, go to your car, go to the bathroom, or go pretty much anywhere else during the course of your day?

Continue reading Walking is Not a Fitness Program

The Problems with Personal Trainers

Personal training will be one of the best investments you can ever make in your entire life. Of course this is largely based on the fact that you are choosing a skilled, educated, and high caliber personal trainer. Unfortunately 80% of the trainers out there (no that is not an official stat, it is simply based on my experience) are not worth your money and time investment.


Imagine this. Your car just doesn’t seem to be working properly. So you stop in at the auto mechanics, park in the front lot and sit down in their office. After a brief talk about what you think may be wrong with the car the mechanic recommends a series of parts replacements and services for you and attempts to make you purchase those services immediately.


That is ridiculous.


What if there is nothing wrong with your car? What if what you think is wrong with your car is not accurate because you do not know very much about your how cars work? There is absolutely no way a mechanic can know how to fix your car without a thorough history of the issue and a hands on physical assessment of your automobile.


Trainers should do the same thing. They should do a thorough physical assessment of your body and mind before every prescribing a program for you. They should get to know your goals, expectations, time frame and needs through a sit down discussion. They should examine your health and fitness history. And they MUST do a physical assessment of your body. They need to be aware of any biomechanical imbalances, limitations, and injuries. They need to assess injuries and your current fitness level.

  Continue reading The Problems with Personal Trainers

How sad, we can’t even say ‘fitness’ anymore

            I am the first to admit fault when it comes to using the word ‘fitness’. When I am making new marketing materials or writing for various other outlets I often hesitate before deciding to use that word.

            Why? It has come to carry and almost harsh feel to it, reminiscent of words such as, ‘tough’, ‘difficult’, and ‘strenuous’. There are other connotations stemming from the word fitness, unfortunately they tend to include: ‘unpleasant’, ‘tedious’, ‘boring’, and ‘unobtainable’.

            Often I fear using the term fitness will scare people away form what we are writing or lecturing. If you call something a ‘fitness program’ most people tend to instantly tune out and ignore the rest of the message or the program pitch.

            Instead we devote out time to finding synonyms that seems less daunting and are less likely to turn people off. Inserted into the mainstream are terms like, ‘conditioning’, ‘shape’, ‘health’, and ‘lifestyle’. These terms are less threatening and appeal to the trend of producing less strenuous programming in order to appease the laziness of the masses.

            Because that’s really what we are talking about. Laziness. People hear the term fitness and groan. They assume that whatever follows will be unpleasant and the will have to make sacrifice and maybe push their bodies harder than they are used to. We do not want to exert ourselves. We want to finish work and relax. We want to have dinner parties and not think about what we are eating. We want to snack at night without consequence. We want to be entertained.

            It is assumed a ‘fitness’ program is going to be difficult. It is going to require too much sacrificing the ‘good things in life’. And we are not all ready to do that. It is also assumed that a ‘fitness’ program is going to be boring. Everyone has done some kind of fitness program before and usually the reason they are no longer participating in it is because it was so mind-knumb-ing-ly boring that they would rather drop a rock on their foot, a heavy rock.

            Well I am done. I am done pacifying laziness and catering to the childish excuses that our population has come to find acceptable. I am going to use the word fitness. I am going to use it proudly. Yes, it is going to require some hard work and dedication. It mya even require a little bit of self sacrifice. But our glutinous lifestyle needs some fitness injected into it.

            We all need to grow up and take responsibility for ourselves and our bodies. Welcome to the start of your new fitness program.

Voluntary vs. Involuntary Muscle: Major Consequences for your Health

When it comes to maintaining a healthy diet and lifestyle it is very important to truly understand some of the key difference in your muscle anatomy.

            Understanding the simple differences between the main two muscle categories will have dramatic effects on your health, body fat, energy, and overall sleep patterns. It is unfortunate that this simple explanation is not provided to more people and that the majority of health professionals tend to ignore that these classifications exist.

            In the health and fitness world most professionals spend their time promoting unachievable programs and unrealistic expectations. Many professionals including, personal trainers, doctors, nutritionists, physiotherapists, and chiropractors spend a lot of their time coercing and trying to convince their clients and patients to follow healthy diet and exercise programs without delving into the most important aspect of adherence to those programs.

            If we were to spend more time paying attention to one simple and important element that drastically affects your diet and exercise we could truly make an impact on our population’s health and fitness.

   Continue reading Voluntary vs. Involuntary Muscle: Major Consequences for your Health

Making Comments and sharing your thoughts

So far I no one has made any comments on my postings, which tells me a few things:

1. Everyone agrees with me, which is fantastic!

2. No one wants to register and take the time

3. People disagree with me so much that they are too mad to typs a comment

4. No one really wants to

Regardless, if you would like to make a comment, either to agree, disagree, add some other information, provide another perspective, or anything else, I would love to see some posts and comments!

 At the bottom of each entry there is a make a comment link, click and register. Or you can register by clicking the link on the right hand side of the page. You can make an anonoymous name if you like, I can not see the details of the subscribers.

 Look forward to getting some feedback, opinions, and ideas!