But What Do You Do For Cardio?

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I love Boston. More to the point, I love the neighborhood I live in.  My apartment is a 30 second walk from a “T” stop (for non-Boston folk that’s the name for the subway/above ground public transportation system), there’s a kick-ass independently owned movie theater a few blocks away, a lovely (again, independently owned) bookstore right across the street from the theater, and all the other staples that you would expect in a booming, popular area of commerce – pizza joints, ice-cream joints (JP Licks!), CVS, Starbucks, Panera, and there’s even a GAP if that’s your bag.

But what really separates my neighborhood from the pack is that there’s a ginormous Trader Joe’s right in the middle of it all.

Every Sunday for the past two years we’ve co-habitated together (For the Record: I’ve never been yelled yet for keeping the toilet seat up, thank you very much) Lisa and I make the short trek to TJs to do out weekly grocery shopping.

As you might expect, in the two years that we’ve been shopping there, Lisa and I have grown “friendly” with a lot of the staff at TJs.  It’s not uncommon for any number of the workers to stop the two of us and ask us how things are and to engage in your garden variety small talk.  You know, the weather, Red Sox, and holy fuckballs avocados are on sale this week!

I remember one of the first weekends we started shopping at that particular TJs one of the guys who worked there asked if I was a personal trainer.

Hey, what can I say:  It happens.

I said, “yes,” and that I was actually a strength coach and co-owner of my own facility outside – in the burbs- of Boston.

As the weeks passed, the random TJs guy would pepper me with various questions on how to “get a six-pack,” or what he would need to do to “tone-up,”  or how he could add some muscle or any number of canned questions that I hear verbatim elsewhere on a weekly basis.

I’d play along and tell him that, in no uncertain terms, he’d have to lift some weights.  Preferably of the heavy variety.  Muscle isn’t just going to miraculously appear after going for a 4-mile jog (which was what his preferred mode of exercise was).

The guy was flabbergasted when I admitted to him that I rarely (if ever) perform any traditional cardio exercise. I lift heavy stuff, don’t eat like an asshole, and perform some sprints here and there.

It just didn’t (and hasn’t) clicked with him.  I can’t tell you how many times he’s approached me in the past two years while Lisa and I are shopping asking me the same exact question, albeit tweaked slightly. And every time I try my best to better articulate my message (that you don’t HAVE to perform endless bouts of steady state cardio) and direct him to other resources that he can use as educational material.

Just the other week he asked, “soo, uh, how many miles would I have to run to look like you?”

This is the brick wall I wanted to bang my head against.

I chuckled and just politely said, “my man, my answer isn’t going to change.  GO LIFT SOME WEIGHTS”  When he retorted with the colloquial “yeah, but what do I do for cardio?” I responded with a line I stole from Jen Sinkler:

Lift weights faster!

If someone’s goal is to put on muscle and add weight, I’m sorry, I’m not going to advocate “go for a run.”

Anyone who’s ever completed a 20-rep set of squats, performed a finisher after a strength session, or even pushed the Prowler around, knows what I’m talking about.

You can elevate your heart rate just fine without having to jump onto a treadmill.  Why are people married to this notion that the ONLY way to gain a “cardio” benefit is by engaging in drawn out, low-intensity, steady-state mumbo-jumbo?

I’m not trying to bag it.  I recognize that it’s part of a well-rounded exercise routine and that it offers a plethora of it’s own health benefits.  But come on:  anything that elevates your heart rate can technically be considered cardio……..even, GASP, lifting weights.

For an excellent retort on why it’s faulty logic to think the only way you can gain a benefit is by performing traditional cardio I’d highly recommend reading THIS post by Jen Sinkler, and then do yourself a favor and order one of her shirts.

They’re awesome!  And a great conversation starter.

And I know I’m not the only one who feels this is a conundrum.  One my former distance clients – who’s a very successful trainer himself in West Virginia – had a similar run in with an acquaintance himself.

“A guy at church asked me if I’d like to join him for a Tough MUDDER Run in October… I said, I don’t run and it would mess up my training. Lol

It cracks me up that people think you can’t be fit unless you run… Another lady at church runs a lot and couldn’t believe how good my wife looked despite the fact she doesn’t run…”

A gleaming example of this is Cressey Performance client Paula DeMarkey, who, under the tutelage of Greg Robins, won 2013 Fitness Universe Miami with not a single minute of traditional cardio.  In addition, during her 20 weeks of preparation for the event she set personal records in the squat, front squat, deadlift, and chin up.

No sit ups, no traditional crunches. No change in hormone schedule, no special supplements, no short cuts. Just a lot of heavy lifting, real food, and incredible discipline.

This is her during her photo shoot the day AFTER winning.

She lifted weights 4x per week, performed the occasion 15-20 minute kettlebell circuit twice per week (which then turned into sprint sessions the closer she got to her show), and paid meticulous attention to her nutrition.

What’s more, she felt GREAT heading into the show.

Now, I don’t look like Paula – not many people do – but I can’t remember the last time I went for a jog or did any form of traditional cardio.  And just to reiterate:  if that’s someone’s preferred mode of exercise, more power to them.  I just find it incredibly boring, and frankly a waste of my time given my own goals.

What’s more, running (or any form of steady state exercise, while it has its place) isn’t the panacea of health and well-being that it’s led to be.

And for those worried about my heart health.  I visited my doctor a few weeks ago and everything is fine.  Resting heart rate is a-okay, blood pressure is perfect, my hormone levels are spot on, and I’m pretty sure if I had to – whether it was on a whim or because the zombie apocalypse started –  I could run five miles without batting an eye.

UPDATE:  

To all the people suggesting my “narrow mindedness” and biased nature towards lifting weights.

How am I being narrow minded when I tell someone to stop doing MORE of what they’re already doing (in this case running), and instead suggest that they lift some weights?

Just so we’re all clear:

Believe me, I COMPLETELY understand if someone likes to run, or bike, or do overhead dwarf throwing. More power to them. Whatever gets people MOVING is a win in my book.

But what gets me annoyed, and it speaks to the reason why I wrote the post in the first place, is when someone has a particular goal and they continue to do MORE of the same thing, and continue to NOT get results. I’d never bash “cardio” outright, and as I noted in the post itself, I understand that it’s PART of a well-rounded exercise regime.

God for bid I tell someone to lift something heavy. To some, saying something so asinine makes me the worst thing since Pepsi Clear.

I don’t get it.

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Comments for This Entry

  • Chris

    Hey Tony, While I usual enjoy your blog with it's free, witty, useful and often insightful info dare I say occasional knowledge bombs and on the pulse of the "industry" posts, this article rubbed me up the wrong way a little. Others may agree or disagree with me but the mocking of the Trader Joe employees' incessant questioning just didn't do it for me! Now I understand that he ain't a client and as such you have no obligation to advise this gentle man on anything health, strength or fitness related but your reply to him although valid shows that maybe you yourself need to broaden your views on health, fitness and life! There is so much more to moving ones body-mass or picking up heavy stuff and so on then what can be achieved inside the 4 walls of a gym. Suburban hill sprints aside, I get the feeling from your blog and those of many other "city" based strength and conditioning coaches that you are so wrapped up in the amazing things that can genuinely be achieved within the 4 walls of your gym/facility or any similar place that you miss the point of being strong, healthy and "fit" in the first place and that is to enjoy everything the world, nature, outdoors and life has to offer! While I am quickly veering off topic, my point is that while the average Joe-Blow and Mary-Jane will benefit infinitely more (in terms of their health and quality of life) from a few months of goblet squats, TGU's, RDL's and swings then they would from hours of jogging or running it's the "tone" of this post and many others form other heavy hitter on-line bloggers that gets to me. You sometimes put heavy lifting in the gym on a perch that it doesn't actually warrant, while being strong and training strength is a must and life changing for many it, in my opinion, it should only be a "part" of the training to be prepared for life. It is not the be all and end all of exercise. I imagine you are insanely busy in Creesey Performance and getting time to get out and about to "apply" your strength and fitness is hard but because you achieve your desirable physique primarily within the four walls of CP doesn't mean that has to be so for every Trader Joe! Maybe you should try some rock-climbing Tony, surfing, a few months of Tennis, mountain biking or Alpine Skiing, the list is endless. While I actually totally agree with the general point of the post that lifting heavy shit = happy, healthy and ripped, it's not the only way to apply ones motivation and energy. As Trader Joe guy said he enjoys a 4 mile jog and as you say that's not a problem but just as Trader Joe guy isn't taking your point about lifting heavy on-board maybe you too should broaden your horizons on exercise, "cardio" (I hate that word) is boring to you and it would be to me too if it occurred inside the 4 walls of a gym or out in the suburban streets. I'm not being rude but just thought I'd share my feelings with you as one of the pre-eminent bloggers from the USA. As the current trend of posts trumping up the activity of picking heavy stuff off the floor inside 4 floors above all else as worn thin on me. The way I see it if you have worked so hard at being a strong, powerful human with great movement and mobility then maybe just push beyond your own comfort zone (those 4 walls) and try something challenging and new! It's easy to be-little Trader Joe guys inability to understand the benefits of lifting heavy but maybe alot of strength coaches are guilty of the same crime in a different way! Sorry for all the words! Keep up the good work!

    September 11, 2013 at 11:37 am | Reply to this comment

    • Reid Savage

      For clarification, I think the TJs guy was asking specifically how to "look like him" and "get a six pack", which is not getting fit or dropping pounds or having fun. The quickest path to a six pack is through weight training, in which case his response was appropriate - "train like I do, lift weights."

      September 11, 2013 at 11:59 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Chris - I appreciate the note and definitely see your point of view. To defend myself a bit, I didn't write this post to "make fun" of TJs guy. He and I have had several discussions throughout the years and I've actually pointed him the direction of several educational products to better articulate my point of view. Also, in the post itself I said I wasn't trying to downplay running or its benefits. As I noted: there are a plethora of benefits to cardio and I recognize it's PART of a well-rounded exercise regime. My point was this: he's routinely asked me how I (meaning me) have gotten my physique. And I've routinely told him the same thing: I lift weights. My goal is to be strong, and look strong. Hence, my recommendation. I'll would NEVER tell someone to stop doing any form of exercise - whether it's yoga, pilates, Zumba, or Prancing - but if someone's going to ask me how I go about getting my physique, of course I'm going to tell them my preference. And, admittedly, I have a bias towards lifting weights. Too, my point was to showcase that you DO NOT have to perform traditional cardio in order to be lean and/or HEALTHY. Nevertheless, I completely understand where you're coming from and it's why I like to think I DO keep an open mind on things. I mean, I have taken a yoga class and I have taken a pilates class, etc.

      September 11, 2013 at 1:15 pm | Reply to this comment

      • Kyle Schuant

        Had a guy come into the gym today, made fun of the fluff around my middle I'd got from my last bulk. "Lean," I said, "is not in and of itself healthy." "Really?" he said, "look at marathon runners, the best ones look like Biafran refugees, they're really healthy." "If your model of health is someone suffering from famine, I think we have some work to do."

        September 12, 2013 at 1:47 am | Reply to this comment

      • Chris

        Thanks for the measured reply Tony, I hope to babyI Jesus that people don't think I'm some sort of running Nazi! I don't even think I mentioned running in my post at all. I did totally understand the point and direction of your post, just to clarify mainly for the other commentators here. But your post was just a catalyst to fire off some thoughts I have had in my head for a long while. The point is that while training in the gym for strength, power and using lighter weights in higher reps schemes (whether it's complexes, circuits, finishers or Christ forbid some sort of crossfit style thingy) in explosive bursts to get your "cardio" (still hate that word).is an excellent path for any human in any walk of life to follow. It's the slightly conceited attitude of phony superiority that comes across from many strength coaches blogs that gets to me. The "I lift heavy stuff off the floor" therefore "I'm mega tough" kinda attitude Strength, mobility and gym based conditioning protocols are amazing tools for anyone to use to achieve their health, physique or fitness goals but there is so much that can be experienced and achieved with your gym gained strength and health then just what is possible inside those four walls! It's obviously horses for courses and everyone is entitled to there personal preferences in all aspects of life, you included Tony! :-) But from my point of view it's sad that so much merit and "coolness" is given to lifting heavy stuff in the nice closed, protected and safe environment that is a gym! For me the gym is the means to achieve my end or goals not the goal or end in of itself. Hopefully this doesn't come across as disrespectful, it's just my thoughts on the subject of strength training industry at present. To use an analogy, becoming super strong, mobile, powerful and sizzling six pack hot and not applying it to some activity, life skill, sport or pastime other then the gym itself is like...........going to Barista school in Italy, learning to make the most amazing cappuccinos, macchiatos and espressos, learning all about roasting the beans and operating the machine etc...coming home buying all the kit, machines, roasters and grinders then opening a coffee shop, selling the most amazing coffees but.......never, ever, ever drinking a coffee yourself. Just something not quite right about it and it's not you Tony it's a theme and tone I've sensed and read all over the blogosphere! Thanks again for great post and free education at many times, thanks also for a place to voice opinion in freedom! And just to clarify, I'm not a scrawny twinkle toes runner, I'd never wish that sad faith on anyone. It's good to have the ability to sprint, bound and run longer distance but it actully doesn't require non-stop high volume running to be able to run when required, so unless you love running for the sake of running I'd never reccomend it in mega high volume! Thanks

        September 12, 2013 at 2:24 am | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          Honestly Chris - I think you're overanalyzing. Have I not spoken of other modalities of exercise sporadically? Yes, I'll admit it: I'm biased towards lifting heavy stuff, but I've also talked about yoga, pilates, spinning, and other forms too. I've done them all. I even bought some kettlebells the other day and have done a few KB only workouts as of late. I wasn't bashing the guy, nor was I bashing running. At least I don't think I was. But even if I was, the "theme" of this site is "because heavy things won't lift themselves." It shouldn't come as a surprise that that's the avenue I tend to lean towards. In any case, glad we could have a civil discussion and not resort to name calling.....;o) Thanks for reading!

          September 12, 2013 at 6:27 am | Reply to this comment

          • Dunkman

            I was sorta hoping for some name calling! It's a debate I hear all the time, sometimes in my own head (don't ask). Thanks for the thought provoking dialog.

            September 12, 2013 at 7:48 am

          • Chris

            Nope not over analysing your post at all Tony, like I've said before the content of your post was fine for the most part and I actually agree with it's main point. I also never once mentioned running, someone else did that. I'm not a running fan at all! Especially ultra-endurance. Your post was a catalyst to empty my brain of some ideas I've had in my head. You mention, yoga, pilates, spinning throwing the KB's around etc...my point is that there is so much more to be done with the amazing strength, health and mobility you gain from proper programming in the gym then staying inside 4 walls. Too many strength coaches trump lifting heavy above all else, I trump being outside, having an adventure, playing sport and pushing your limits above the gym. That is all! I think "in the beginning" the very reason people started picking heavy stuff up in the controlled atmosphere of a gym was to be more capable, efficient and deadly at some sport or activity outside of the gym, not vice versa! I won't resort to name calling ha, no need, at least your a fan of picking heavy stuff up (me too), I just like to apply the benefits outside of the gym, as do all of the people I work with, so maybe that's where my thoughts come from. I come from a different environment that breeds a different mentality! You can never please everyone...keep up the blogs, I'll try to make a positive comment next time..although that's usual too easy

            September 12, 2013 at 8:38 am

          • Brett M

            I've been reading this exchange and I've got to say that I'm pretty big on efficiency. I'm not sure that there's anything I can realistically do outside of the 4 walls of the gym as efficient for leg strength as barbell squats. I'm not sure there's anything I can realistically do outside of the 4 walls of the gym as efficient for posterior chain explosiveness as cleans... the list goes on. I don't think that Tony suggested anywhere that you shouldn't use the strength and athleticism you've developed in the gym for being outside, having an adventure or playing a sport. I love doing all of those things, in fact, that's a big part of what I'm training FOR in the 4 walls of the gym, so I'm not sure what you're driving at here. As far as I can tell, this is a strength and conditioning blog, so you're going to find the discussion focused on the most effective methods of strength training and conditioning. If you're looking discussions on the joys of playing touch football and hiking, you're probably not going to find them here, not because Tony necessarily looks down on touch football, but because it's irrelevant to the topic.

            September 12, 2013 at 9:28 am

          • Chris

            There's a fair point well put and a direct reply to my point. I agree whole hardheartedly with you as-well in that to develop strength and power there won't ever be a place to out "gun" the 4 walls of a decent gym. My point wasn't a direct attack on Tony at all more a treatise to the S&C bloggers world-wide that can't see beyond the 4 walls of gym. But I totally agree, Tony's job is to make bros and gals strong and healthy, what they do with that strength outside the gym is up to them. Just seems to me that the many S & C bloggers seem to think that staying in the gym is the coolest thing one can do with ones strength. You know it's not at least! Glad we could all have a civil discussion. My point was off topic as I said in the first post, but I thought Tony's blog would be a good place to voice it as it is one of the most frequented blogs by all comers from all corners of "exercising" haha!! I'm off to punch out some swings, pull ups and RFESS's before I go wrestle some sharks and head off on that bare foot hunting trip I've planned....see ya!

            September 12, 2013 at 10:55 am

          • TonyGentilcore

            I think we're all on the same page fellas. Lets go train!......;o)

            September 12, 2013 at 3:27 pm

      • rrbeck

        Forgive me, and maybe it's just your wording, but "taking a yoga class" isn't being open minded and trying yoga. TRYING yoga is putting some work into it. Going a few times a week for a month or 6 weeks....that's "giving yoga a try". Full disclosure, I don't do yoga. (Or maybe you're being cute, I don't know your style I came from a reddit link). Running, to me, is important. I feel that I run better because I lift and I lift better because I run. I know you're not bashing running, but I think that everybody SHOULD run. We're built for it. When moving properly we're built to run as much as 15 to 20 miles a day almost every day. Not necessarily at breakneck speeds...9 minute miles, 8 minute miles.... looking at the way our body is put together we were much more built to run long distances than we were to pack on massive amounts of muscle. I'm not anti lifting at all. I do it 3 days a week, and I run for about 45 minutes 3 days a week. I don't consider it "cardio" ...I'm going for a run.

        September 12, 2013 at 2:36 pm | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          In my defense, I've taken several yoga classes, but that's beside the point. If running is important to YOU, and if fits YOUR goals, awesome. I think that's great, and why would I have beef with that? If someone's goal is to add weight, and more specifically, add muscle, I'm NOT going to tell him to go run. Why continue telling him to keep repeating what's already NOT working? It comes down to what Dan John always states: What's your goal? Do your actions match your goal(s)?

          September 12, 2013 at 4:50 pm | Reply to this comment

        • Matt

          Your "born to run point" fails on many grounds but I'll focus on one: a reduction to absurdity. The human shoulder evolved to throw. Everyone needs to throw? Of course not. The human penis evolved to forcefully replace the sperm of male competitors who recently had coitus with their female partner. Doesn't mean we should be trying to get unsuspecting husbands to raise our bastard children. We SHOULD do whatever 1) We love/want to do and 2) Will help us achieve our goals. If you can find something that does both, DO THAT.

          September 14, 2013 at 1:16 am | Reply to this comment

        • Kklifts

          I totally get what Tony is saying and agree with him. I didn't find the tone offensive whatsoever. As strength coaches it is frustrating to hear everyone ask the same question over again like the trader joes example. People are so set in their mindset of cardio ,cardio ,cardio To the runner above I think it's great you are passionate and love it. I suspect though your body looks a lot different than Tony's.

          September 15, 2013 at 9:02 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Running Buddy

    At what point did you become so obsessed with looking good that you forgot the main purpose of working out is? the idea is to be healthy. The continuous and rhythmic cardiovascular exercise associated with running and cycling can't be beaten by sprints and squats. You may have a more toned body then me, but my ticker has a better beat.

    September 11, 2013 at 11:47 am | Reply to this comment

    • Reid Savage

      From the article: "I’m not trying to bag [steady state cardio]. I recognize that it’s part of a well-rounded exercise routine and that it offers a plethora of it’s own health benefits." And: "And just to reiterate: if that’s someone’s preferred mode of exercise, more power to them. I just find it incredibly boring, and frankly a waste of my time given my own goals." His goals being very different than yours - a "toned body", more or less, and that comes from weight training, not cardio. I think he's just trying to tackle the fitness mag approach to getting "toned" which usually involves hours of steady state cardio, not bash the people that practice it for its own sake. "The main purpose of working out is" whatever you want it to be.

      September 11, 2013 at 12:04 pm | Reply to this comment

      • B Gorinski

        Yes and the "my ticker has a better beat" comment definitely reveals some degrees of cluelessness. I mean, have he and Tony sat down to be tested under controlled conditions? Something like resting heart rate has a huge genetic component despite training. My resting heart rate is regularly sub 50 and my BP is super low, and I do only intense weight training twice per week and a sprint/plyo session once per week. Could he run or bike faster and further than Tony? Probably if it's not a sprint. It sounds like that is his thing. But in any event that's not purely endurance based, my bets would be on Tony. And lastly, many (if not most) people begin and continue to run, walk, lift weights, etc etc because they want to look and perform better. Anyone who says that appearance is not important is bsing.

        September 11, 2013 at 10:34 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Perfect example of people reading what they chose to read. From my post: "I’m not trying to bag it. I recognize that it’s part of a well-rounded exercise routine and that it offers a plethora of it’s own health benefits."

      September 11, 2013 at 1:19 pm | Reply to this comment

    • Matt

      Running buddy have you forgotten that the main purpose of health encompasses far more than the beat of one's ticker? Power, lean body mass, bone density, joint-sparing muscular strength, etc. all factor into a healthy body and these things are tough to achieve with jogging or biking. You're not just a walking talking heart: you're more than that.

      September 14, 2013 at 1:23 am | Reply to this comment

  • Justin Sorbo CSCS

    Uh Oh, Seems like you've pissed off the runners. Here in Newton I know to tread lightly... they are a rabid group :). To the folks below: If you love running and being outdoors, keep doing it. Tony was only demonstrating that there are methods other than steady state cardio to achieve a lean, muscular physique. Also, running miles does not equate to being lean and muscular. PS I love Trader Joe's in Coolidge Corner. Stop by at Bodyscapes for a workout!

    September 11, 2013 at 12:06 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Jessi

    I've been doing oly lifting with once to twice weekly sprints for two years now and everything is in good shape. I maintain the 63kg weight class and I've been making steady gains. No six pack, but being able to squat all your male friends more than makes up for that.

    September 11, 2013 at 1:37 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Michelle Becker

    In honor of this post, I finished up my workout with 4 rounds of bar bell complexes. Tony thank you again for your excellent posts.

    September 11, 2013 at 3:41 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Barath

    With all this commotion about running, it is easy to forget the best part of this post: Jen Sinkler's shirts! I am going to buy one, and so should you, gentle reader!

    September 11, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Zoltar

    Hey Tony, Love the blog, Especially liked the response of what your cardio is, "Lift weights faster!" Lol. Forget the naysayers. Having a blog with good info, rascality, and opinion is what keeps me coming back! Question, with a newer client whose resting heart rate may not be the best, do you start off with lower intensity cardio sessions, whatever the modality might be, to get a foundation of concentric hypertrophy of the heart muscles before doing higher intensity work that has been shown to work more eccentric hypertrophy? Thanks for the info, laughs, and new ideas.

    September 11, 2013 at 4:09 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I may include some light mobility circuits to be honest. If someone's paying me for an hour of my time, I'm not going to stand there and watch them walk/jog on a treadmill. I can get a lot more done if I have them perform some low grade activation/mobility drills and perform them in circuit fashion. 1. They get their heart rate up. 2. We can monitor recovery/rest periods. 3. We actually work on "stuff" they need to work on: glute activation, t-spine mobility, hip mobility, core stability/strength, etc

      September 12, 2013 at 6:30 am | Reply to this comment

    • Caters

      You guys, "rascality" is such a good word.

      September 12, 2013 at 10:23 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sara Fleming

    Just curious, how much walking do you do on a regular basis? Sounds like a lot. I am a strength biased athlete and trainer, but think that regular cardio exercise of the low slow variety is good for the body. When I lived in the city and walked everywhere, I was a lot fitter cardiovascular-wise than when I moved to the country and drove everywhere. Just something to think about.

    September 11, 2013 at 4:20 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I actually walk quite a bit during the day. Sometimes I'll go for a walk in the AM when I wake up. I often find it gets my creative juices going for when I write in the AM. But I also walk a fair amount while coaching. I'd say on average I easily get 4-5 miles per day walking back and forth on the gym floor.

      September 11, 2013 at 6:07 pm | Reply to this comment

      • Sara Fleming

        I think that moving more in general is highly underrated. I urge all my clients to go for at least a 30 minute walk every day or track their steps with a pedometer (Or get on a rower, or do something other than sit). There are a lot of folks who will work hard in the gym for an hour, but then go back to the office and sit the majority of the day. The postural strength and endurance, and aerobic adaptations such as capillary proliferation and lowered resting heart rate and blood pressure from just walking and moving add a lot to one's overall fitness level. In fact, most health risks associated with inactivity and obesity can be mitigated by 20-30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily. Everything else is for performance or improved quality of life. the problem is that most Americans are not fit enough to engage in 20-30 minutes a day of moderate intensity exercise because they lack the strength and aerobic fitness to sustain those efforts. So, it always makes me sad when people start a fitness program with running. I'd rather they strengthen their joints and prepare their bodies for the forces involved in just moving more. Fort the record, I don't think running is necessary unless running is part of your sport or an event you are training for (or you find it fun and just like it).

        September 12, 2013 at 7:23 am | Reply to this comment

  • Luke S

    To the runners out there, just remember, being healthy i.e low body-fat, good cholesterol, normal glucose levels etc. are VERY influenced by diet...plenty of people run and/or lift and are still not internally healthy. However, in terms of overall "fitness" (and remember fitness is the "ability to do a task"), the fitness of life is power-endurance. It is many periodized bursts of strength/power activity followed by very low-level aerobic activity. Like carrying groceries up 3 flights of stairs, followed by sitting on the couch, followed by sprinting across the street during traffic etc. LONG distance running is one of the least life-based fitness activities out there. Just sayin'

    September 11, 2013 at 4:53 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Well said Luke. I didn't write this as an "anti-running ad," although it's being taken that way. All I wanted was to point out that there are a million and one different ways to elevate one's heart rate that don't consist of running. And, yes, you make a VERY valid point about internal health (which is why I made mention of my recent visit to the doctor and noted that all my blood work came back fine).

      September 11, 2013 at 6:09 pm | Reply to this comment

      • Kyle Schuant

        There's nothing wrong with being anti-running. One-quarter of recreational and professional runners at any one time are out with an injury. If a quarter of the people who entered the squat rack got an injury they'd be banned from gyms.

        September 12, 2013 at 1:52 am | Reply to this comment

        • rrbeck

          Kyle, Generally you have a coach or a trainer to show you the right form on squat racks. Runners who have coaches don't get injured at a rate of 25%. Generally speaking you're not going to get some totally out of shape guy walking up to the rack unassisted, tossing a bunch of plates on then letting her rip...but they CAN do that with running. Imagine the worst possible form you could have in squats, where you're almost guaranteed to injure yourself, and I promise there is someone running the same way. I have been running off and on (been on for 6 months or so now, growing my family and being sort on time previously) for the better part of 5 years. My distances aren't huge, but I'm pretty consistent. I have never had anything even close to an injury because I'm very careful about my form, just like I am at the rack. Running is perceived as being accessible by everyone, and it is, but to think that you can just go out there and run with no instruction is inviting injury. You may get lucky for a long time and even be in marathon training before you get sidelined, but if you're running with bad form, eventually it will happen.

          September 13, 2013 at 9:21 am | Reply to this comment

          • Matt

            If the general population of squatters were receiving instruction on how to properly use the rack and do a squat, then please tell me why my eyes bleed every time I go to the gym and watch people squat. BLEED.

            September 14, 2013 at 1:27 am

          • TonyGentilcore

            That's actually a fair point. I had to chuckle at that one....;o)

            September 14, 2013 at 6:14 am

  • Paul Reynolds

    Tony, should I have run Cross Country this Fall to get in shape for basketball LOL?

    September 11, 2013 at 8:40 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Darius

    5 miles isn't very far. So good luck in that zombie apocalypse.

    September 11, 2013 at 9:27 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Fair point, but I'd have a rocket grenade launcher with me....so that may buy me some more time....;o)

      September 12, 2013 at 6:31 am | Reply to this comment

    • Dunkman

      I've had some practice runs at the ZA and it turns out that it's all about sprinting. Well, sprinting and solid aim with a grenade launcher. You can't fake that.

      September 12, 2013 at 7:53 am | Reply to this comment

    • Matt

      It's pretty rare in the animal kingdom for a predator to chase a potential meal for over 5 miles straight. Sprinters get away: joggers are eaten before they can "shine" over the long term. Considering how much this dude loves pallof presses I'm pretty sure he could decapitate a zombie with one explosive swipe of a butter knife.

      September 14, 2013 at 1:30 am | Reply to this comment

  • Brent

    Physiology isn't my strong suite, but 'cardio' /aerobics is simply the use of oxygen. Am I oversimplifying things here? therefore, I'm a cardio king, cuz I be on that oxygen game all day long! It's funny how cardio though seems to have gone from supreme fat loss tool (aerobics craze) to 'cardio sucks.' (though I know the owner of Gentilcore Performance doesn't believe that :) Lift things faster though is a great cardio slogan!

    September 12, 2013 at 12:55 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      I like what Cosgrove said a while back: everything that's aerobic is cardio, but not everything that's cardio is aerobic.

      September 12, 2013 at 6:32 am | Reply to this comment

      • Brent

        I love Cosgrove, but this quote has always confused me. Doesn't cardio have to incorporate some aerobic component, or it wouldn't be cardiovascular in nature? Definitly not gonna lose sleep over this one, but color me confused.

        September 12, 2013 at 11:16 pm | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          Granted it's a bit simplistic (cause, you know, ALL metabolic pathways are involved with every endeavor. You're never only using one). Cardio = elevated heart rate Aerobic = sustained elevated heart rate. Again, it's simplistic and I'm sure people can split hairs over the comment. But everything doesn't need to be rocket science. Just my two cents.

          September 13, 2013 at 5:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • Chris

    I agree with essentially all of this but I think it's still good to test your endurance every once in a while just to keep yourself honest. Check out the very end of this post by John Romaniello. I think we would all agree he is in amazing shape, but he had to stop while trying to run a 5 K. http://www.romanfitnesssystems.com/blog/cardio-1/

    September 12, 2013 at 8:21 am | Reply to this comment

  • TimmyMac

    Great post, and seriously, how about them Sox? After doing a Tough Mudder last year, I decided to see what would happen if I did as you advise - I used to run and lift, but I spent the last year just lifting, with some kettlebells thrown in. I haven't gained back any fat, and am still able to run 3 miles if I feel like it. Also, my shoulders are sick.

    September 12, 2013 at 10:53 am | Reply to this comment

  • ML

    this post is why gym-rats get a bad name. ignorance of metabolic pathways a good coach does not make. if i run and my HR is 141 i'm approaching an anaerobic state, ~160-165 i'm in my lactate threshold, etc approaching my max. now i can substitute 'running' with rowing, cycling, deadligting, kettlebell swinging and it's the same metabolic pathways. yes please stick to 'pumping iron' with arnold, and don't 'help' people that are seeking fitness.

    September 12, 2013 at 3:24 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      So if someone's goal is to add weight/muscle.......are you going to tell them to do a ton of "cardio" or anaerobic based or lactate threshold training? Again, I'm not bashing cardio. All I was insinuating was that there are a million and one different ways elevate one's heart rate that DON'T require doing drawn out steady state cardio. As a coach I write programs and direct people to information that meets their goals. It's as simple as that.

      September 12, 2013 at 4:54 pm | Reply to this comment

      • ML

        I am a strength/olympic lifting/crossfit coach, a trainer, a running coach/programmer. If someone came to me asking to add weight/muscle I wouldn't take them on as a client. Sorry, I lean towards fitness/performance/improvements in markers of health. I would send someone narrow minded enough to just want to "add weight/muscle" I would send them to you.

        September 13, 2013 at 2:15 pm | Reply to this comment

        • TonyGentilcore

          Gotcha ML. THanks for the vote of confidence. Glad to see that you read what I assume is ONE post and automatically have an all encompassing assumption of my entire training philosophy. I'm sorry we can't see eye to eye on this. But it's my hope that you'll take the time to read more of my stuff and maybe understand that I am not has narrow minded as you think.

          September 13, 2013 at 5:57 pm | Reply to this comment

        • Matt

          Man if some narrow-minded fool came to me only wanting fitness and improvement in markers of health I'd laugh and ask "Bro do you even cup stack?" and send them to someone like you. Anyone who doesn't want to run, lift, throw, cup stack, pogo-stick, juggle, AND pantomime all at the same time just really needs to expand their horizons bra.

          September 14, 2013 at 1:38 am | Reply to this comment

  • Sam Thomas

    What the hell? I didn't read Tony's story about the TJ guy as ridiculing him. I read it as a guy asking the same question over and over and disregarding the answer, or hoping that repeating the question would eventually get the answer he was hoping for. And whether you like running, hate it, are a lifter or a ballet dancer, it is perfectly fine to mock someone (not that I saw it as mocking) who hears but doesn't LISTEN to the answer of the question he keeps posing.

    September 12, 2013 at 5:51 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Doug Clark

    I'm usually more of a lurker than a commenter, but having followed (and loved) Tony's work for years and seeing the response to this post I have to chime in to defend him. Because of the nature of the post, lending itself to Facebook shares, I think it has attracted many people who are seeing this as the only example of Tony's work. As such, those calling him "narrow-minded" need to a) actually read the article, b) read some of Tony's other work and c) repeat the above. The point of the article isn't to shame people out of running, it's simply to let the general population seeking aesthetic improvements know that just running isn't really optimal. Moreover, for those seeking to move better and to become more athletic, you basically have to include some form of strength training. Tony's not "just" a bodybuilder, telling clients to pick things up and put them down (extreme love of deadlifts aside; though who can blame him?). The guy works with pro athletes on a daily basis after all! He's interested in getting people to move, look and feel better. Our society BLATANTLY favors jogging and the like as the primary means of conditioning, and Tony is simply trying to let everyone know that it doesn't have to (and probably shouldn't) be. In any case, thanks for pumping out such great, free content on a daily basis Tony. Your work, including this post, is fantastic and is most certainly appreciated by the overwhelming majority of people who frequent your blog. Keep up the great work!

    September 13, 2013 at 10:09 pm | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Thanks Doug. I know that I opened myself up to criticism when I wrote the post, and it's not like getting some push back is anything new to me. Either way, I appreciate the support and for the kind words!

      September 14, 2013 at 6:10 am | Reply to this comment

  • ronellsmith

    After reading the comments below, Tony, the one word that sprang to mind was "goals." If someone--who is not genetically gifted to come out the womb ripped--desires the body of an athlete, i defy anyone to tell him to just go running. He or she won't meet their goals doing so. Your answer was in no way inappropriate. In fact, I have shared the same wording with friends and family members. Despite the opinions to the contrary, it is factual. Have a great weekend, sir. RS

    September 14, 2013 at 5:45 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      It just comes down to people reading what they want to read. Someone sees that I mention that running isn't the end-all-be-all of health, and all of a sudden I'm the worst thing since Voldemort. It cracks me up.

      September 14, 2013 at 6:16 am | Reply to this comment

  • Daniel Freedman

    Part of the issue is tribal. I'm a member of a sports performance type of functional gym with Eleiko bars, prowlers, ropes, sandbags, and an artificial turf hill, among other goodies. Plenty of folks go further than you and take the position than running is useless...if not evil. One of the trainers sometimes wears "Running Sucks" T-shirt. But I am also a member of a running club whose members include some very good athletes. Yet if I held a gun to most of their heads and said "Do a push-up or I'll shoot"....most would be very dead, very fast. And their idea of "cross training" is biking or swimming. A few have gym memberships, but don't go very often....or even know what to do. They shake their heads at the folly of fat people doing useless stuff inside gyms and still not getting in shape. Sensible people are outside running...working their buts off to shave 20 seconds off their 5k time or qualify for Boston. My efforts to explain one tribe to the other have met with spectacular failure. Brick wall would be an understatement. Your article was about out-of-shape people who mistake cardio for fitness. My point is that even good athletes can have a hard time understanding what fitness is.

    September 14, 2013 at 6:58 am | Reply to this comment

  • Daniel Freedman

    Part of the issue is tribal. I'm a member of a sports performance type of functional gym with Eleiko bars, prowlers, ropes, sandbags, and an artificial turf hill, among other goodies. We'r talking stop watches, leader boards, in-house competitions, etc...Plenty of folks at said gym go much further than you and take the position than running is useless...if not evil. One of the trainers sometimes wears a "Running Sucks" T-shirt (which annoys me.) But I am also a member of a running club whose members include some very good athletes. Yet if I held a gun to most of their heads and said "Do a pull-up or I'll shoot"....most would be very dead, very fast. And their idea of "cross training" is biking or swimming. A few have gym memberships, but don't go very often....or even know what to do. But they mostly just shake their heads at the folly of "fat people doing useless stuff" inside gyms and still not getting in shape. Sensible people are outside running...working their butts off to shave 20 seconds off their 5k time or qualify for Boston. My efforts to explain one tribe to the other have met with spectacular failure. Brick wall would be an understatement. Your article was about out-of-shape people who mistake cardio for fitness. They have goals that can't be accomplished through running alone. My point is that even good athletes can have a hard time understanding what fitness is or how to accomplish their goals.

    September 14, 2013 at 7:24 am | Reply to this comment

    • TonyGentilcore

      Very well stated Daniel. It might just come down to this being nothing but a big, fat red line drawn in the middle and no one is man enough to cross it. But, it's still nice to know that there are people out there - on both side - who take more of a rationale approach and understand that both sides have their benefits (and yes, drawbacks). As I noted in the post: it comes down to goals. Does one's actions MATCH their goals? In the case of the gentleman I was referring to......I fear not.

      September 17, 2013 at 6:24 am | Reply to this comment

  • Donovan Gary Alan

    I tell runners all the time that come to me to get better at running to plan on not running for a while. Of course they're flabbergasted, but once they understand that muscle is what makes the body move and that if the muscle isn't ready for that kind of work, it's gonna be a bad time. While we're talking about people who run regularly (and not just the Average Joe looking to get jacked) it's more about being "well-rounded" and understanding the concept "get fit to run, not run to get fit." I do believe you're absolutely right when it's more about doing less what you're currently doing when you want something different. I'm in the same boat as you though, I don't run and I look better than most of the people in my gym (which is at a CF gym) and I'm a Powerlifter. My cardio is sets of 8 and 10 with sled pushes, and I want to drown my eyes out in alien blood.....which would be acid.

    September 17, 2013 at 5:15 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Friday 130920 | CrossFit NYC

    […] changes, effective Monday, September 30th Pillars of the squat But what do you do for cardio? CDC Threat Report: ‘We Will Soon Be in a Post-Antibiotic Era’ A little squat research 25 ways […]

    September 19, 2013 at 6:00 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Marathons, Guilt and Aesthetic Goals. | Her Fitness Solutions

    […] Article by Tony Gentilcore – But What Do You Do For Cardio? […]

    September 26, 2013 at 12:31 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Rick

    I personally do cardio like four times week, running two miles each time. I will also lift weights and stretch like three times a week. This work out is tailored to me because i do BJJ and if your technique is good then it usually boils down to who lost their energy first. With the running my endurance levels are definitely higher and thats what counts for me.

    February 15, 2014 at 3:09 am | Reply to this comment

  • Dani (from the Netherlands!)

    Hey there. Very interesting blog and I totally agree. I used to be all about the cardio, used to run and do like 6 hours of spinning in one week. I got injured (from a mountainclimbing trip) and struggeled with knee problems for a few months, only to pass right on over to a shoulder injury. It took 8 months to fully recover from knee and shoulder and I gained 8 kilograms (that's about 18/20lbs). Being a woman over 40, losing weight turned out to be quite more difficult than it was in my thirties. I went back to the gym and got on that spinningbike, And nothing happened. So I started reading about cortisol and stress and how cardio elevates these levels and actually makes your body store more fat. So i decided to test it for myself. I skipped spinningclass and got into kettlebellclass 4 times a week and bought 2 kettlebells to work out at home. I only did it for 3 weeks now and lost 3 kg! Of course, I also planned my healthy meals and ate less carbs and more fruits, veg and protein. (I already did that but with cardio there was no weigthloss). Last week, just for fun, I took a spinningclass and was amazed the incredable jump in my physical condtion. I kicked ass on that bike. Just yesterday, a new guy took a kettlebell session and he told the instructor he did 3 spinningclasses a week, surely he would be ok with a little kettlebelling. Well you guessed it. He didn't know what hit him and was totally exhausted after just 6 minutes in. So to everyone who doesn't believe all this theory. Try it yourself. Skip the cardio, do kettlebelling for 4/5 times a week for three weeks and THEN do your cardio-exercise. You wouldn't believe the results. And it;s so much more fun!

    January 19, 2015 at 12:55 am | Reply to this comment

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