But What Do You Do For Cardio?
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.
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.