Cardio Tips from a (former) Fat Guy
We have all heard the same old shit when it comes to Cardio. "Its good for your health!" "It makes you feel good!" "It cuts calories because you can't eat while you do it (false)" Regardless of the mystical (physiological and psychological) effects that cardio has on the body and mind, one truth is certain. It sucks. Alot Especially if you are overweight.
See coming from a background of playing baseball my entire life all the way up through college, and now more recently finding myself competing in Strongman Contests, I have never TRULY put an emphasis on cardio training. It has always been about getting as strong as I can, to hit the ball as far as possible, or to lift as much weight as possible. I was happy ( I thought) and strong ( fat) and there was just some things that I did not want or find necessary to do in my sport, and that was jump on a treadmill or elliptical for 30-60 minutes and sweat. Or sweat at all for that matter.
Tarantino back roughly a year an a half ago, I was suffering from a broken heart via a nasty breakup, I was in a career with insane hours and no real time for myself, and I found solice in drinking and eating (alot). I had reached my breaking point and was tipping the scale at 250 Lbs. Sure I was lifting weights at the time, and put some pretty good numbers up ( 550 deadlift, 300 pound Axle press...in case you were wondering...) but for a guy standing 6 feet tall ( 5 foot 10 lets be real) that is ALOT of weight to carry around. So i knew I needed a change.
A few months and a few emails between myself and the Nutrition Magician, Mr. Trevor Kashey later, and I found myself with a new way of eating, and a new weekly cardio requirement...I was doomed. Or so I thought. He prescribed Long Interval Steady State Cardio, aka long and slow/moderate cardiovascular activity, a few times a week and I hated him for it. I knew that I was "bad at it" and therefore did not want to do it, but if I wanted to change my life, I needed to change what I did.
I ate correctly, I put the hours in at the gym, and I (reluctantly at best) performed my cardio sessions. I started with about 20 minutes per session, slowly building up my duration and challenge of each session ( resistance settings, incline, speed). It turned into what was like a personal game I had with myself. Trying to beat my times and "scores" from the last session. It fed my inner nerd nicely, and as time went on I realized that I was starting to not hate it..as much.
Fast forward to me now. I am weighing in at 209 Lbs. I am happier than I have ever been, and have gained full control of the decisons in my life. I have recently competed in my first under 200lbs strongman show (Check it out here) and have completed my first 5k road race...and actually ran the entire thing! I am not saying that the cardio itself was the cause for the changes in my life, but as you will see if you keep reading, it is one of the fringe benefits.
So as you can see I am qualified enough (barely) to share with you the top tips that helped me incorporate cardio into my training as well as my life. Some of these will be common sense, others will be..well slightly less common sense, but either way enjoy the list while I go get a snack.
Tip 1: Get a Heart Rate Monitor ( or check your pulse if you are cheap like me)
This is the most important tip that I can give you about starting cardio for the first time. See the thing about performing cardio is that you are looking for a certain amount of time around a particular heart rate, so your body realizes it needs to adapt and change. This adaptation in real people terms is burning excess body fat, and increasing your ability to do cardiovascular activity. You are looking for 65-85 percent of your max heart rate ( 220 minus your age) and to stay in that range for however long your personal cardio session will take. It is that simple. How are you supposed to know if you are in that range, if you are unaware of what your heart rate is? It turns out that before I actually checked my heartrate (find your pulse on your wrist or your neck, count the beats in a 15 second period and multiply that by 4) , I was simply working TOO HARD and making cardio harder than it had to be. It amazed me the minimal amount of effort needed to get my body within the range I was looking to acheive. I am ALL about doing the least amount of work and getting the most benefit, and this simple tool will help you do that.
Tip 2: Get Some Sweet Tunes That Keep Up With Your Pace.
This tip is a real game changer. Music for me can instantly change my mood. I use it in my workouts when I am trying to lift heavier weights or squeak out a few more reps, and I am even using music to keep my focused as I am writing this. If you can find the right music for the situation, it brings the situation to life. That is why I am ALWAYS listening to music when I do my cardio. I like to keep it up beat, but the genre is always different. You can find my jamming out to Rob Bailey one day or Abba (go ahead and judge). The key I found is to find music with a beat that is close if not spot on for the pace you are going. if you can find a playlist of songs that are matching the cadence of your cardio session, you will be amazed how quickly time flies for you.
Tip 3: Find YOUR Way to Cardio.
The fitness industry is full of gimicks and fads. There is always a latest and greatest way of doing something. The thing is that none of that shit matters. The truth of the matter is that no matter what you do, being consistant will trump ( I hate using that word now) the latest and greatest fad. Putting consistant effort, no matter how small to start, will lead you to the results you are looking for. Ride your bike, jump on the elliptical, play volleyball, chase squirrels, do hill sprints if you hate yourself, hell just go for a damn walk. Pick something you find enjoyment in and do it. Nobody can tell you what works for you. Go out, experiment with different things, and put some fun into it. Or at least attempt to. Seeing as that I live in Rhode Island where it is cold for seemingly 11 months a year, then it becomes unbearaly hot, I tend to stick to my elliptical because it doesn't really drain me too much for my workout, and it is in my basement. Seeing that a vein of laziness is permeating throughout this article, it was a safe bet that I would have chosen the path of least resistance.
Tip 4 Use Cardio to Plan Your Next Move.
As i got better and better at cardio I noticed that instead of worrying about finding where my next breath was going to come from, I noticed that my mind began wandering. I began thinking about what I wanted to accomplish that day, that week, that month. I started planning out my days while I was toiling away on the ellipical. I spent, and still spend, every single minute of cardio thinking about who I am and where I want to go. It is a great time to really focus on yourself entirely. There are no distractions for the 30-60 minutes that you are there and you have nowhere else to be, and nobody to get in your way. Cardio time is essentially a meeting you have with yourself and you deserve to carve out that space in your day. Treat it like the therapy or meditation that it can become. You may even start doing more cardio just to get more clear thinking done. I know I have.
So there you have it. I could have kept the list going, but these four tips are the ones that truly helped me get through the doldrums of having to do cardio. I am not going to say I LOVE it now, and there are still days that I have to drag my ass downstairs and just get it done, but I have to say my overall appreciation for it, and the benefits I have seen both physically and mentally, have helped me to become a better and healthier version of myself. Oh any lets also not forget, the more active you are, the more calories you burn in your day...the more food you can eat without turning BACK into a fat guy. Lets be real, that is really why we do this anyway, for the snacks.
Live Your Damn Life.