Cardio Day Do’s and Don’ts

stretching before cardio

C-A-R-D-I-O, what’s that spell?  Cardio! (Insert dramatic eye roll here). What’s your definition of cardio?  If you’d ask a group of people I suspect you would find a different answer from all of them.  Maybe you like to run or take long walks, maybe your more of a get in go hard and get out in 15-20 minutes in which case HIIT is for you,  whatever your type cardio plays an essential role in heart and cardiovascular health.  Cardio also releases those endorphins that make us feel good while managing to help elevate our metabolism.  It’s an essential building block of a healthy lifestyle.

Everyone I have spoken to about cardio gives you a wide range of emotions about how they feel waking up knowing it’s cardio day.  There is the one type of person that absolutely loves cardio and focuses most if not all their weekly workouts around spinning, running, rowing , jumping etc.  The second type doesn’t mind getting a little sweaty and out of breath few times a week, and our last type hates it almost as bad as a kid hate getting a shot at the doctor’s office.

I fall somewhere between the last two categories. I used to be a 100% focused cardio-a-holic! I loved it and my lungs and endurance sure did too… but let’s be frank cardio is downright exhausting! I was not doing it because it was my favorite thing to be doing at 5am in the morning I was doing it because I feared that the only way to maintain my weight/not gain weight was doing a large amount of cardio – all the time.  WRONG.  So it wasn’t until I forced myself to try a new Beachbody program, Master Hammer and Chisel that I learned there is a much better way!  I could lift weights and increase my strength and stability in every day things like pushing doors and picking up my daughter while changing how my body looked.  You definitely work up a sweat and increase your heart rate lifting weights and yes I did have 1-2 cardio days a week I just didn’t live or die by cardio like my former self.  Here’s a great article if you are on the fence about cardio benefits versus weights from Precision Nutrition:.

But what works well for me and my body goals may not be the same things you like or the goals you have.  However amongst it all there are a few guiding rules when it comes to cardio and reaping benefits from it versus going overboard:

DO make sure to incorporate cardio weekly. 

What’s your goal? Weight loss?  Incorporate 3-4 cardio sessions a week.  Gain muscle/maintain you can get away with 2 no more than 3 days of cardio a week.

But, DON’T overdo the cardio.

I repeat… do not. Rather if you have tank in the gas ditch your go to cardio routine for some pilates, yoga or strength training substitute.  Overdoing cardio leads to low levels of energy, feeling burned out, and is not going to change your physique the way you want.  Seriously…  think about your goals and answer this question:  Would you rather be a smaller version of your current self or would you rather be more defined “toned” and stronger?  Excess cardio with no weight training focus gives you a “skinny fat” physique versus adding in strength training (with or without weights).

DO mix up the intensity of cardio you do weekly.

Not every cardio session has to be max intensity or too low intensity.  Mix is up add a quick HIIT session,a low intensity walk, or a steadystate run into the week.  Not only will your mind thank you but it will keep your body guessing which promotes change and prevents plateaus.  Need some inspiration?  Check out Popsugar Fitness’ cardio workouts for inspiration.

DON’T starve yourself before doing cardio.  

Yes in some various states when all the stars are aligned if the intensity of your cardio is low enough you may just possible burn more fat doing cardio on an empty stomach…  but personally, I’d rather fuel myself with something small as opposed to nothing and be starving, sweating and running on E through the whole thing.

DO make sure you are mentally prepared for cardio

The worst thing you can do is force yourself to go for a run or through some HIIT routine when you are running on 3 hrs of sleep, or you went out and drank too much the night before, or you are feeling ill.  Not only will you suffer through the whole workout but this also can lead to bad form and potential injuries which would set you back even further from your goals.  Instead on these days DO workout but opt for something more manageable like yoga or pilates or even a nice walk outside.

How often do you like to do cardio a week?  Have any extra tips to share with us on what works for you?  Share in the comments below.