Archive for the tag - Cardio

Lift Before Cardio – Or After?

295_weightlifting-for-fat-loss_flashOne of the most frequently asked and most often debated fitness questions is whether it’s better to lift before or after cardio. And now, a recent study is shedding new light on the discourse.

First things first, we know that it’s important to do both cardio and strength training. Both types of exercise offer unique and complementary benefits. They work hand in hand to help you reach your fitness goals and facilitate improved health and wellness.

But should exercisers lift first or do cardio first? Which order yields the best overall results? That’s the big question.

The Department of Biology of Physical Activity at the University of Jyväskylä in Finland studied nearly 200 men ages 18 – 40 over 24 weeks. The men were broken into two groups of either cardio first or strength training first. Each week, the men performed 2 – 3 workouts.

For the cardio first group, initial findings showed a slower recovery period with reduced levels of testosterone. But this difference dissipated over the course of the study. After 24 weeks, researchers found similar increases in both performance and muscle growth in the two groups.

Based on these findings, researchers concluded that it really doesn’t matter whether you lift before or after cardio. It’s simply a matter of preference.

However, it’s worth noting that the men in this study exercised 2 – 3 times per week. For people that exercise more or less frequently, it’s unclear whether the findings can be extrapolated.

Personally, I find that I have the most energy when I first arrive at the gym. As such, I perform cardio first – as its benefits are more important to me than strength training. If the benefits of strength training are more important to you, then it may make more sense to lift first.

Cardio With No Equipment!

Devin-Thomas-Jump-Rope-ShirtlessHi Davey!

I can’t afford a gym membership and it’s getting really cold where I live! Are there any cardio exercises that I can do in my cramped apartment?

Thanks,
Jess

Hey Jess,

I have some great news! There are plenty of equipment-free cardio exercises that you can do at home.

Here are a few that I’d recommend:

  1. Jumping rope. While jumping rope may make us think of grade school recess, the truth is that it can be a great, heart-pumping workout. If you don’t have a jump rope, you can use an imaginary one – but it would definitely be worth the two or three dollar investment. If you’re 150 pounds, 10 minutes of jumping rope can burn 114 calories.
  2. Step aerobics. Even if you don’t have an aerobics step, you can make one with a small chair or stool. There are plenty of quality step aerobics videos on YouTube, so just fire one up and get started. With just 10 minutes of step aerobics, you can burn upwards of 120 calories.
  3. Jumping jacks. Much like jumping rope, jumping jacks can really get your heart racing. Just 10 minutes of vigorous jumping jacks can burn 92 calories.
  4. Dancing. Who said exercise can’t be fun? Feel the rhythm, feel the beat – and feel those calories burn away! If you dance hard (is there any other way to dance?), then you’ll burn nearly 70 calories in ten minutes. That’s about 20 calories per song!
  5. Yoga. When it comes to being a cardio workout, not all yoga classes are created equal. But a fast-paced yoga workout can burn up to 60 calories in 10 minutes. And you may even find your inner zen at the same time.

And really, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The moral of the story is that not having a gym membership and/or not having fancy equipment is no excuse for sitting on the couch. :-)

Love,
Davey

What’s Better: Swimming or Running?

Dear Davey,

I’m trying to get in better shape, and I was wondering which gives you a better cardio workout – swimming or running?

Thanks,
Luis

0627-ent-olympic-swimmers-pool_awHey Luis,

First of all, both swimming and running provide great workouts. And either is better than sitting on your butt watching television. However, there are some pretty big differences between the two types of cardio.

It’s important to note that comparing running to swimming can be a lot like comparing apples to oranges. They’re both very different – and the effectiveness of either workout can depend on a number of variables. For example, a University of Florida study found that swimmers burn 44% more calories when a pool is heated to 68 degrees Fahrenheit rather than 91 degrees. The speed at which you swim or run also has a big influence. As does any incline you might experience during your run. In other words, it’s not that simple.

However, there are a few things that are quite definitive. Swimming is low-impact, and so it’s a great option for people with joint issues. Swimming will also give your upper a body a good endurance workout (running does not), assuming that’s something you want.

When it comes to calories burned, running does come out on top – but again, it depends on all those previously mentioned variables. Here are some general guidelines for a 155-lb individual who is exercising for 30 minutes:

  • Moderate intensity swimming: 214 calories
  • Running at 5mph: 298 calories
  • Vigorous swimming: 344 calories
  • Running at 10mph: 632 calories

If you can hold a 10mph pace, then running is advantageous from a purely caloric perspective. But if you run at 5pmh and can swim at a vigorous pace, then swimming could be a better choice for burning calories and getting your heart pumping.

Personally, my favorite cardio workout is high intensity interval training wherein I alternate between jogging and sprinting for a set duration. It provides a ton of amazing benefits; it doesn’t take a lot of time, minimizes muscle mass loss and provides a huge metabolic boost that you won’t get from steady-pace cardio.

But at the end of the day, the best form of cardio is the cardio that you’ll stick with. Find what works for you!

Love,
Davey

Run Your Feelings.

running-alonePeople do it all the time. You’ve probably done it. I’ve definitely done it. It’s called eating your feelings – and it’s a dangerous and misguided technique for self-soothing.

Emotional eating is eating for reasons other than hunger. Instead of eating to fill a void in your stomach, it’s eating to satisfy an emotional need – and often involves cravings for very specific foods like pizza, ice cream, potato chips, etc. Because emotional eating usually involves unhealthy comfort foods, subsequent feelings of guilt or remorse are common.

In a nutshell, you eat because you’re angry, sad, etc. And then, once the guilt kicks in, you end up feeling even worse. It’s a downward spiral that serves no one.

While working with a professional to process your feelings is probably the healthiest alternative, I’ve got another, more accessible solution. Run your feelings. Hear me out.

Few things clear your mind like a good run. For me, running becomes something of a moving meditation. It’s right foot, left foot, right foot… One step, two steps, three steps. Breathe in, breathe out. And instead of having your mind race around an upsetting idea or thought, running allows your to channel and release that energy in a physical way.

Running allows me to take what’s in my mind and leave it on the payment.

And, unlike emotional eating, emotional running does serve your body with movement, exercise and a good sweat. Moreover, no feelings of guilt; instead, only the release of dopamine, serotonin and other neurotransmitters resulting in the euphoric runners high.

Do you ever run or exercise as a way to cope? Let me know in the comments below.

Study: Are Barefoot Running Shoes Dangerous?

vibram_fivefingers_flow_1Over the past few years, barefoot running has been gaining traction in the running community. In fact, it’s estimated that minimalist shoes now make up 15% of the $6.5 billion running shoe market.

There is some science to back up the trend. As I reported early, barefoot running can increase efficiency:

Oxygen consumption is typically 4% to 5% lower in barefoot running, which is attributed to factors including moving the shoes’ weight (energy demand increases about 1% for every 100g of additional mass on the foot), the bending resistance and friction of the sole, midsole energy absorption, and energy lost to metatarsophalangeal joint stiffness.

A recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise is adding more science to the barefoot running debate. For the study, researchers examined 36 experienced runners over a 10-week period. All participants underwent an MRI before the study and were then divided into two groups of either traditional running shoes or five finger barefoot running shoes.

Participants in the barefoot group followed the suggested industry protocol by easing into the barefoot running shoes:

They did one short (1-2 mile) run in the minimalist shoes the first week, and added an additional short run each week so that they ran at least 3 miles in the new shoes by week three. They were then told to add mileage in the minimal shoes as they felt comfortable, with the goal of replacing one short run per week in traditional shoes with the new shoes.

At the end of the 10-week study, all participants were again given MRIs. According to researchers, the runners in the barefoot group showed significant signs of stress including bone marrow edema (inflammation causing excessive fluid in the bone).

One researcher noted:

Whenever a bone is impacted by running or some other repetitive action, it goes through a normal remodeling process to get stronger. Injury occurs when the impact is coming too quickly or too powerfully, and the bone doesn’t have a chance to properly remodel before impact reoccurs.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that barefoot running or minimalist running shoes are necessarily bad. Instead, the study suggests that a longer transition period may be advisable. If you’ve been running your whole life in traditional running shoes, give yourself more than a few weeks to become accustomed.

Personally, I prefer the Nike Free Run shoes. They’re light, flexible and emulate barefoot running while still providing some support. In fact, my feet didn’t fit properly in the five finger shoes – so they weren’t an option for me. The Free Run shoes also come in different levels of support to help your transition. Even so, it’s taken me almost a year and several pairs of Nike Free Run shoes to fully transition and commit to the minimalist sneakers.

Have you ever tried minimalist running shoes? Let me know about it in the comments below!

Disclaimer: This isn’t a paid endorsement or sponsorship of Nike Free Run sneakers.

Too Much Cardio to Build Muscle?

Dear Davey,

For a little while now I have been trying to put on some muscle mass (I’m a fairly skinny guy), but have been having a hard time. I have been told by a few people that it is because I do too much cardio. I’m a cycling instructor here in Canada and I teach 3 – 5 cycling classes a week. Is there a way to gain muscle mass even though I do a large amount of intense cardio on weekly basis?

Thanks,
Jason

Hey Jason,

The real story here isn’t cardio – it’s calories. In order to build muscle, you need to create a calorie surplus. That is, you need to take in more calories than you burn.

If you take in fewer calories than you burn, you’ll lose weight and mass. If you take in the same amount of calories that you burn, you’ll stay the same. But if you want to increase the amount of mass on your body, you need to take in a greater number of calories than you burn. The surplus calories can be put to work building new muscle mass.

Of course, this assumes that you’re exercising and engaged in a workout program that promotes muscle growth (i.e., heavy weights, train to muscle failure, etc.). If you’re sedentary and spending your time watching TV, then those surplus calories will build fat – not muscle. And even if you are hitting the gym, it doesn’t mean that your training necessarily targets gains in muscle size. In other words, make sure your workout is on point.

If you’re looking to build muscle, the recommended calorie surplus is 250 – 500 calories. So, calculate your recommended calorie intake – and then add 250 – 500 calories to it.

Doing frequent and intense steady-state cardio makes it harder to build muscle because you burn many more calories than the rest of us. Whereas I could gain muscle by eating around 3,150 calories, your requirement may be considerably higher – and difficult to achieve. This is why, for many people, frequent and intense cardio sessions can cannibalize their muscle gains.

If you can’t cut back on the amount or duration of cardio, then it just means you’ll have to top your plate a little higher – a problem that most of us would love having!

Love,
Davey

P.S. It’s worth noting that high intensity interval training is the type of cardio recommended for individuals who are trying to build muscle. High intensity interval training is more anabolic in nature and better for muscle retention.

Is Running Backwards Good for You?

The London Backwards Running Championships

I’m a big fan of movement – regardless of the form that it takes. Your body craves movement, and it’s an essential element in a healthy, productive and balanced lifestyle.

So what’s the deal on backwards running? At some point or another, you’ve probably tried it. It’s just like running forward – only in reverse. And though it’s not quite as popular as barefoot running, it’s gaining many new converts.

Why?

For one, backwards running requires more energy. And more energy means more calories burned. Researchers at the United of Milan in Italy concluded that backwards running is less efficient, and thus requires 30% more energy than running forward at a given speed. If you’re looking to lose weight, that’s a huge benefit.

Beyond burning more calories, running backwards requires a stride that results in less impact. A recent study found that backwards running is an especially attractive option for individuals with bad knees.

Because it’s not our natural stride, it’s also believed that backwards running can help improve balance. In fact, according to an article in The New York Times, it’s often used as a therapy for Parkinson’s patients.

At the very least, it’s a great way to mix up your workout or to try something different. I’d recommend starting with just a few minutes of backwards running so that you can learn the movement over time. And since you can’t really see where you’re going, be cautious. It’s safest to walk or run backwards on a track wherein you’re able to use the painted lane lines to guide you.

The bottom line: If you’re looking to burn some extra calories, have knee issues, want to improve your balance or are just in the mood to do something new, backwards running may help you put your best foot forward backward. Either way, it’s better than sitting on the couch.

Is It Okay to Run with Sore Legs?

Dear Davey,

I’ve started a new lower body workout, and it leaves me sore for a few days thereafter. I know you’re not suppose to strength train muscles that are still sore, but is it okay to run with sore legs?

From,
Matthew

Well, there are a few points that need to be made here.

First, there are two types of soreness. There’s delayed onset muscle soreness (called DOMS) which occurs 12-48 hours after you complete your workout. It’s normal to experience DOMS – especially when you start a new workout regimen.

The other, less-desirable type of soreness occurs immediately and is often asymmetrical (i.e., it occurs only in one leg or one hamstring), and it’s most-often injury related. If your soreness is injury related, then you need to avoid using the injured muscle until you’ve recovered.

If you’re experiencing a low-level of DOMS in your legs, it may be okay to do some cardiovascular training. Ensure that you do a warm-up and proper stretch before engaging in your cardio. If the soreness or discomfort increases during your cardio, then you should stop immediately – as the increased pain may be indicative of an injury.

Keep in mind that DOMS typically fades within a month or two of a new routine, so you probably won’t be dealing with issue long-term. As you become more accustomed to your routine, the soreness will dissipate in subsequent workouts. And remember: Soreness isn’t required for muscle growth.

The bottom line: If you’re experiencing a slight amount of DOMS, then it’s okay to engage in cardio so long as it doesn’t exacerbate the soreness. If your soreness is injury related, avoid cardio until you’ve healed.

Does Running Burn Muscle?

Dear Davey,

You mentioned that longer runs can have a negative effect on muscle growth. Can you elaborate? I’m an avid runner and I typically run for long amount of time.

Thanks,
Chris

Dear Chris,

Though many people mistakenly believe otherwise, cardiovascular exercises like swimming, running or biking – when done in moderation – will not cannibalize your strength training results. The keyword being moderation.

In fact, a study done at West Virginia University and published in the “Journal of the American College of Nutrition” demonstrated that people who strength train regularly don’t lose muscle mass while performing cardio – even while on calorie restricting diets. That’s great news!

In general, your body won’t use your muscles as a source for fuel. The only exception would be during periods of extreme endurance cardio training. In other words, if you run or swim or bike for a long period of time, and if your glycogen or carbohydrate stores become depleted, your body will turn to the amino acid proteins in my muscles as a last resort – and it will turn those proteins into glucose for fuel.

To avoid this, it’s obviously important to keep your body fueled with plenty of complex carbohydrates. Or, even better, eliminate the risk altogether by keeping your cardio sessions short, intense and efficient.

The other issue is cortisol. As I’ve mentioned before, cortisol is hormone that your body releases when it is under stress. The effect of cortisol on muscle mass isn’t pretty. Cortisol is a catabolic hormone that reduces protein synthesis and may prevent muscle growth. In addition to stunting your results, cortisol has also been linked to increased fat retention in your body’s midsection.

Many things can stress your body, and a long cardio session is certainly one of them. For this reason, many trainers will encourage clients to limit cardio sessions to less than 45 minutes. It’s worth noting that long strength training sessions can also lead to the release of cortisol. In other words, more time at the gym isn’t always better.

To get a short but powerful workout, I recommend high intensity interval training. It can be used for both cardio and strength training, and it’s the basis for my Get Ripped Workout program. Most of my cardio sessions, thanks to high intensity interval training, are only 15 minutes long. It’s an intense 15 minutes, but it gives me the results that I want.

If you really love long runs, then it’s fine to run long distances as an occasional treat – but it certainly shouldn’t be the backbone of your cardio workout. And a few hours prior to your long run, fuel your body with plenty of complex carbs. I hope that helps!

Love,
Davey

How to Build Stamina for Running: 7 Tips.

On your mark... get set... go!

Hi Davey,

Whenever I go for a run or walk, I get winded and lose my breath within 30 seconds. I don’t have asthma, I’m in good shape and I eat well. Any advice?

Thanks,
Matt

Hey Matt,

Running is one of my favorite activities – and few things are as exhilarating as the resulting endorphin release and runner’s high.

But, as avid runners know, the stamina and endurance required to power through a run isn’t something with which we’re born. Endurance must be built over the course of time – and it can be a very gradual process.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

  1. Set a goal. It’s always helpful to set some sort of goal for yourself. It helps establish accountability and it gives you a way to measure your progress. Perhaps your goal is to run 1 mile by the end of the year without stopping.
  2. Pace yourself. When running longer distances, it’s important to pace yourself. You don’t want to start your run in a full sprint. Instead, start at a moderate but sustainable pace. Otherwise, you’ll burn out too quickly.
  3. Breathe. As it turns out, breathing is extremely important. As breathing keeps your blood oxygenated, I recommend inhaling for 2 or 3 counts – and then exhaling for 2 or 3 counts. Eventually, you can establish a breathing rhythm that will help get you into “the zone.”
  4. Don’t give up. If you’re winded after 30 seconds, don’t give up altogether. Walk for a few moments, catch your breath, and then run again. Continue until you finish your mile – or whatever goal you’ve set for yourself.
  5. Gradually, run more and walk less. Over time, you’ll notice that you’re not winded as quickly. Instead of running for 30 seconds, you may be able to run for 40 seconds. And then 50 seconds. Build on these gains to increase the amount of time you spend running versus walking.
  6. Try intervals. Intervals are a great way to mix things up and make speed gains. When performing intervals, you’ll alternative between sprinting for a set amount of time and jogging for a set amount of time. When I do intervals, for example, I jog for 60 seconds and then sprint for 60 seconds – and I do this for 15 minutes. In addition to incinerating body fat, this will make the perceived exertion in your regular run seem significantly less.
  7. Rest. Of course, it’s important to give you body plenty of rest to recover. Don’t run every day, and make sure you’re getting plenty of sleep.

By following these 7 tips, you’ll certainly make huge gains to your stamina over time.

Remember: It’s important to be very consistent in your training. If you take a week or two off here and there, you’ll stunt your progress. Keep with it, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy the results!

Love,
Davey