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Cardio | Davey Wavey Fitness - Part 2

Archive for the tag - Cardio

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?


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!


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.


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?


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.


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!


How to Build Stamina for Running: 7 Tips.

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?


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!


Born to Run: Runner’s High.

Though many of us live sedentary, couch-potato lives, our not-so-distant ancestors were high-performing endurance athletes. Being hunters and gathers, they traversed large stretches of land and led extremely active lifestyles. For them, it was a matter of survival.

Researchers from the University of Arizona wanted to see if evolution pushed people to exercise through reward pathways. Spoiler alert: The answer is yes.

If you’ve ever engaged in cardio at a high level of intensity, then you’ve probably experienced the infamous runner’s high. This very real phenomenon is caused by endocanabinoid signalling in the so-called reward centers of the brain. It makes us feel good. Maybe even great.

But is this runner’s high feeling exclusive to animals – like humans and dogs – that are built to be endurance athletes? Or do less active animals also experience this high?

Researchers used blood samples to compare endocanabinoid levels between humans and dogs to less-active ferrets. According to the research, ferrets did not experience elevated endocanabinoid levels after exercise – or the pleasures that accompanies it.

In other words, evolution used the endocanabinoid system to motivate endurance exercise in humans, dogs and other active species. It’s a remarkably clever way to motivate exercise for those species whose survival requires it.

Though the runner’s high can certainly help motivate individuals to stay fit, it’s not something that inactive people will necessarily experience – at least, right away. According to one researcher, “Inactive people may not be fit enough to hit the exercise intensity that leads to this sort of rewarding sensation.” But it’s definitely something to build up to.

Why Men Need Cardio – and Women Need Strength Training.

Gender segregation is running rampant in gyms across the country and around the world.

In the cardio section of the gym (with all the treadmills, bikes and ellipticals), you’ll find mostly women. And in the strength training area (with various machines and free weights), you’ll see mostly men. But this isn’t a segregation enforced by gym policies or rules – but rather, it’s a segregation enforced by our own fitness misconceptions.


Let’s face it: Men don’t like doing cardio. Lifting weights is one thing, but running or sprinting on a treadmill is a different beast entirely. But in actuality, men do need cardio.

The big myth is that you can’t build muscle and include cardio in your workout. I hear this all the time:

I want to get big. That’s why I don’t do any cardio. I don’t want to lose my muscle gains or strength.

The myth that all cardio cannibalizes muscle is pervasive – and untrue. The truth is, even professional bodybuilders do cardio.

Why? Because cardio has a number of benefits that all men can use. Cardio:

  • Strengthens your heart and improves overall heart health.
  • Decreases gym recovery time.
  • Can increase the body’s metabolism.
  • Improves endurance.
  • Increases bone density.
  • Results in better sleep and more energy.
  • Reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, high cholesterol and more.

It’s true that long, drawn-out cardio sessions can lead to muscle loss. Because of this, it’s recommended that cardio sessions don’t exceed 45 minutes. My cardio, for example, is limited to 15 – 25 minutes per day. I alternate between running at a steady pace on one day and then doing intervals on the next.

It’s important that all people – regardless of gender – incorporate cardiovascular exercise into their workouts.


While most women get plenty of cardio, they often shy away from the weight room. Beyond the intimidation factor of working with free weights, most women avoid strength training because they don’t want to become bulky or overly muscular.

Whatever your gender, there’s no reason to fear becoming too muscular. In actuality, it takes a tremendous amount of time, know-how, strategy and effort to develop the massive physiques that you see on bodybuilding magazines. It doesn’t just happen – and it definitely doesn’t happen overnight. I often remind clients that once they build a desired amount of muscle, they can simply stop progressing to heavier weights and the muscle gains will stop. Yes, it’s that simple.

But it’s not just about looking a certain way. Strength training:

  • Prevents, stops and reverses the muscle loss that we experience as we age.
  • Improves performance of everyday tasks (i.e., carrying the groceries) with increased strength.
  • Reduces the risk of injury.
  • Improves posture and balance.
  • Lowers the risk of diabetes, heart disease, breast cancer and more.
  • Burns calories and boosts your metabolism.

Strength training is a good thing for men and women. And if you’re not incorporating it into your workout, then you’re cutting your results short.


Break the glass wall that divides your gym. There’s cardio and strength training equipment in your gym for a reason: Any effective workout uses both.

5 Reasons: Don’t Hold the Treadmill While Walking or Running.

The treadmill can be a hugely effective piece of exercise equipment – when used properly. The problem is, many gym-goers make one very big mistake when using it: They hold on to the machine for support while walking or running.

Unfortunately, holding onto the machine has some negative consequences:

  1. Fewer calories burned. Holding onto the machine makes the exercise easier and less intense. That means fewer calories burned. The treadmill may display one number for total calories burned – but the treadmill doesn’t know that you’re holding on. It’s estimated that holding onto the treadmill results in 20% to 25% fewer calories burned.
  2. Doesn’t translate to the real world. If you’re walking or running while holding onto the treadmill, it gives you a false sense of progress. In the real world, you can’t walk or run around while holding onto a machine. You’ll have a false sense of accomplishment and athletic ability.
  3. Negates the incline. Adding an incline to your walk or run increases the intensity. But when holding onto the treadmill, walkers and runners lean back. This makes the body perpendicular to the machine; the net effect is that there’s no incline at all! Holding onto the machine cancels out the incline – and all the benefits!
  4. More likely to result in injury. People think that holding onto the treadmill makes the machine safer. In fact, the opposite is true. By holding on, and aligning your body in an unnatural way, you increase the risk for longer-term injuries and pain – especially in the shoulders, knees, lower back and hips.
  5. Worsens balance. Running or walking on a treadmill helps improve your body’s balance – but all of that is thrown out the window when you hold on. When you hold on, you teach your body to rely on an external machine for balance. That’s not a good thing.

If you need to hold on to maintain your current speed, crank things down a bit and let go. You’ll get a better workout – and experience increased benefits – from going slower and letting go, than holding on at higher speeds and inclines.

A New Technique to Overcome Cardio Plateaus?

class=”alignright size-full wp-image-2420″ title=”to run further, pump muscles” src=”http://www.daveywaveyfitness.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/to-run-further-pump-muscles.jpg” alt=”” width=”380″ height=”261″ />In the fitness universe, there’s a lot of jargon and technical terminology.

Like “VO2max,” a word you may have heard from a personal trainer or exercise guru. In a nutshell, VO2max is the maximum capacity of an exerciser’s body to transport and use oxygen during exercise – and it’s considered one of the best measures of cardiovascular ability.

Once the exerciser’s VO2max is reached, failure is imminent. It’s a plateau that can’t be overcome like hitting a brick wall.

Traditionally, experts thought that this plateau was caused by either the heart’s inability to pump any more blood, muscles being unable to extract any additional oxygen from the blood or the inability of the lungs to pull in more oxygen from the air.

Now, a new theory is being proposed: It’s not the heart, muscles or lungs that cause the VO2max plateau – but rather, the brain. The brain applies the brakes so that the body doesn’t reach absolute failure.

The theory is being supported by a whole slew of recent research, including an interesting study involving “decremental” tests to determine VO2max – with huge implications for regular exercisers. In the study, researchers first measured participants’ VO2max using the traditional treadmill test. In this test, the treadmill starts slow, but gradually increases in speed until the VO2max plateau is reached shortly before failure.

Next, the decremental test was performed on half of the participants. Researchers quickly vamped up the treadmill speed beyond the previous point of failure. After about a minute – and just before failure was reached – the treadmill was lowered by a kilometer per hour. This was repeated for the duration of the test.

Interestingly, the decremental test resulted in a higher VO2max.

For the participants that didn’t experience the decremental test, their VO2max remained unchanged in a subsequent traditional test. But, most notably, when the decremental participants returned to the treadmill for an additional traditional VO2max test, they maintained their new (and higher) VO2max.

It’s as though simply performing the decremental test reset the body’s VO2max – and cardiovascular ability – to a higher level. For those of us that exercise regularly, this is huge and exciting news.

Treadmill Trick: Make Your Mind Work For You – Rather Than Against You.

Ready, set, go: Make your mind work for you - rather than against you.

I know you’ve been there: You’re 5 minutes into a 20 minute treadmill run. You’re already short of breath – and all you can think about is that you still have 15 minutes of running left. In your mind, you’re already defeated and there’s no way you’re going to finish the run.

I like to say that running is 75% physical and 25% mental. Sure, our ability to run is largely determined by our level of cardiovascular performance. But our mind plays a huge role, too. Running is, at least in part, mental. As such, we can use our minds to sabotage our running – or to help us push through.

One of the simplest and most effective mental treadmill tricks is shifting your focus away from the total amount of time left. In the above example, don’t put your attention on the remaining 15 minutes. Instead, consider that you already have five minutes under your belt. Focus on getting through the next minute. If that seems too much, push yourself another 30 seconds. Once you get there, extend your goal just a little bit further out. It’s just like the donkey and the carrot.

When I train with intervals, for example, I’m usually tired within the first few minutes. I often push myself to just finish the next set of intervals. Once I’m there, I realize that there’s enough figurative gas in the tank for another. And then so on. It works.

Your mind can be your biggest challenge or your biggest cheerleader. It can be a foe – or a friend. To get the results you want, it makes much more sense to use this powerful tool in your favor.