One of the longest running myths in fitness is the belief that aerobic activity should sit at the forefront of your exercise regimen. I can’t count the number of people who have come to me, frustrated, burned out and desperate because, despite all the long hours of running, spinning, and step class, they can’t seem to get their pudge to budge. If this sounds familiar, I have a nice surprise for you.
When I first sit down with a client, most are shocked when I explain that, when they begin following my program, they will only perform 3 short bouts of cardio (20 minutes a pop) each week – and that eventually, they will need to do even less. Strength training, good nutrition and planning are intermingled, of course, but I’ll save those subjects for another time.
DOUBTING THE PROOF – Even after paging through my Before-and-After portfolio, (filled with former “skeptics” who also doubted the Less-Work=BETTER results idea but went on to make amazing transformations,) there is still a little glimmer of disbelief… How can just 1 hour of cardio per week really be enough – much less work BETTER than say, 2 hours, 5 hours, 8 hours of cardio a week?!? Even with the proof staring you straight in the face (pictures don’t lie) it is hard to believe, I know…
The fact is, when it comes to re-shaping your body, the “run longer, go harder, jog faster” approach just doesn’t cut it. I’ll even go so far as to say that, in my experience, the more-is-better approach is largely responsible for the consistent pattern of stalled out results I see among those I affectionately refer to as “cardioholics.” Who knew?
TROUBLE IN PARADISE – The trouble starts when the body acclimates to, say, a 10-minute brisk walk. From there it seems the next logical step would be to graduate to a 20-minute walk, and then to a 20-minute jog, and then a 30-minute run, then 40-minutes, and so on… you know the rest of the story. It’s often, at this “keep going harder” Nirvāṇa stage, that folks run the risk of burning calories and lean muscle as opposed to stored fat. This may explain why some joggers and distance runners, while they appear to be lean overall, continue to hold on to pockets of fat around their legs and midsection, despite all their hard work and effort.
BANG FOR YOUR BUCK – My first question when it comes to the faster, longer cardio approach is always, “Where does it end?” Do you keep adding more and more to your current routine? Do you start running 5K’s, half marathons, sprint triathlons? Not that any of these are bad choices but, frankly, I’m with old Ben Franklin; “Time is money,” which always brings me to my second question, and that is, “What’s your return on investment?”
The truth is, the body acclimates very quickly to distance work and, once it does, you’ll get no new results or better results unless you go farther or faster. And this is where the vicious cycle of more work = less results begins. It’s a bit like continuing to teach an eighth grade math class subtraction and addition, hoping they’ll get smarter. As with the brain, to create powerful, lasting change, the body needs a new lesson, not a longer version of the old one.
WHAT “MIX IT UP” REALLY MEANS - A better “lesson” for the body (and body fat) is to mix brief periods of relatively intense work in between several minutes of less intense work (think walk-run-walk-run) to keep the body guessing; a method sometimes referred to as interval training.
CATCH THE WAVE™ – Today, I want to invite you to try just one of many version of my popular WAVE™ cardio concept – this one is known as LPB Cardio. WAVE – in that my entire training protocol (cardio, strength training and mindset alike) is based on the principle that everything in the universe operates in rhythms of highs and lows, peaks and valleys; and LPB – which stands for Last Personal Best (more about that in a moment.)
Once you get the hang of this routine, I believe you will find it very simple to do and, best of all, it works! Try it 2 to 3 times a week and you will become a true believer! Twenty short minutes, guaranteed to give you maximum return on your cardio investment. Best of all, most of my clients actually find that it’s (dare I say it??) fun!
(NOTE: Please check with your doctor or health care professional prior to attempting this or any other new exercise routine – especially if you have not worked out regularly for the past 6 months!)
GATHER YOUR TOOLS – Here’s all you will need:
• 25 minutes (this includes a 5 minute cool-down)
• A heart monitor
• Any machine with both speed and resistance (treadmill, bike, elliptical, rower)
• Some fired up music (optional)
1. START MODERATE – Using the manual setting on your machine, begin your routine at a moderate resistance and speed, not too difficult but not easy. After 3 minutes, make a note of your heart rate – that’s your starting point – your personal best so far.
2. THEN SLOW DOWN – Now, slow down your movement and resistance until your heart drops somewhere below 100.
3. PICK IT BACK UP – Once it does, add some resistance and speed and work for however long it takes you to beat that first high heart rate (your LPB.) For instance, if your first high heart rate was 118, you might hit 120 on your second peak. There’s no rules and no time-table here – you can try to beat it as fast or slow as you like.
4. SLOW IT BACK DOWN – Once you have beaten it, make a mental note of the new number then slow your movements and resistance with the intention of dropping your heart rate back below 100 (however long that might take.)
5. ON TO THE NEXT PEAK – When you notice that your heart rate is back down below 100, it’s time, once again, to add just the right amount of resistance and speed to – you got it – beat your last highest heart rate.
6. REPEAT – Repeat this process of peaks and valleys (WAVEs) until you have worked through 20 minutes. Go for your all-time personal best during the last few seconds of minute 19 and then, when your timer hits the 20 minute mark, begin a slow 5-minute cool down and you’re done!
You can choose to do fewer intervals by taking your time to hit each peak or you can do them in quick succession with fast bursts of speed and resistance. Typically, you will end up hitting between 4 and 6 peaks throughout the 20 minutes, but there are no rules. Just go with what feels good!
Here are 3 important considerations before attempting this routine:
1. LET ME HELP – If working with your heart rate is new territory for you or if you would like additional information on the appropriate heart rates for your age and level of fitness, please send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will gladly calculate your ideal heart rates for each peak – I’d love to hear from you! Either way, take care not to start out too hard – you’ve got plenty of time to get to that highest peak at the end!
2. GO WITH HOW IT FEELS, NOT HOW IT LOOKS – Resting heart rate can fluctuate quite a bit from day to day, depending on your age, training, sleep patterns. and time of day… so don’t focus on achieving the same peaks each time you do this routine. Make each routine an independent effort – it’s more about perceived intensity than it is heart rate, so the most important thing is to go with what feels right and not over work!
3. TALK THE TALK – A good rule of thumb when gauging the proper heart rate is, when you can no longer have a conversation without slowing down or stopping, you are at your max heart rate. While it isn’t likely that your body will let you work for very long at too high a heart rate, working at max heart rate is NOT the goal. Listen to your body and, if it feels as though you should slow down, go with your body and forget about the numbers!
The most powerful benefits of WAVE™ cardio is the after burn of calories you’ll experience, which can last up to 3 hours following your workout. In addition, because it is hard for the body to determine what you plan to do next (all the peaks and valleys keep it guessing) it will naturally acclimate to the hardest work – even when that work is maintained for just a few seconds. This means, when done properly, you’ll work less and get more – one of my favorite things in the whole wide world!
About the Author:
Dianne Orwig is a success coach, motivational speaker, fitness trainer, and founder of LivingFit Online™, a fitness program that has helped thousands of men and women completely transform their bodies and live healthier, happier lives though her less-is-better approach. Sign up TODAY for our FREE eBook and Life-Fitness Tips! Click here to get it all absolutely FREE!
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