My personal beliefs in cardio vary widely. I find that cardio does a lot of different things to my body; some affect me well and others not so much. I will share with you my personal experience with cardio.
First of all, you’d better explain what cardio is. In my books, cardio is any activity that takes place over a long period of time (say 10 minutes) that consumes large amounts of energy. This could be anything from running on a treadmill, jumping rope, or even doing manual labor. I will say that some of the best cardio sessions I have ever participated in was carrying packs of shingles up a ladder all day! Other people’s opinion may differ and not include outside work, but it all does the same: burn calories. However, for the purposes of this article, I will talk about cardio exercises that are done in the gym.
The Good: Cardio is the healthiest exercise you can do with your body. I have no doubt about this, as it is what strengthens your heart. You can live without bulging biceps, but you have absolutely no chance without a good heart. I recommend doing cardio every day, even for just ten minutes. Go for a morning run on the treadmill to start the day, or take a 30-minute walk after work to get your heart rate up a bit. Cardio is always necessary, even if some of us don’t like it (including me). Where some people seem to get confused is in the amount of cardio to do. Let me explain:
If you are trying to gain size, you should do slightly less cardio, especially if you have trouble eating enough to do so. To gain size, you must have a caloric surplus (eat more calories than you burn in a day). If you are doing large amounts of cardio while trying to gain weight, you will need to eat more. While I have never had an appetite problem, I know many people who do. They keep their cardio to a minimum when trying to bulk up because they have trouble consuming the necessary calories. I also recommend doing cardio after weight training in this situation. I am a firm believer that weights should come first, so that you can give your best effort towards them. Long-distance cardio, like running on a treadmill, doesn’t require a lot of effort, so it can be done after lifting weights. There is also another secret that I strongly believe in. Since I know everyone eats breakfast before lifting weights (if you don’t read my blog post about having breakfast before lifting weights), you get added benefits from your workout by doing cardio afterward. Because doing cardio increases blood flow and blood supply to your muscles, you can more easily get the nutrients needed for your exhausted muscles. This will help your muscles get stronger and repair faster. In my personal experience, it hurts less when I do cardio after a workout than when I’m not. Honestly, it is quite surprising. In my personal experience, when I’m gaining up, I like to do 10 minutes of cardio 5 days a week (I only wake up Monday through Friday). Sometimes I do more on the weekends, but I feel like making up for it.
Second, you may be trying to lose weight. In this case, I recommend more cardio. As I mentioned in some of my previous articles, calories in vs. calories off is the name of the weight loss game. You should eat fewer calories than you burn in a day. This is where cardio really shines in the eyes of most people. Take, for example, someone like me who loves to eat (I really love to eat; it can be a real problem when trying to diet). If I need to consume 2,000 calories to lose weight, I can simply eat 2,500 calories and do 500 calories of cardio to hit my 2,000 calorie mark. Simply put, doing cardio while trying to lose weight helps you feel more satisfied throughout the day. Instead of eating nothing but salad, add a baked potato to the mix (potatoes are loaded with potassium, by the way, which helps reduce the chance of muscle cramps). All you have to do is increase your cardio to reach your weight loss goals! Don’t get out of hand though, as I wouldn’t recommend doing more than 30 minutes of cardio every day. When trying to get back in shape from summer, I usually do about 20 minutes of cardio every day of the week. I run at a decent pace (normally around 6 miles per hour), but I feel like that’s a lot of cardio. If I participate in any additional cardio, I tend to feel very exhausted, as my body cannot recover as well in a calorie deficit.
I also forgot to mention that the pace of your cardio also makes a big difference when it comes to calculating recommended times. If you prefer to walk for cardio, you can go much longer than recommended, as you are burning far fewer calories per minute. You will have to go beyond my recommended times to achieve the same results. Another thing to highlight are the offers in daily activities. If you are a construction worker, you will probably need to do little to no additional cardiovascular exercise to achieve your desired results. If you are trying to gain weight and stay healthy I would say you are probably fine. If you are trying to lose weight, you may need extra cardio, but not a lot.
Again, as I always like to point out, none of this is gospel. Results will vary depending on your body, but I think this is a great guide to get started. Stay safe and happy lifting weights!