Masters Cardio: Is it a Waste of Time?
by: Troy Mork and Chris Bonk
Does this scenario seem familiar?
You wake up Sunday morning and think “I’ll go to the gym, (excuse me, health club) do some cardio before noon and then I’ll have the rest of the day to chill or do whatever”. You get to the health club, hop on the elliptical, grab the iPod…..click through the song list (I love Warren Zevon, but that’s not upbeat enough….Morrissey and The Cure are too depressing….Ahh!! New Order! I wonder what they are doing now?) set your weight and time and set off chugging away for about 30 minutes or 300 calories. The NFL pre-game shows are on the flat screens and you’re tooling away.
You suddenly get a text. “wanna wtch game? pck up beer and chips? wtch on my new 80” HD scrn with sonic surrnd sound? C U L8R”
Hmm, inviting. You rationalize that the cardio and the beer will be a wash. Or maybe your significant other calls and suggests that it might be cozy to have a brunch of “bangers & mash” at that new British GastroPub in the city. Never mind the blizzard. You have AWD!
And if its summer you aren’t even doing cardio, you are on your way to a friend’s boat to be on the water and in the “play pen” before it gets too crowded.
Let’s look at the reasons you’re doing Cardio. Are you trying to lose weight? Be healthier? Are you trying to tone up flabby muscles? Well guess what? Cardio workouts are an ineffective way to reduce body fat. If your goal is to lose body fat…..then diet. If your goal is to have a harder body, that’s weight training. No amount of cardio will build muscle.
Ever see the same person at the same gym at the same time of day on the same cardio machine 5 days a week for the past 5 years? Do they look any healthier than the day they walked in the gym?? (Definition of insanity: do the same thing over and over expecting different results). If your goal is to be social and to move and be active and your time at the gym is solely to escape your spouse, then go for it King of the Hamster Wheel.
If your goal is cardiovascular rehab for your heart and lungs, then specific doctor prescribed hospital supervised cardio programs are a good choice. If your goal is to fool yourself into thinking you’re ready for the Ironman or “six pack abs” because you Stairmaster two times a week for 25 minutes then you are being successful – at fooling yourself, that is. To make cardio truly effective you need to work far harder than most people are willing/able to work.
Cardio training is crucial for heart and lung health (especially over 50. You need endurance to keep up with that spry young thang that’s half your age while you’re have your mid-life crisis) and should be an addition to do on “recovery” days from resistance training. We choose activities that we enjoy more than running:
yoga, kayaking, swimming, trail riding, Pilates.
Instead of long-distances or moderate-pace cardio (unless you’re training to run across the country like Forrest Gump) always choose to do high intensity interval training. 30 seconds moving at your fastest and then a 1 minute cool down. Repeat this for 15-25 minutes. If you listen to music go intense during the chorus (the part where Bruce repeats “Born in the USA, I was Born in the USA”) and cool down during verses (the part where Bruce sings ”Got into a hometown jam/So they put a rifle in my hand/Sent me off to foreign land/To go and kill the yellow man” Yellow man?! Is that still cool to say?).
If you still choose to do cardio, choose less impactful exercises over running (save your joints the pain).
Don’t get us wrong, we enjoy a nice jog in the morning, on a beach, in a tropical location, with a Brazilian Victoria’s Secret model, but what are you going to do when your gout or plantar fasciitis kicks in?? Not a good long-term plan for your health.
Oh, and you might want to save the Bangers & Mash for a special occasion.
Troy Mork: Professional Trainer, Health & Wellness Coach
Chris Bonk: Bon vivant, raconteur and “over 50”, borderline fat