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Why Slow Cardio Is Worse Than Boring And Sucks For Losing Weight

Why Slow Cardio Is Worse Than Boring And Sucks For Losing Weight

You’ve finally decided it’s time to drop 20 pounds and lose the annoying blubber that’s hanging around your stomach. That’s awesome. I’m so freaking excited for you!

How long has it been since you’ve felt like you were in great shape? Three, five, possibly 10 years? It’s totally fine. You’ve got this.

You grab a fresh pair of running shoes. You tell yourself things like:

“I just need to lose weight, and running will help with that.”

“I know I should lift weights, but I don’t know what to do in the gym.”

Why?

You already have plenty to think about. Lacing up your kicks to hop on a treadmill for 30 minutes or heading outside for a jog seems easy and requires zero thinking. You don’t have the time to figure out the best exercises, examine the latest research, or lay out a program or schedule that holds you accountable.

I totally understand. 

However, that boring half hour you spend daydreaming on a treadmill or the slow three mile trot you completed at the neighborhood park isn’t going to create the type of body you want.

One of the pillars of the JP Fitness Coaching Program is the following:

Strength drives physical improvement. 

Is your goal to look better in a swimsuit or pack on muscle so your shirts fit as tight as a winter glove?

As the Rock would say in his wrestling days, “It doesn’t matter…!”

Lifting weights should be your primary focus. You lift weights to improve strength and build muscle. The relentless effort that you’re willing to put into grinding out sets of sweat- dripping squats or sets of soul- crushing pull ups has a significantly better effect on body composition than jogging three miles four times each week.

Does that make sense? Yes? Great.

Let’s discuss why you don’t need slow boring steady state cardio to reveal your best body.

Get Yourself Out of Cardio Hell

“Veronica and I are trying this new fad called uh, jogging. I believe it’s jogging or yogging, it might be a soft j. I’m not sure, but apparently, you just run for an extended period of time. It’s supposed to be wild.”
– Ron Burgundy in the film “Anchorman”

Ron was supposed to attend the monthly pancake breakfast with his team. He missed a delicious stack of warm, soft, melt- in- your mouth, buttery pancakes doused in syrup because he had to go do slow boring steady state cardio with Veronica.

This is a crime. Who’s to blame here?

James Fuller aka Jim Fixx is credited with making slow-boring cardio like jogging popular in the 70s. At a point in his life, Jim was an overweight smoker who smoked two packs a day, and consumed more than his fair share of alcohol. He also ate a ton of burgers and pizza, and had a stressful job and personal life. Does any of this resonate with you?

Then, he decided to do something about it. Jim stopped smoking and stress eating, and began running. He lost 60 pounds, wrote a book about running, and went on to great fame. Seven years later, at the ripe age of 52, Jim went out for his typical daily run in beautiful Vermont. Ironically, it turned out to be the last time the man who robbed our beloved Ron Burgundy of a pancake breakfast would hit the road. Jim Fixx died of a heart attack while running.

I already you know what you’re thinking.

You think I’m going to blame his heart attack on running too damn much. I’m not.

Jim was genetically predisposed to heart attacks and was unaware of it because he didn’t like going to the doctor. He even logged “chest pain” in his training diaries, and still failed to see a doctor.

The years of binge eating and smoking prior to running led to each of his arteries being clogged up to 70%. Years of poor health habits, never visiting the doctor’s office, and vigorous running that his heart couldn’t handle, led to Jim dying young leaving behind four children.

What could Jim have done differently to extend his life?

1. He could have walked instead of jogged. Due to a pre-existing heart condition, his heart reached the point that it couldn’t handle more running. Moderate exercise such as brisk walking is as beneficial for your health as vigorous exercise such as running, when the same energy is expended. Why put that much effort into running when you could just walk and get the same result?

2. He could have changed his body composition and improved his heart health had he spent more time lifting weights instead of slow boring cardio. Lifting weights is superior to running for lowering the risk of diabetes, lowering blood pressure, and lowering your body mass index (BMI).

Our ancestors walked, lifted heavy things, climbed, built structures, and sprinted occasionally to chase down prey or get away from imminent danger.

Do you want to know what they didn’t do?

Jog. That’s right. Your body isn’t made to pound your feet and knees into asphalt or on a treadmill.

Now, I’m not saying you shouldn’t do any cardio. You should participate in activities like walking around your neighborhood, taking a hike, playing a recreational sport, or cycling if they bring you joy and excitement. Those are easily activities you can do with co-workers, friends, or loved ones.

However, to reveal your best body, you must find the sweet spot between lifting and too much cardio. Make sure your cardio isn’t affecting your strength and muscle gains.

Cardio is Killing Your Progress

Balancing your lifting with other activities such as cycling, hiking or playing recreational sports can be a bit tricky. When lifting, you’re doing it with the best intentions of gaining maximal strength or muscle based on what’s optimal and sustainable for you.

Here’s your equation for maximizing your results:

Maximum Strength/Muscle = The Magic Hour – Life – The Interference Effect

“The Magic Hour” is your availability to train and dominate in the gym. It might be three days per week for an hour (which is plenty of time to devote to changing your body).

You must maximize that time and gauge your results based on this sustainable plan of action. In contrast, the bro who has little to no responsibilities but can get to the gym six days per week and trains two hours each session will get his best results based on that plan.

Life happens. There are variables such as sleep deprivation, travel, big work projects, or family. They all dictate how much time you have available for making significant progress in the gym.

Then, we have what’s called the interference effect. This phenomenon is the potential negative effect of cardio on strength training adaptations. It’s based on how your body reacts to the different energy systems you possess.

Your body adapts to the way you train it.

When your body is using low levels of force like slow boring steady state cardio, it becomes more efficient at that and adapts to endurance training. You don’t have to be an exercise science major for me to tell you that strength training is the opposite. Strength training relies on you becoming efficient at producing high levels of force for short periods of time.

Remember that pillar I mentioned earlier?

You know, strength drives physical improvement or something like that?

Yes. Your body’s ability to produce an immense amount of force and get stronger is the key that unlocks the door to shedding that annoying 20 pounds of fat and waking up each morning feeling like a superhero.

For you to maximize your results, separate strength training completely from cardio. Make sure your training session is at least six hours removed from cardio. The best thing you can do is separate the sessions by 24 hours.

Your Cures for Slow Boring Cardio

Some people, and you may be one of them, still have the urge to scratch that cardio itch. It’s just part of their nature.

Imagine being able to avoid slow boring steady state cardio and achieve great results.

Imagine yourself achieving better results in half the time of your regular 30-60-minute cardio sessions.

You can do this by swapping steady state cardio for high intensity interval training (HIIT). Here are some ways to incorporate HIIT into your schedule:

Hill Sprints

Get outside and enjoy mother nature. Find a big hill with an incline where you can sprint your heart out.

The benefits of hill sprints:

  • Injury prevention. It’s easier on your joints, tendons, and ligaments because you’re going against gravity.
  • Power. Due to the high-level force being utilized, you’ll improve your explosiveness
  • Body composition. Sprinting is anaerobic (high levels of force, short periods of time.) You’ll build muscle in your legs which will help you shed fat all over your body.

What you do:

  • Sprint up to the top of the hill for a duration of 10-12 seconds. When I say sprint, I mean as fast as possible. This is not a slow trot. Going 100% makes your body use the muscle fibers responsible for maximum effort which help you get closer to revealing your best body.
  • Once you’ve reached the top, slowly walk back down as this serves as active recovery. The walk down should last 60-90 seconds.
  • Beginners should begin with six rounds. Advanced individuals should complete 10.
  • Max duration: 20 minutes

Bike Sprints

If you have access to an assault/Airdyne bike, you’ll get great results here. Even if you have a regular spin bike, it’s a good option.

What you do:

  • Sprint hard for 15-20 seconds. Use up to 90 seconds for recovery.
  • During recovery, you can make it active by performing an ab exercise or take a total rest until your 90 seconds are up.
  • Go for 6-10 rounds.
  • Max duration: 15-20 minutes

Conditioning Medley

You can perform a HIIT circuit using a combination of kettlebell swings, heavy sled pushes, farmer’s carries, battle ropes, or sledgehammer strikes.

What you do:

  • Use 3 or 4 of the exercises listed above.
  • Perform each one 20-30 seconds. Rest 30 seconds between each exercise and 60-90 seconds between each round.
  • Go for 4-6 rounds.
  • Max duration: 20 minutes

Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)

For people who can’t pry themselves away from the weights (I don’t blame you) or need a kickass challenge, EMOM sessions allow you to build strength, muscle, and improve your work capacity (your ability to do more work in a given time frame).

Due to the increase in the intensity of the workload you’re doing, the annoying extra body fat you’re carrying around will be eliminated faster.

It’s very simple. For every minute, you’ll do a certain amount of work. For the remainder of the minute, you’ll rest. Got it? Good deal.

What you do:

You can do this with a bunch of exercises or a couple. For the sake of simplicity, here are a few combinations you can annihilate. Use five reps for each exercise:

  • Front squats + Overhead press
  • Hang clean + Push press
  • Back squat + Incline bench press
  • Deadlifts + Pullups
  • Zercher squats + Snatch grip high pulls
  • Max duration: 12-20 minutes

The Takeaway

Get yourself out of cardio hell. The longer you depend on slow boring steady state cardio to help you lose that annoying 20 pounds you’ve gained, the tougher it’s going to be for you to eliminate the blubber hanging around your stomach.

The number one goal of cardio should be to improve your heart health and lose fat without sacrificing muscle and strength.

Cardio has its place. You just need to use it wisely. So here’s the bottom line:

Don’t use cardio as a substitute for strength training.

Do use cardio as an add-on to help accelerate what you want most: accelerating  fat loss.