Gotta do my cardio

Cardiovascular training has been the poster girl of every good exercise regimen for the last 50 years or so. Just go to any local gym and the sheer volume of chrome cardiovasuclar equipment on display is astonishing. Gone are the days when a gym member had a choice between a treadmill or a bike, we now have rowing machines, cross trainers, stair climbers, arm cycle machines, rope climb machines, cardio skiing machines …the list goes on and on.

Its no suprise that the average new member of  gym is daunted by the array of cardiovascular equipment on display! But will we ever need to cycle with our hands? Will we ever climb an endless flight of stairs? Or are these machines here to entice us to part with our cash?


Healthclubs and Gyms are desperate to keep members happy. Keep them entertained and keep them paying. Thats why they invest in the latest “Bun Blaster 5000”


“But Ben we need to do our cardio training right? We need to burn calories and improve our cardio vascular conditioning by putting ourselves through a boring 45 – 60 minute constant low boring slog on the treadmill whilst watching last weeks Eastenders dont we? ”


But what if its just been a long running scam (Pardon the pun)


Now first off I want to state straight away that any gym program needs to include some cardio vascular training. I just think the way we have been told to do it isn’t working.

I worked at 2 large healthclubs for over 4 years before I started my own business and I saw the same people come in at the same time of day, every day and do the same workout, and I saw those same people never lose any weight or get any fitter.


“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results” – Albert Einstein


Every single one of those members (with no exception) Spent around 40 – 45 mins+ on various cardiovascular machines. Around 20% of them would then spend 5-10 minutes on various different weight training machines. Sound familiar? I can honestly say that the workout I have just described, in my experience, accounts for over 80% of all gym members.

“Gotta do my cardio!”

“Hows that working out for you?”


The human body is an explosive animal. A typical example of this is the fight or flight response. When perceived to be in danger of some kind the body releases a hormone “Rush” that tightens the muscles and sharpens the senses. The body prepares to either stand and fight or sprint away and jump into the nearest tree. It doesn’t prepare to run at 60% of our max heart rate for 40 minutes plus.

Heres another example. Prehistoric man is walking through the woods and See’s a rabbit “I could do with eating some rabbit right about now, I’ll chase him at a slow steady pace for 60 minutes+ before he falls overs with exhaustion”


“Hey theres a rabbit, wheres a heavy stone I can throw at him”


Our body responds better to explosive brief intense workouts that more correctly mirror what the human body has been doing for the past couple of thousand years. Glitzy cardio machines are a new invention and our body is not built for using them. Need further proof?


Cortisol is a hormone our body releases at times of stress. E.g arguing with someone, suffering lack of sleep, stepping out in front of a bus, being woken up by the alarm in the morning etc etc

Its a vital hormone, we need it!


However there is a problem.


During times of stress the ‘Sympathetic’ nervous system is in full swing, thats when the cortisol is released in to the blood


During times of relaxation the ‘ Para symaphetic’ nervous system is in action, this allows us to relax and flush out all of the stress hormones from our body.


The problem is that in our ‘High Stress lifestyles’ once we get into stress mode we find it very hard to get out of it. Work stress plus relationship stress, plus lack of sleep plus alcohol stress etc etc stops us from relaxing. This is when Cortisol becomes the bad guy…..


  • Impaired cognitive performance
  • Suppressed thyroid function
  • Blood sugar imbalances such as hyperglycemia
  • Decreased bone density
  • Decrease in muscle tissue
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, and other health consequences
  • Increased abdominal fat, which is associated with a greater amount of health problems than fat deposited in other areas of the body. Some of the health problems associated with increased stomach fat are; heart attacks, development of , higher rates of “metabolic syndrome” cholesterol (LDL) and lower levels of “good” cholesterol (HDL), which can lead to other health problems!


These are all effects of excessive cortisol secretion. Now see why half killing yourself on a treadmill might not be such a good idea?


Your body needs to learn how to de-stress itself naturally, how to lose weight without losing your mind doing endless cardiovascular exercise, how to increase life expectancy (And running shoe life expectancy)


Long slow distance/duration cardio is not the answer for the majority of people, I only recommend it for endurance athletes. Full stop.


Take the guess work out of your excersise and hire a personal trainer in Bristol who gets results


Ben Winter PT




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