The Top Do’s and Don’ts of Cardio

Updated: Apr 5, 2019

By. Garrett Guzman

To begin, I believe cardiovascular training can be extremely beneficial for many reasons. Those reasons include lowering the risks for many diseases (heart attack, stroke, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, and even some form of cancer), it improves the strength of your heart, it improves lung capacity, it helps you sleep better, it helps reduce stress, it improves your sex life, and finally it can assist in burning fat (Waehner, 2018). However, as with nearly everything in life, there can also be cons to cardiovascular training. For example, many people “overtrain” in the cardio department, believing that this is the one way to lose weight/fat. This is actually entirely false, and in fact, cardiovascular training can actually cause muscle loss and fat retention. In addition, many of the benefits listed above can be reversed when cardiovascular training is performed to excess. Below I have identified many of the top do’s and don’ts of cardiovascular training.

1. Let’s begin by labeling the different forms of cardiovascular training (as some forms are anaerobic and other forms are aerobic), as many people understand it. There is HIIT (high-intensity interval training, anaerobic), MISS (moderate-intensity steady-state, generally aerobic), and LISS (low-intensity steady-state, aerobic). To provide quick examples of each, think of HIIT as sprints (followed by rest), think of MISS as a run/jog, and think of LISS as a walk. All intensities can provide benefits and should be incorporated into your cardiovascular training program.

2. HIIT can NOT be performed daily; maximum of 2-3 days per week. HIIT is extremely demanding on the muscles (as well as tendons, ligaments, etc.), but it’s also extremely taxing on the nervous system (especially when combined with resistance training). MISS should NOT be performed daily; maximum of 3-4 days per week. MISS is highly adaptable, and for that reason, it will often lead to quick plateaus, and even regression in many health benefits (especially fat loss). LISS CAN and SHOULD be performed every day; this is what we refer to as activity. Every health benefit can be gathered through increased LISS (but again, not to excess; don’t go walking for 72 hours straight).

3. As mentioned above, every form of cardiovascular training has benefits (HIIT, MISS, LISS). I strongly encourage you to MIX IT UP. Perhaps you should perform 1 day of HIIT, 2 days of MISS, and 3 days of LISS (in addition to your resistance training program of course; we’ll discuss that in the next point). Do NOT perform the same intensity of training every day (unless it’s LISS); I cannot stress this point enough. In addition to mixing up the intensity, I would also encourage you to mix up the type/modality of your cardiovascular training. If you are always running, try biking/cycling/spinning or swimming. If you are always utilizing the elliptical in the gym, try the stairmaster. In addition, incorporate some full-body forms of cardiovascular training, such as the rower and the ski erg into your program. The options are many; just step outside of your comfort zone from time-to-time.

4. Focus on resistance training first, cardiovascular training second. Resistance training provides nearly all the benefits of cardiovascular training (and can often be a form of HIIT, depending on the way it is performed), plus it improves muscle and bone mass. These bonuses are not only critical in the way we look today, but they are also critical to our health as we age. In addition, resistance training has a favorable effect on many of our hormones, including testosterone, growth hormone, insulin, and IGF-1. Having an optimal hormonal system is one of the most critical pieces (if not the most important) to long-term health and fitness.

5. DO NOT TRY TO “CARDIO YOUR WAY” OUT OF A POOR DIET AND LIFESTYLE. If you eat poorly, but perform lots of cardiovascular training, expect nearly every benefit to be negated. If you drink alcohol excessively or you smoke regularly, but perform lots of cardiovascular training, expect nearly every benefit to be negated. If you sleep poorly or inadequately, but perform lots of cardiovascular training, expect nearly every benefit to be negated. You should get the picture by now. Focus on getting your nutrition and lifestyle in check BEFORE you get overly concerned with adding in cardiovascular training (especially HIIT and MISS).

6. Finally, the most important aspect to improving anything in one’s life is consistency. Make cardiovascular training (especially LISS) a part of your weekly routine. If you want to truly impact your health and fitness, cardiovascular training must be performed regularly. Find what you like and find a routine that works for you; then stick to it! “It’s not what we do once in a while that shape’s our lives. It’s what we do consistently.” – Tony Robbins

As always, I would love your feedback on this Refined Fitness Report. If you are struggling with some aspect of your cardiovascular training program, I would be happy to help. If you have had amazing success with the incorporation of a specific cardiovascular program, I would also love to hear that story. And in closing, thank you to all my readers!

The Top Do's and Don'ts of Cardio