Crazy about Cardio

There are phrases from fitness that leap into the public discussion that drive me crazy. Functional, hydration, core and cardio are the four I hate the most. “Are you hydrating?” No, mom, but I am drinking water!


Cardio training is the one I squirm the most when I hear it. The Cardiovascular system is, well, a “system.” Today, I went to the gym and did my lymphatic system and then some nervous system. I really pumped my pancreas today, too.


During my teen years, the jogging and aerobic crazes took over. Anchorman’s “Yogging” touches upon it well. Weekend fun runs and 5Ks quickly took over the fitness niche and checking your pulse became a cliché.


Oddly, since this craze, the sport of Track and Field has all but disappeared in the United States as most people equate this Olympic sport to slow moving people searching for bagels rather than the greatest bodies in sport.


Basically, if your heart is beating, you are doing cardio. Let me give you a few ideas that might get you off the treadmill and back into better long-term health and fitness.


First, one of the things you want to build is an “elastic” heart. Life isn’t steady state, so consider training your heart with some peaks and valleys, ebbs and flows. Rather than jogging in place at the traffic light, let that heart rate come down while waiting for the green light. Great training programs, like Interval training and the Tabata program, appreciate the role of allowing the heart to deal with the roller coaster of training. Let your heart rate rise and fall during training.


Second, invest in a heart rate monitor. The first one I bought was just over $400. Today, you can buy a better one for about $20. The HR monitor gives you some insights about how you can get your heart work without the embarrassment of using a treadmill. For training, I use Phil Maffetone’s numbers:

180-Age for “Max” HR

160-Age for “Get Back to Work!”

Maffetone HR Numbers.

180-Age: Top End of Work

160-Age: Rest Over.

So, basically:

20 years old: 160-140

30 years old: 150-130

40 years old: 140-120

50 years old: 130-110

60 years old: 120-100


Six Second Pulse:

20 years old: 16-14

30 years old: 15-13

40 years old: 14-12

50 years old: 13-11

60 years old: 12-10


Using these numbers keeps workouts repeatable. Repeatable is probably the most important key to longevity in training.


Third, there is an amazing insight to using a HR monitor: there are some exercises that drive the HR, for many people, up higher than the cardio machine family. Here are a few that shock people who monitor HR:


T Push Ups

Bird Dogs

Corrective movements for specific joint issues


It’s not surprising to see the HR climb during snatches, swings or squats with the Kettlebell, but many are shocked to see that the Bird Dog raises the number higher than one would suspect.


It could be as simple as this: mixing standing exercises with floor work involves the work of getting up and down off the ground. That could be the simple answer, so why not utilize it in your training? Mix Swings with T Push Ups and Goblet Squats with Bird Dogs for an instant overall boost to your training.


Reap the value of cardio training in your workouts by simply linking together movements and checking to see if the HR is moving along with you. It’s that simple.

Back to top