Thursday 18 January 2018

How to use cardio

Damien Maher

When Yvonne first came to me, she had been going to the gym at least three times a week and doing cardio for 30 to 40 minutes a time, without getting any results.

She was not alone. I have heard this story a thousand times.

Running to stand still

Maybe you perform 30 to 60 minutes of continuous aerobic work using the bike or stepper, or walking or jogging three to five times per week, and have been doing so for several years without seeing any real change in the way your body looks.

The reason that this type of training is counter-productive to fat loss is that you will adapt to continuous aerobic workouts after six to eight weeks.

In sports that require power, aerobic training or running laps has been shown to make players weaker and slower.

It also increases the number of free radicals, which increases oxidative stress within the cells in our body, which accelerates ageing.

Aerobic training has also been shown to lower testosterone, which we need to build fat- burning muscle, and raises the catabolic hormone cortisol, which eats your fat-burning muscle.

How to burn fat

It is not my intention to rain on your current training programme, but rather to educate about making better use of your time, giving you alternatives to aerobic training to help you train more efficiently.

There are many ways to train the cardiovascular system.

The physiques and training methods of athletes give us clues -- compare the physiques and training methods of a continuous aerobic long-distance runner such as John Treacy versus a short-distance sprinter like Usain Bolt.

If your goal is fat loss, you should do weight training and interval sprints.

Your cardio activity should resemble repetitions of high speed and high intensity followed by periods of rest or low activity.

Research has shown that this type of training will increase your resting metabolic rate for up to 38 hours post exercise.

Sprinters do zero aerobic work, yet they have minimal body fat of 2pc-6pc, while marathon runners doing slow, continuous aerobic work normally have a higher body fat percentage, of around 12pc-14pc. The reason is the higher the intensity (or percentage) of their maximum heart rate, and not the effort, the more calories are burned per workout.

In addition to this, Excess Post Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) increases your caloric expenditure for 24-48 hours post-workout.

Recent studies have shown that interval training is more effective for fat loss while improving both aerobic and anaerobic fitness.


As always, please check with your physician before embarking on any intense exercise programme.

If you have not exercised in a long period of time, you will start with an aerobic programme explained on this page in the 'Cardio for Beginners' panel using a heart-rate monitor, so you ensure you get into your target heart rate zone.

Use the formula of 220 minus your age multiplied by your target heart rate percentage. Perform three sessions a week on alternate days.

Do not do more than six weeks of the workouts below, as long-term cardio is counterproductive.


For more experienced trainers, you can do the NRG system workouts outlined in the advanced workouts table on this page.

You do a high-intensity aerobic activity -- run, cycle, whatever gets your heart rate up -- for 40 seconds and then do the same activity at a low intensity for four minutes the first workout, 3:45 the second and 3:30 the third.

Before embarking on workout 1 on the advanced workouts table, take a practice workout or two to establish the fastest possible speed for the 'high intensity' sets.

You should be running so fast that you are unable to speak. This is very important to elicit the proper hormonal response.

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