Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Cardio Goes Kaput

Evolution never looks to the future. Richard Dawkins.

As I wrote in my post a few days ago about Pottenger's cats, I'm not convinced that human kind is not actually devolving at this point, but, gross markers of human trends aside, my own personal lifestyle continues to evolve. 

Years ago, I did group fitness classes that were all about “cardio” - as almost all group classes, in fact most prescribed exercise in general is. Those classes were fun, relieved a lot of stress and got me up off my chair in the middle of my workday – all good things. Once I stopped working, however, I rarely sat for an extended of period of time. Instead I was pretty much always out and about doing something – skiing, climbing, hiking, and I just evolved away from standard “cardio” as it all began to seem a bit useless. I kept lifting weights, of course, because lifting weights just made sense. After all, we all begin to loose muscle mass in our twenties, something that cardio does not address. Strangely enough, I noticed that I was plenty fit enough for my activities – fitter than ever in fact – without doing that “cardio” gig where you elevate your heart rate to certain level for an extended period of time. 

 Bouldering in the Selkirk Mountains, BC

Finally, the research is beginning to show that there really is “no such thing as cardio” - kind of reminiscent of “no such thing as an essential carbohydrate." The health benefits in terms of body composition, better performance, reduced morbidity and mortality are far greater when you train to maximal effort in short periods than when you pound away for hours doing the dreaded “cardio.” 

Disturbingly, given the rising popularity of endurance and ultra endurance sports, large amounts of “cardio” are actually bad for health. Who would have thought that marathon runners have worse atherosclerosis than matched sedentary controls? Not the runners themselves I would bet, who are no doubt running “for health.”

In the spirit of maximal training to full physical failure, I spent all my time at the bouldering wall this morning working on the roof. I got one side, I got the other, now I just gotta join up the one move in the middle!

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