Elements of a Great Workout: Cardio/Heart Strength

Do you love or hate cardio?  Do you avoid it and know you need to incorporate it?  Or are you stuck in the same pattern and need to mix it up? 

I have experienced all of these at different points in my life.  At one time, I was running constantly and training for my next race.  I was excited to up my mileage, but nervous at the same time.  Then out of nowhere, I would get tired of running and avoid it.  Next, I would miss the “high” my runs gave me and would start again.  After dabbling back and forth with running, I started having knee issues.  I knew I had to get into something else. 

So, I started trying Bootcamp and HIIT (high intensity interval training) type of workouts.  These incorporated strength and cardio in short intervals so boredom was kept at bay.  And I loved it.  But then I would see others excel at running or swimming and it made me want to get back into a cardio heavy activity.  I knew that my strength and cardio workouts were beneficial and working for my health, but they weren’t the same as running for miles and miles.  So I would try to run again, but it wasn’t like the old days.  I wasn’t in love with it like I was before, I was just trying to fit in. 

So I decided to keep doing my interval workouts and incorporate some runs on the side.  That turned out to be a good mix.  I realized I didn’t have to conform to what others thought exercise should be.  My training schedule could look different than other people’s schedule.  It makes sense when I said it out loud – different exercises fit different people.    

Why do you care about my cardio history?  It’s important to know that throughout your life, you may think you have to do a certain type of cardio forever because that’s what you have always done.  But if something happens and it’s not doable for you anymore, do you just quit? 

Well, you can do whatever you want.  But I recommend not getting your head too focused on what you were able to do, but not able to do now.  That’s futile and just leaves you frustrated.  What I suggest is to be open to change because we don’t have total control of the future.  And I’m here to load your toolbox with other ways to get your cardio “high”.

Before diving into the specifics, why should we even care about cardio and getting it into our lives?

Cardio health and fitness are linked to so many benefits.  The reasons to incorporate it into our daily lives never end. Even though I’m not a cardio junkie in this season of life, I do know that I need to keep it in my life for multiple health reasons.

Here are only a fraction of benefits to Cardio Fitness:

(American College of Sports Medicine. 2010. ACSM’s guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, 8th Ed. Lippincott Williams & Wilkins)

  • Decreased heart rate
  • Decreased anxiety and depression
  • Reduced resting blood pressure
  • Reduced insulin needs and improved glucose tolerance
  • Increased stamina and energy
  • Improved immune function
  • Improved sleep
  • Stronger Heart & Lungs

I would be hard pressed to find someone that is not interested in at least one of these benefits.  Any takers out there??  If nothing speaks to you, did you even read, “Increased Energy And Stamina”??

Alright now that everyone is on board let’s list out different methods of cardio:

  • Running or Jogging
  • Walking
  • Bicycling
  • Rowing
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical-ing
  • Jumping Rope
  • Boxing
  • Jumping (or Falling on Your Face)
  • Playing Sports (Basketball, Tennis, Raquetball, etc.)
  • Dancing
  • Straight Burpees!

If you do cardio regularly, you may have fitting it in your schedule mastered.  If you tend to avoid it, here is where you can sneak it in and get its benefits. 

A fun way to sneak it in my workout, is to incorporate moves that get my heart pumping and me out of breath.  Say I want to workout my entire body.  I’ll work on my arms and back and legs and glutes and then core (just to name a few) and then in between each exercise I add in some quick punching.  If I’m doing my interval workouts, I’ll have one interval for strength and then the next for cardio and keep alternating.  That way I break up the monotony!! 

If you want some added zing, make your cardio interval dual purpose. For instance, you don’t just want to run in place, but you want to work on your lower body as well.  Add in some jump squats and Boom you have your cardio element and it serves as a leg burner too!  Or you want to get out some aggression and you have some light weights (or soup cans – anyone remember Denise Austin??? One of my faves!) you can do some weighted punches.  That’ll get your heart rate up, so it’s working your heart and you have the weight adding resistance to your arms and shoulders.  There we go again, being efficient and savvy.

For those interested in some quick and dirty cardio that can function as strengthening too, here you go:

  • Jump Squats
  • Burpees
  • Weighted Punches
  • Jump Lunges
  • Plyo Pushups
  • Battle ropes
  • Kettlebell swings
  • Box Jumps
  • Mountain Climbers
  • High Knees with a weighted vest

*Any exercise that gets your heart pumping and makes you breathe harder is a cardio exercise.  Don’t let the jumping and the swinging exercises scare you off. Modify to your level always and listen to your body. You know it best!!

Alright, how does that sound? 

That’s a lot of info, so how are you going to implement it?

First, look at what you are currently do.  See if you need to incorporate more cardio or if you’re good.

Second, if you find that you may need more cardio in your life, look at ways to sneak it in.  Can you alternate your strength intervals with cardio intervals?  Can you add a cardio burn at the end of your workout by dancing to 2-3 songs?  What might be a continuation of your fitness routine or one step up from what you are currently doing?

Third, if you already have cardio in your life, but it’s not working for you, is there a way you can mix it up to get off that plateau?  What out of the list of cardio choices gets you excited?  Try that out!   

Comment below on your favorite cardio of choice.  For bonus points, name a dual cardio and strength exercise not listed here that you love or love to hate!

Join me next time as I wrap up the series “Elements of a Great Workout” by bringing it full circle with the aspect of sustainability.

Filling Your Day With Truth

Our days are filled to the brim with messages. Messages about the latest toy or what just happened half way across the world. Somethings are positive and uplifting while most are negative or say we are lacking.

This takes a toll on us whether we realize it or not. We start to believe the messages we are being fed by the media or a well intentioned friend. But if we don’t have a base of beliefs to filter what hits us day in and day out, then we will believe whatever someone says to us or whatever we read from a “reliable” source. We have to be careful what we believe because that shapes us and our world. Our world changes based on our perspective more so than our circumstances.

I am in no way saying that I am positive 100% of the time.  I struggle with being positive.  I am actually a positive person for other people in my life and truly believe in them.  But when it comes to me, I see things more “realistically”.  Or the more truthful way to say it is, I can be a negative person.  That’s not a fun thing to put out there.  I don’t like thinking of myself that way, but I do know that is my inclination.  When I think to myself about others, here is something that would cross my mind, “Well of course.  This person can do amazing things.  They are more than capable to take on that challenge”  But when I think about my own capabilities, my thoughts are more like, “Well I’ve never done that before, so I’m not sure I can do this.  Sure others can do it, but that doesn’t apply to me.  I’m different than other people.”  So just in case you thought I was preaching, this message is a reminder to myself as well as to you, that we have the power to change our perspectives and thoughts.  

But how do we go about this?  We don’t just want to blindly be positive about things because it would feel fake.  And if we try and fake it, than it’ll just be a front and on the inside we will still be miserable.  So we need to truly believe what we tell ourselves. 

Recently I have been digging into God’s Word and seeing what he has to say about me. This has been so encouraging in my own life and it has blessed my day knowing what the God of the Universe thinks about me and what he promises to me.

I wanted to share some truths that I have been mulling over and digesting. They don’t all speak to me all the time, but certain ones jump out and give me encouragement.  It depends on what I am going through at that moment or time of day.  I may be bold in saying this, but I would be surprised if it doesn’t have a positive affect on you.

So if I could ask you to take a deep breath and repeat these next truths either out loud or in your mind.  Really focus on the words and the meanings behind them.  Don’t just rush through them.  Take each statement and repeat it in your mind at least once after the initial reading.  Take a moment to pause between them. 

Are you ready?

  1. I am loved by God
    • (repeat)
    • I am loved by God
  2. I am known by God
    • (repeat)
    • I am known by God
  3. I am forgiven
    • (repeat)
    • I am forgiven
  4. I am God’s workmanship
    • (repeat)
    • I am God’s workmanship
  5. I am in God’s plans
    • (repeat)
    • I am in God’s plans
  6. God is working for my good
    • (repeat)
    • God is working for my good
  7. God has a plan to prosper and protect me
    • (repeat)
    • God has a plan to prosper and protect me
  8. God is above men; I do not need to be afraid
    • (repeat)
    • God is above men; I do not need to be afraid
  9. God is for me
    • (repeat)
    • God is for me
  10. God is with me; I am never alone
    • (repeat)
    • God is with me; I am never alone

Now, how do you feel?  Does it feel a little weird talking to yourself?  Yea, I get that.  But come to think of it, I already have thoughts floating up in my head.  Thoughts of not being good enough or not working hard enough or it’s too late for me I’m stuck with what I have.  So why not, fill up your head with encouraging, truthful statements that can pick you up?  All of these are true and I’ve included the scriptural references below so you can double check me and see it for yourself. 

So remember next time doubt comes into your head and starts speaking lies, like you aren’t good enough or you aren’t loved, pull out this list of truths and combat those lies.  We have the power to change our thoughts. We don’t have to think whatever comes into our heads.  Thank The Lord!  We have a choice.  And it’s a big decision.  It can change the course of our life.

I hope this is as encouraging to you as it is for me.  Saying these truths, especially out loud, lifts up my heart and spirit.  I pray it does the same for you! 

Are there any truths that lift you up that I’m not including?  Please leave them in the comments.  I’d love to hear yours!

Truths + Scriptural References

  1. I am loved by God – Eph. 3:18-19 & Rom. 5:8
  2. I am known by God – Ps. 139:4 & 16
  3. I am forgiven – 1 John 1:9
  4. I am God’s workmanship – Eph. 2:10
  5. I am in God’s plans – Jer. 29:11
  6. God is working for my good – Rom. 8:28
  7. God has a plan to prosper and protect me – Jer. 29:11
  8. God is above men; I do not need to be afraid – Heb. 13:6
  9. God is for me – Rom. 8:31
  10. God is with me; I am never alone – Rom. 8:39 & Heb. 13:5