The Cardio Conundrum (stolen title)

January 8, 2012 — 9 Comments

The fitness world is so divided on things, it’s entertaining.  A fun one right now that produces all sorts of debates is CARDIO/AEROBIC TRAINING.

Out of the gates I will state that I think heavy weights, and intense effort for short(er) durations provide better and more efficient benefits than traditional cardio (20+ minutes at something like 180-age beats/minute).

So I wanna get a discussion going about how much “cardio” is too much…because saying that it is disastrous for one’s health to do anything more than 10 minutes is probably a bit too black and white, IMO.

I think training for or running a 5k 2/3 times a week is a safe goal that shouldn’t interfere with other athletic endeavors.  But that is only about 60-90 minutes/week.  This is different than 10 mile runs, or hours on the elliptical…

Now, for me personally-I find steady state stuff boring, and have never done it enough to interfere with my own goals of strength and power-but I understand how that could be problematic. Such as in sports-once the athletes are already in shape, through their games, and sport practice they likely receive enough conditioning and perhaps additional running etc is counter productive…seems like this is a trend that is picking up speed in the S&C team sports world. Pretty cool.

Easily my favorite stance is that of Jason Ferrugia…who says that you should either go really hard and short like hill sprints, or long and easy, such as walking for an hour.

So, I know not much of a post, but I want to know–HOW MUCH “CARDIO” IS TOO MUCH?

9 responses to The Cardio Conundrum (stolen title)


    I think 10-20k a week of running is fine and helps a lot of people with disorders like anxiety – that amount of steady state seems to be less stressful than more running or even tough HIIT or weightlifting. It is a bit of an arbitrary number, derived through asking a lot of people with anxiety and depression about exercise rather than any sort of scientific survey. If you count stuff like hiking or kayaking or whatever as “cardio” then you can do hours and hours and hours.


    Predominantly from a cycling-specific standpoint, I recommend that you set roughly 80% of your total weekly “cardio” volume (which will be very individual) in the lower aerobic effort zones. The remaining 20% might be split (again, depending on indiviudal context, goals, and so on), between doing HIIT and what most people consider or gravitate toward when they do cardio – that dreaded no man’s land of 80% steady state efforts. So, if someone had 10 hours per week up their sleeve for cardio-based training, I’d programme about 8 hours of that as an accumulation of low-end work – easy rides, walks, hikes – with at least one day looking to log something longer than 90 minutes and out to 3 hours in one hit. Some of this can also be logged pre & post HIIT and aerobic capacity sessions. I tend to favour varying intervals under 5 minutes for HIIT work and nothing more than 20 minutes at a time for sitting on the aerobic rivet.

    Someone with less time up their sleeve might have a week with one 20-minute aerobic session, 4x Tabata intervals (up to 20 minutes), and the rest at the low end. And that would be plenty for most IMO.


    My heart never stops beating so I am always doing cardio. Sometimes I like to rev it up into some higher intensities by drinking coffee. Balancing on high things seems to push me into that 90% intensity range sometimes as well.

    In all serious though, I like to see most of my general fitness clients perform conditioning work in all ranges to practice varied types of energy systems work. Athletes typically practice something similar to their sport demands in addition to some low level recovery work.


    Too much is when you become sick or injured from not allowing your body to recover properly and/or you pushed to hard to quickly. I have never been really able to pack on muscle, but I can extend time or distance easily. Too much is different for everyone. I like weight lifting and all, but it wasn’t until I added cardio at the 5K and up area that I really started to lose weight. Some people can sprint, some run for ever, some can bench a VW mini bus, everyone is different and therefore the reasoning behind my thought.


    From personal experience and from working primarily with others in the military I will say that it is really easy to overdo it on the cardio. A typical week in an Airborne unit looks like this: Mon-5 miles run. Tues-5 mile run with a shittier hill. Weds-3 mile run, push ups and sit ups etc…

    When you consider the lack of strength and power development in this community and how slow the progress for even raw beginners, I think that even a couple of runs like this a week are too much.

    I think for athletes with at least 6 months of multielement training (to steal the term from the book FIT) under their belts and a good endurance base a few 5ks wouldn’t halt progress, but it wouldn’t do anything to help it either.

    Like the quote at the end hinted at, I’d rather see 400’s and 800’s and shorter for conditioning work and a monthly longer time trial just to make sure the wheels haven’t fallen off


    Interesting post, I think if one is spending a most of their time in the below 180-age zone, even for pre planned “cardio”, they’ll be pretty well off. A few days of that and a few days of strength based training will generally be enough for somebody looking for general fitness. Doing mostly lower aerobic for endurance athletes and smaller amounts of aerobic and anaerobic training for power athletes, with all others somewhere in between seems to make sense. The problem seems to be people pushing hard “cardio” with high HRs all the time and thinking more is better. I guess that would be too much. Also seems to be mentally boring and maybe damaging. I’d love to see people mixing it up with trail running, kayaking, hiking, sprinting, swimming, walking, etc.


    Cardio, for me, isn’t a “workout” or “exercise”, but play. I do it to enjoy the experience without any concern about results. I don’t use a watch and, when I participate in “races”, I don’t care about my time or ranking. (I’m not particularly good or fast, so it’s just ridiculous to care very much about these things.) So, for me at least, I would say that *too much* cardio is when it starts getting boring, or when I find myself starting to take it too seriously, such that I’m no longer able to enjoy the experience and stay in the moment.

    Also, once I step one foot on a treadmill, that’s too much.

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