The Three Pillars of Fitness: Cardiovascular Training

This is Atlanta. Lovely city. Walked a bunch downtown this week.
This is Atlanta. Lovely city. Walked a bunch downtown this week.

Today is a travel day so this will be a quick blog post.  It’s my last day in Atlanta for the ACSM Health & Fitness Summit. Lucky for me, I started my day with a group cardiovascular exercise session. A three-mile fun run in Grant Park, to be exact. Which brings me to the topic of this post:

What’s so great about cardiovascular exercise?

Definition: Cardiovascular exercise (or aerobic exercise) is exercise that makes your heart go faster and that you do for a while.

In other words, it’s not sprinting. It’s jogging or running, or it’s biking or rowing, or Zumba, spinning, fast hiking, whatever floats your boat. The key thing is you’re doing it for a while, and your heart rate stays higher than usual while you’re doing it. Also, your brain is basically resetting itself to the Happy setting, no matter what craziness has happened in your day to that point.

So I ran a race this morning with a group. Cardiovascular exercise. Done before 7 a.m.

And yes, waking up for the race at 5:15 a.m. was okay.

Yay for race numbers. I collect them and hang them up in my office so that they talk to me and remind me to get out there for my workouts.
Yay for race numbers. I collect them and hang them up in my office so that they talk to me and remind me to get out there for my workouts.

It was a great time – a little hotter and more humid than I’m used to this time of year in Seattle, but okay. Shorts weather. I like that. I ran my three miles with two busloads of conference attendees (many of whom are college students or recent graduates – which hits rule #1 of my secrets for staying young: hang out with people who are younger than you are). We ran through boot camp groups and walking groups and bunches of people who were out there before the sun came up. Because when you’re doing cardio, it is just so much more fun when you’re doing it with other people.

So here are my top three things to know about cardio:

1. Why do it? It’s one of two ways to actually increase your metabolism (i.e. the amount of energy your body burns each day in order to get through daily activities). By definition, making your heart beat faster burns more calories.

[If you’re wondering, the other way to increase metabolism is to build muscle through strength training, because muscle requires more energy to function than fat.]

2. Why do it, Part 2: It strengthens your entire cardiovascular system, makes your body more efficient, and even upgrades some of your body’s parts – like capillaries and even arteries. Some endurance athletes have far wider arteries than most folks. One presenter at the ACSM conference this week told us about marathoner Clarence DeMar’s inch-wide arteries. His quote: “Who cares what your cholesterol level is when your arteries are an inch wide?”

3. Getting out with a group makes it extra fun. I would not have run 3 miles this morning in Grant Park without a group. With the group, it just became fun, so I did it. Try that sometime. A fun run, a fun 5K walk, a bike event, a swim, or whatever gets you going. And if you’re just the solo type no matter what, try volunteering for one of these events. Trust me – it will inspire you.

One last photo from Atlanta:

Centennial Olympic Park, in the shadow of CNN, where one of my dear grad school friends works now. Lovely place, great for a midafternoon walk.
Centennial Olympic Park, in the shadow of CNN, where one of my dear grad school friends works now. Lovely place, great for a midafternoon walk.

There you go. Have a happy Friday – see you next week from Seattle.

Recent #every48 workouts: Thursday – a 45-minute spin class at the ACSM Health & Fitness Summit at noon, and about 15 minutes of lifting and stretching in the late afternoon. Friday – a 3-mile run in Grant Park with Summit attendees.

One Comment Add yours

  1. John Hamer says:

    Nicole — Just wanted to tell you that since your Rotary “chat” on March 11, I have worked out almost every day. I dropped Crossfit after 3 years and am now doing Pi-Yo, Total Body Conditioning, Step/Strength and trying other classes to see what I like best. Also running with my dog regularly. I look forward to reading your Every48Workout blog each day for a little inspiration and knowledge. Keep it up. Have a good trip home from Atlanta. Cheers! — John
    P.S. — Bob Hope said the secret to feeling young is to hang out with older people, not younger people! Lots of truth in that….

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