Effective Cardio Exercise - There's more than just jogging!

Editor's Note: This article was originally written by patient expert Andrew Berry.

So, if you've been following my articles on how to get started on improving your health through diet and exercise, you've noticed an emphasis on good nutrition and strength training. The other part of this is your cardiovascular health -- aerobic exercise. This aspect of exercise can be complicated with diabetes, I know, because of the continual effort to keep your blood sugar balanced. But it's important, and a lot of people out there have proven that with initial work, you can keep your diabetes in range while developing your aerobic endurance.

Check out:

Anna - High School Track Record Breaker & Type 1 Diabetic

JMIAH- Type 1 Diabetic & Fitness Model

And Ginger's articles on researching your own diabetes: Article 1. & Article 2.

Types of Cardio

So...you found a training center or gym with free weights, machines, and cardio equipment and you're ready to go. Now you have to ask yourself, "What should I do here?" With the constant flow of information coming from health magazines, the internet, trainers and even friends and colleagues it's hard to decide which plan to follow. Today, I'm going to talk to you about the different types of cardio available and set you up with a program to try out.

_Please remember that before you start this program 1. You should consult with you MD to make sure it's safe for you to exercise and** 2. Always check your blood sugar before and after your training and make sure you have glucose tabs or some other readily available source of glucose available.** _

Once someone starts hitting the gym on a regular basis, the first thing to be neglected is cardio. It's boring; it's monotonous and generally not too much fun. First off, cardio is extremely important because it keeps you cardiovascularly fit. I'm talking your heart here, the most important muscle in the body. Secondly, it burns body fat. Cardio also helps your muscles recover from resistance training by increasing your core temperature and bringing fresh, nutrient dense blood into the exercising muscles. The last major benefit of doing cardio is muscle gain.

Yes, certain types of cardio can help you gain muscle due to the training adaptation your muscle go through to make new blood capillaries and mitochondria (energy powerhouse of all cells). First I'm going to talk to you about the two types of traditional cardio training and then offer a few suggestions on how to mix it up and make cardiovascular work more fun.

Traditional Cardio Traininteady State Cardio- this is probably the most popular form of cardio that gym goers use. This is basically any form of aerobic exercise where you bring your heart rate up to 60-85% of your maximum and maintain it for an extended period of time.   An example of this would be walking on the treadmill with an incline at a fast pace.

  • Pros: steady state cardio is great for beginners, it can burn more calories than other types of cardio (usually because it's done for longer bouts), and can be done on a regular basis daily because it doesn't tax specific muscles too much.
  • Negatives: due to the time spent doing steady state cardio, it can get boring. Also, doing the same thing all the time for hours on end can lead to overuse and injury of some body parts specifically knees and hips.

Interval Training- this involves any activity that alternates between periods of higher intensity (30-90 seconds) with periods of lower intensity for recovery (2-3 minutes). The lower intensity could be passive (complete rest) or active (much slower pace). Examples of this would be various sprints( high intensity), followed by a walk/jog back to the starting point (lower intensity) or hitting the stair climber at level 10 for 30 seconds and then bringing it back down to level 3 for 1.5 minutes and repeating 5-15 times.

  • Pros: can take less time, more fun and engaging. It leads to greater fat loss in the long run due to the "afterburn" where your heart rate is elevated long after you finished exercising. This phenomenon is known as EPOC (excess post-exercise oxygen consumption).
  • Negatives: need to be more a more advanced trainee and could lead to injury to muscles and joints. It can cause excessive soreness due to the speed and intensity placed on the muscles.

Note: to determine your resting heart rate, upon waking, place two fingers (never your thumb) over your radial artery (on the thumb side) and count the number of beats over 60 seconds.

Steady State and Intervals are the most common forms of cardio but they can both get kind of boring. Here are a few other methods to add some excitement to your fat burning.

Alternative (& More Interesting) Cardio Traininled Dragging- The name says it all. This form of cardio combines heavy anaerobic work with sprinting and gets your heart rate up quickly. After finding a sled to use, pack on 45-210 pounds, grab a belt or harness and sprint as fast as you can for 50 yards. When done with that, turn yourself around and perform a power row, pulling the sled towards you and then stepping back as quickly as possible to repeat. This will guarantee to leave your quads burning and your lungs gasping.

Ginger, dragging the sled

Heavy Object Walks- This one is self explanatory as well. Basically, you find heavy objects that are somewhat odd shaped and carry them various distances. An example of this would be to find a heavy strong sack and fill it with 50 to 150 pounds of sand and carry it for distances of 50-200 yards. Rest 3 minutes and repeat 5-8 more times.

Heavy Tire Work- If you can find one, get a large tractor tire ranging in weight from 300-800 pounds and flip it. You'll find that it literally works every muscle in your body. Set distances like 25 yards and keep flipping until you reach the finish line. When you are done with that, get a sledge hammer out and bang the side of the tire 25-50 times and fast as you can. To finish the set off, do box jumps onto the tire 15-20 times. Rest 3-5 minutes and repeat a few more times for a whole body thrashing.

Plyometrics- Plyo's are usually sport specific but can also be applied by the non-athlete to get a great cardio workout. Plyometrics primary focus is on speed and power movements and can be done with just your body, a box, a ladder, a heavy medicine ball or pretty much anything. Exercises include box jumping, ladder drills, and heavy ball exercises. I have being incorporating plyometric training into my clients workouts lately and the results both physically and mentally have been nothing but positive.

Balancing your blood sugar during all of this is going to take practice. So, as Ginger often recommends in her blogs on exercise, check your blood sugar often before, during, and after exercise to help you determine how this activity impacts your body. Everyone is different. It's safer to play on the higher side of your blood glucose than the lower side, with persistence you'll find a good balance in the middle.

To learn more about these alternative cardio methods, email Andrew or Ginger.