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We’ve all heard the saying “too much of a good thing.” Well, sometimes cardio can be one of those things. Cardio is amazing for our heart health and for other parts of our body as well. It supports weight loss, increases lung capacity, improves memory and focus, and even enhances mood. However, it is best consumed frequently in small doses, mixed with resistance training and active rest, such as stretching. Take it from this Toronto Pilates studio and Toronto functional medicine practice, we know what we’re talking about.
What is cardio exactly?
A cardio workout is anything that increases our heart-rate. Whether it’s a spin class, running on a treadmill, hiking outdoors, a Toronto Pilates studio reformer class (hint hint) or interval training, cardio strengthens our heart. After all, our heart is a muscle and it needs to be worked just like any other muscle in our body to stay healthy. When our hearts and cardiovascular systems get stronger, more oxygen is delivered to our cells. This supports muscle recovery, boosts our metabolism and allows our body to function more efficiently. According to the Centre For Disease Control, only 1 in 3 American adults get enough physical activity. But just because you’re an avid cardio junkie doesn’t mean you’re exercising optimally!
A question from a Toronto Pilates Instructor: Are You OD-ing on Cardio?
The idea that we need to “go hard” with cardio and limit calories is outdated and old school! Excessive cardio and limiting calorie intake can tax the adrenals and cause a shift in cortisol levels, which signals your body to enter “fat conservation mode.” We’re not saying your workouts shouldn’t include cardio. No, no. Here at our Toronto Pilates studio every workout includes what we call cardio bursts. And workouts definitely should include cardio! But there are factors we need to be mindful of to ensure we’re getting the most of our cardio efforts.
7 WAYS TO EASILY OPTIMIZE YOUR WORKOUTS
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIO TIP #1: Practice active recovery
In order to repair micro-tears, restore glycogen fuel stores and ensure our muscles are recovering properly, it’s essential that our body rests. If we don’t, our muscles can weaken from being tight and overused. This makes us more susceptible to injuries. It also makes us more depleted of energy when it’s time for our next workout. But a rest day doesn’t have to mean being a couch potato. A rest day can still include moving our body. Opt for lower intensity physical activities, such as walking, gentle Pilates, yoga, stretching or foam rolling. This is what we call active recovery!
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIO TIP #2: Look for other mood-boosting activities
In addition to physical benefits, there are many mental benefits to exercise. Exercise reduces stress, increases memory and concentration, and boosts our mood. When we exercise, our brain’s pleasure circuit activates (aka endorphins, dopamine, and other “happy” neurotransmitters!) If you’re anxious at the thought of taking a rest day for this reason, there are other mood-boosting activities you can try. Studies show that even just going for a walk gets our blood flowing, our muscles engaged and also triggers the release of dopamine. Other things like meditation and deep breathing exercises are scientifically proven to effectively reduce stress, clear our mind, build positivity and balance cortisol levels.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIO TIP #3: Get into a “gain” mindset
Let’s be honest, cardio culture is often built around tapping into our body insecurities to get us to lose more, get “skinnier” and sweat ourselves away. What if instead of focusing on losing, we focused on gaining? If cardio is something you truly enjoy doing, try switching your mindset away from that negative “less-than” self-talk to empowering reasons like building endurance, releasing endorphins and fostering mobility.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIO TIP #4: Get enough sleep
The quality of your sleep is important to supporting digestion, managing stress and balancing our hormones. It’s also essential when it comes to fitness and muscle recovery. When we sleep, growth hormone is released, our brain recharges and it’s the time when our muscles recover, repair and rebuild. Achieving a high quality of sleep helps increase our energy levels and prevent fatigue. So you’ll feel more motivated and revitalized for your next sweat session!
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIO TIP #5: Schedule your workouts appropriately
Did you know that regular exercise can also promote a deeper, more restorative sleep? The problem is, we have to be careful of the timing of our exercise. If we exercise too close to bedtime (especially if it’s a high-intensity workout like cardio), it will get our adrenaline pumping, which can actually keep us awake and interfere with our sleep. While here at TMB, a well known Toronto Pilates studio, we always promote moving your body on a daily basis, we also encourage exercising earlier in the day. An early day workout will prevent adrenaline and cortisol from affecting you at night, so save the lighter exercises, like yoga and stretching, for the evening.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIO TIP #6: Choose the right exercise for your cycle phase
Ladies, listen up! Did you know that you can have more successful workouts if you plan them according to your cycle? The type of exercise you should be doing when you’re ovulating is different to what you should be doing in the days before your period. Studies show that days 7-14 of our cycle are when we have the most energy, so this is when we should engage in more intense workouts. Days 1-7 (menstruation), we’re better off practicing low intensity movements and sneaking in some active rest days.
HOW TO IMPROVE YOUR CARDIO TIP #7: Acupuncture Treatments
Many athletes and active individuals rely on acupuncture to support the function of their body. Not only does it minimize muscle and joint pain, but it also reduces inflammation. Acupuncture also improves circulation, enhances energy, builds endurance and shifts us from our sympathetic state into a parasympathetic state. The former is the part of the nervous system responsible for our “fight or flight” functions. The latter is our body’s “rest, digest and heal” mode. Acupuncture can also allow you to have a deeper, higher quality of sleep. As we mentioned, better sleep can help you out in the long-run when it comes to your fitness regime.
Did we mention we have killer Toronto Pilates classes and private Pilates sessions at TMB that combine the best cardio, three dimensional toning and strengthening movements? Check out what they’re all about!
About The Movement Boutique in Toronto – Pilates, Chiropractic, Functional Medicine
Located on Yonge Street in Toronto, The Movement Boutique serves the areas of Summerhill, Rosedale and Yorkdale with Pilates classes and much more. Our philosophy is centred on a holistic, multimodal approach to health, grounded in the latest therapeutic techniques and clinical research. Our approach: Optimal health cannot be attained through a single therapeutic lens; injuries are often the result of a constellation of lifestyle issues, including dysfunctional movement patterns, trauma, nutritional deficiencies or destructive habits of mind.