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More on Cardio and Some Thoughts on Running

The last post on Cardio seemed to get people talking a bit, which is always cool. One of the best things about publishing a blog, especially one such as this where I can air all my thoughts and opinions on fitness, is that people come up to me afterwards, or maybe they post a comment, usually on facebook, with a reply. Sometimes it’s an agreement, other times it’s a thanks or an “I’ll give that a go…” and occasionally it’s “Dave, you’re wrong, stop being an idiot ”

Actually that last one usually comes from my wife….

So what was the biggest thing people are saying about the cardio post?

Well for many it’s, “But I HATE running!” Which is fair enough I suppose, but why do you hate it so much?

We are after all natural runners. As controversial as that sentence may be in today’s gym culture, it must be true. Can you name another mammal that hunts successfully without running? Almost every carnivorous/omnivorous animal has the ability to move with speed, some cover short distances extremely fast, other lope along for hours never seeming to tire. We humans seem to well adapted to both ends of the spectrum. Some of us are lighting over a short distance, others are quick over longer distances. But we all have the ability to run.

So why don’t you?

For me personally I dislike running in an urban environment, but put me in a park, or better yet out in the mountains and I’m a happy man. I adore being out in the wilds running over rough, uneven terrain, I enjoy the challenge of a long hill climb, especially when you can turn around at the top and admire the view (Dublin looks best when viewed from the top of Three Rock). For more intense sessions I hit the park, often with the dog and we run short sprints or do some intervals.

Running is one of our primal movement patterns. Don’t believe me?  Try this experiment:

  1. Take a handful of young kids, say for arguments sake between the ages of 5-10years old.

  2. Give them a bit of space, say a park or sports hall.

  3.  Maybe add a ball, possibly a dog.

  4. Stand back and watch.

Pretty soon, with no instruction from anyone, there will be an outbreak of running.

That’s science. Try it.

But if you still refuse to run. Maybe you’re injured and it’s contraindicated, perhaps you’re too out of shape even to run or possibly you’re just being a princess about it. What are your alternatives?

For practical cardio, the type we’re looking to build in our athletes, at least those that aren’t specifically runners/triathletes, the options must allow us to switch intensities or even change exercise at the drop of a hat. After all when we’re running I often incorporate direction changes or simply drop into a set of push ups, this isn’t so easy when I’m cycling.

Here’s a list of option that we use:

  1. Skipping – easy to change speed, convenient to drop and switch to a calisthenic drill and back again.

  2. Kettlebell swings – again convenient for switching drills, intensity can be changed by swinging higher/lower, swinging faster or changing the weight.

  3. Bag Work / Shadow Drills – Again, easy to modulate the intensity even if it’s harder to quantify. Intensity can be adjusted by hitting harder/softer/faster/slower. Gloves can limit other options if they need to be removed and replaced for other drills.

  4. Battling Ropes – these are awesome and they work great for anyone with lower body injuries, are badly out of shape or have limited ROM. Again, easy to modulate intensity by lengthening/shortening the rope and size of wave.

  5. Sled dragging – Like the ropes this is very low impact so can be a great boon to those recovering from injury or starting from very poor fitness. Adjust the weight of the sled or speed of the drag appropriately.

  6. Weighted Carries – these can be farmers walks, bear hug carry, shoulder carry, waiters walk, whatever variation you like, even be constantly changing the style.

So there you have it. An argument in favour of running and 6 alternatives for those of you who can’t/won’t run.


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