The Lie of Cardio

Ok, so I’ve been at this for a few years now. That doesn’t make me an expert just from time spent, but I’m not one of those people that does anything, or believes anything, without fulling understanding everything surrounding it first. Here’s a short list of my experiences:

  • TRX Certified
  • Half Marathon runner
  • Powerlifter
  • Spin classes
  • Bosu ball
  • Swiss ball
  • Exercise ball
  • Kettlebell
  • HIIT
  • Tabata
  • Boxing
  • Taijutsu
  • Cones
  • Agility ladder
  • Swimming
  • Biking
  • Hiking
  • Wind Sprints
  • Weight Vests
  • Sauna Suits
  • Bodyweight
  • Stairs
  • Bar Athlete
  • P90X
  • Insanity
  • Tower 200
  • High calorie nutrition plans for mass gain
  • Low calorie nutrition plans for weight loss
  • No carb diets
  • No fat diets
  • No processed foods diets
  • Intermittent Fasting
  • Negative training
  • the list goes on and on
This list isn’t meant as a proud, boastful accomplishment. It’s meant to get across that I’ve tried a lot of stuff, and seen the pros and cons of a lot of it. By tried, I don’t mean picked it up and played around for a single day with it either. Tried means I gave it at least 30 days, following whatever was recommended with precision, then evaluating the changes it had on my health afterwards.
The one thing I’ve learned through all of this is that cardio is a lie.
Let’s get into it.

Damn nature, you ugly

If we examine the wild, natural world we live in, specifically the animal kingdom, there are many truths to be found. For this conversation, the truth is that animals don’t jog. Go ahead. Think of one that you’ve seen casually jogging through the wilderness. They simply don’t do it. Animals either walk or sprint. I know someone is going to mention horses trotting but that is a behaviour we have taught them, so suck it.

Going long distances is not how we are designed. Of course, the human body is an incredibly advanced machine and can adapt to all of our needs and demands, regardless of the cost. That’s how most of us got out of shape in the first place. We put crap in, and our miraculous bodies have done the best they could with what we provided. The same is true of exercise. Consider the following example:

I go running for 40km three times per week. I maintain a brisk but doable pace, knowing I will sweat off a lot of calories. All of this is true. My body says ‘hmmm, you need to be able to go a long distance. Let me shed some weight for you.’ That sounds like what we want, right? The problem is that our body sheds good and bad weight, fat and muscle. It doesn’t take a super athlete to run a marathon. Don’t kid yourself. If you’ve ever participated in, or seen pictures of, a marathon, there are a lot of out of shape people that finish the race just fine. They may not have the top times, but running a marathon isn’t something impossible if you’re out of shape.

Now consider the Olympic sprinter who trains five times per week, running high speed wind sprints of only 100 meters. Their body says ‘Geez, you need to get from here to there as quickly as possible. I need to shed weight to make you lighter, but I also need to gain muscle to help you get there faster.’ That’s what we see in nature. You don’t see flabby animals in the wild. They are already dead, killed by something in far better shape then they were.

Further consider the picture below:

The guy on the left is a marathon runner. To me, he looks sickly, tired, and not at all what I want to look like. His body has eaten his fat, yes, but it’s eaten his muscle as well, leaving him weak and without stores of energy.

The guy on the right is an Olympic sprinter. Muscular, high energy, and totally how I want to look. He embodies good health, that ideal we see in our superheroes, our action heroes, and in Hollywood. If you’re honest with yourself, you want to look like him too.

Now, if you’re a lady, go Google search. You’ll see the result is the same. Most ladies are afraid of heavy weights and working out properly as they don’t want to bulk up like those huge women they see in magazines (we’ll talk about magazines shortly). Stop believing the myth. You don’t have enough testosterone to bulk up. Those beasts you see? They take testosterone specifically to get big. Women get leaned and ripped working with heavy weights, shredding a lot of fat percentage.

Who owns the Fitness Magazines?

Oh Roc, you have such silly ideas. Sure, you took a picture of some sickly looking marathon runner, read a few things online, then twisted it all to suit your argument. Anyone can do that. You’re absolutely right. The fitness magazines have been doing it for decades.

Did you know that nearly every single fitness publication in North America is owned by a supplement company? Here’s a challenge for you. Pick up any fitness magazine and see if you can get through a single issue without seeing several supplement ads. Couldn’t do it could you?

Do you know why that is? Because the fitness magazines actively endorse supplements. Why do they do that? Because they are told to by their owners. People believe media. If media says you need supplements to get the body you want, then it must be true. It gets even deeper. The professional bodybuilders and fitness athletes you see in most of these magazines are sponsored by the same supplement companies that own the magazines.

“Hi. I’m Roc Wieler. I got this massive by using the new Mutant Mass by Oxymoron. Sure, my testicles dried up like raisins, and I rage sometimes when even a gentle breeze blows against me, but I got huge. You can too. For only $89.99 plus shipping, handling, taxes, and admin fees.”

Magazines will tell you cardio training is good. Magazines will tell you supplements are good. Magazines wont’ say thank you for all the mortgages you’ve paid off in your ignorance.

Gym Noobs

But Roc, all my girlfriends love the spin classes they go to! Sometimes we’ll have treadmill parties in the mornings. We’ve all seen results too! Well, ok, if I look back and am honest, nothing has really changed in my body at all. I sweat. I feel like I’m working out, but I’m not meeting my goals. WTF.

Gyms are a ripoff for the most part.

Think about this. You could meet with me in person, have a chat, pay me $100 per hour, and within the span of eight hours I could educate you on everything you need to know in order to develop and maintain a healthy lifestyle for the rest of your life. That sounds like a good deal for $800.

Yet every year millions of North Americans waste money on memberships, rarely achieving the results they desire. Some even go further and hire personal trainers through their gyms, often paying $100+ per hour for their “services”

Here’s some more lies you’ve been fed. Cardio equipment must be good because they are the busiest stations in every gym. Wrong. Want to know why they are the busiest? Because the gym has a lease to pay, salaries to pay, equipment rentals to pay, utilities to pay, the list goes on and on. I can take a group of ten people, show them how to get on a treadmill and walk/run for 30 minutes in only a few seconds. It’s easy. It’s something people think is a good warmup to their program, or their workout, or some just stay with it as their only form of exercise. The point is that within seconds I have you paying for the gym’s bills.

As I mentioned, to teach you everything I know about health would take 8 hours. If I worked at a gym that was open 24 hours and worked nonstop, that’s 3 people per day I could actually help, but then they’d leave the gym because there is nothing else for them to learn. How can I make a living as a trainer doing that?

That’s easy. I let people do whatever the hell appeals to them for an hour, not really caring about their health, their form, their progress, or whether I am meeting their needs, or even if I am growing as a trainer. I just want their money so I make them do cardio and check up on them every now and then.

I’ve gone all over the place I know. I get really enraged and passionate about so much of the shit I see in the fitness industry, but the original point was this:

Cardio takes far too long, and does not benefit you in the way you’ve been told. Stop doing it.

There are far better ways to gain muscle and burn fat, all at the same time. Some of these workouts, like Tabata, take 8 – 16 minutes, and are far more intense and beneficial short term and long term than cardio.

Right now I’m in the middle of my “Big for Fanfest” program. I workout for about 45 minutes, three times per week, and have already gained a lot of strength, about 10 lbs of muscle mass, yet lost 5% body fat. Go figure. Just over 2 hours per week and I’m seeing results like I never have before.

Do I use supplements? Yes. I use protein isolate and glutamine. Nothing else.

Do I use gym equipment? For my current program, yes. I use heavy weights and a power rack. Again, when you go the gym and look at the guys you want to look like, do you see them on the treadmill or in spin class? No, you see them lifting heavy, and there’s a reason for that.

Do I think the cardiovascular system isn’t important? Of course I thin cardio health is important. What I am bashing is the industry coined term of “cardio” that represents wasted time, money and effort robbing you of everything you went to the gym for in the first place.

Now, having said all this, there are some good gyms out there. Not one of them is a franchise. There are small, privately owned and operated facilities that focus on quality rather than quantity. If you have one near you, you’re lucky. If you’re even luckier, you’ll find one that has a really good trainer.

Stop believing the lies you’ve been fed. In this day and age, there’s no excuse for not being informed. You can achieve your goals. Just find someone willing to actually teach you how to get there.

Don’t be a lifer.

What about you Roc?

I’m always happy to help. If you want my professional services, you have some options:

  • Send me an email with your before photo, and I will create your own post here on my blog and put you through my First 30 program. It’s a basic, yet hardcore approach for everyone, to test your willpower and assess your level of fitness. From there, should you survive, we can customize a program suited just for you.
  • If you live in the Toronto, Ontario, Canada area, send me an email and we can arrange to get together sometime, your expense.
  • If you don’t live in that area yet really want to spend some one on one time with me, drop me an email and I’d be happy to come to wherever you are, your expense.


21 responses to “The Lie of Cardio

  1. Agreed. From my own personal experiences as a martial artist in HS and college (Kung Fu in HS, Kenpo in college), and now in my 8th yr as a firefighter… the best shape I’ve ever been in I didn’t run (much at all anyways), I fought, specializing in “chucking people on their heads”, and did a lot of sit-ups, push-ups, pull-ups, and medicine ball exercises. I was strong, lean, and didn’t have beat-up joints from pounding my knees and ankles between hard concrete and my body weight for miles on end every day. πŸ™‚

    I am really curious about this “First 30” thing, though. This last year I had some real health challenges that meant slipping out of shape… but really don’t need a blog post or anything, I’d just like to see what you have to say and try it out for myself if that’s cool. πŸ™‚
    Email is linked. πŸ™‚

      • I’ll disagree about birds. Birds power themselves upwards, then glide on air currents. That’s high/low intensity and very similar to HIIT. πŸ™‚

        Fish also use high/low, powering to water currents.

        We can agree to disagree if you want, but you can’t argue with the results.

  2. Great post! Yeah, I have my bench, pull up bar, curl bar and a Bowflex Revolution I use for all my rep exercises for small muscles like my tricep and there’s nothing better, if you’ve given it an honest shot, for your Quads and Hams. The even, constant resistance makes it impossible to cheat and bounce on a full extension. I work out about 2-3 times a week and see muscle growth I feel all week and like. 2 upperbody, one lower, as I walk constantly at work. My muscle helps keep weight off better than runs do, and because of my health, the better I feel the more I can’t stand garbage foods. I’m one to love my whiskey! but understand, folks, one night of heavy drinking can put you behind 2 weeks. Keep it up, Roc! You always keep it real. One question though, how great do those supplements you take help out, would you say? I drink a vitamin/protein shake now and then, but never popped prot. isolates or glutamine.

    • Protein is the building blocks of muscle. Period. I use an unflavoured isolate that is 97% absorption; don’t want to be pissing away all my money, literally. The protein helps my muscles recover from the damage done for growth, and it is one supplement I will not go without. I use it after my workouts, and on my off days, though half as much.

      Glutamine I am using during this powerlifting program as it helps fight lactic acid build up, and again, aids in recovery. What good is pushing your limits if you’re unable to function throughout the day?

      I’ve also started taking CoQ 10 and a good omega alongside my liquid multivitamin. I’m not as young as I used to be. Got to protect those joints.

      And yes, this is as real as it gets.

  3. While I do like my running and cycling, I could never understand why I would want to pay a gym to do it: it’s a great reason to get out into the fresh air (which has health benefits all by itself). Plus, personally, if it’s not unpaved and/or hilly, I’m not interested.

    And also, all serious training advice I saw for even for endurance runners/cyclist/swimmers does emphasize the need for weight training, as it does translate into a better overall performance. (I know, my weakness)

    I think my rambly point is that while lowercase-c cardio is a good thing if part of a larger training regime, the uppercase-c Gym Cardio is indeed a rip off.

  4. Anything that swims does the equivalent of “jogging”, where they do a particular movement for long periods of time. Birds too.

  5. Okay, I’ll admit that I didn’t read the whole post (I will be going back and doing that when i’m not quite so dead on my feat) but from the bit that I did read I have to agree with you… well somewhat… humans ARE designed to be long distance runners… in fact thats one of the few advantages that we do have in the animal kingdom.

    But the fact that we are designed for it means that is the “easy” stuff… as you said, even someone who is in horrible shape can run a marathon, hell even me being a smoker with absolutely devistated lungs can complete a marathon. hell if I REALLY need to I could run/jog for days on end… thats not the challenge, no reason to work on the areas where you are already strong, shore up the areas you are weak.

    (although if I remember correctly… humans also have one of the fastest dead stop to full sprint accelerations in the world, says nothing about top speed but still its interesting)

    • I’m argumentative today. Go figure.

      I disagree that humans are designed for long distance. What I will say is that the advantage humans is that we can force our bodies to adapt to anything we throw it, long distance running included. I know our brains are our greatest weapon and yet, when the lion sprints us down and tears us a new one, I don’t think our long distance running will have paid off…

      • your right, it wouldn’t have, but when chasing herd animals over long distances it would have. and it is true, humans are nothing if not adaptable, but I still think that endurance running/jogging is something that humans are very well adapted too. as you said, even a fat man can finish a marathon… work on the weaknesses not the strengths.

      • lol Remind me of the Shaoiin monk’s kids with their skulls as hard as wood because they roll around on their heads for hours, and one guy that can get kicked in the nuts 20 times full force without flinching.

  6. Roc;

    I’ve given it a lot of thought, and I need to disagree with you about your stance on cardio.

    Let’s first identify that we are talking about doing 30 or 60 minutes on a treadmill or bicycle at a moderate speed, and not 10 minutes at full speed.

    For many people who do 60 minutes on the treadmill, it’s a gateway exercise. They do that because it’s easy, and if they combine it with a good diet, they will see results. Since exercise is a lot of mental hurdles, to get them to do the cycle machines is a good introduction to exercise for them. Sure, it may not be “the best thing”, but it’s better than nothing.

    I recently saw a talk about how exercise is the best drug for you, and recommended exercise. But most of the stats (ie: exercise reduces your risk of heart attack by 60%) were based on the alternative of doing NO EXERCISE at all. Which leads me to believe that there are people out there who do no exercise at all.

    So please don’t go around telling people not to do cardio. I believe the message should be: “Good for you for exercising.” Do not discourage them from exercising.

    • 60 min on a treadmill?! Are you flippin’ crazy? And most of these routines are not meant for the beginner that has a hard time getting out of the house to get at least a little sun. This is serious end-game survival/any-circumstance stuff. Everyone’s goal should be to break stuff with relative ease and not just to chase your own tail for WAY too long; an hour on a treadmill is NOT at gateway, unless it’s to the grave.

    • Anyone is welcome to their opinion my friend, but I feel I have not communicated my point effectively.

      I myself will use a treadmill, or an elliptical, or go for a run, for a maximum of 15 minutes after a workout, and that’s with high interval bursts.

      The point of my opinion isn’t to tell people not to exercise. Not at all. Most people believe that the way to lose weight is either A) stop eating or B) Cardio Cardio Cardio. What I’ve been trying to say is that if all you do for your healthy lifestyle is Cardio, you’re going to be sorely disappointed with the results.

      Nobody wants to look like the marathoner. They want to look like the sprinter.

      As such, you need to train properly, and Cardio is not the most effective way to do that. Gyms know this. They use your gateway, but teach people that is where they should spend the most time. It pays their bills, and their clients never move forward, learning what they really need to in order to achieve their goals.

      So yes, Cardio is a lie. It is not the “end all, be all” that the fitness industry has made it out to be.

      I think Druur put it best actually “cardio is good. Cardio is a lie.”

      Exercising your cardiovascular is part of an important and healthy lifestyle. Following the school of Cardio most gyms shove down our throats isn’t going to get us to that healthy lifestyle.

    • Forgive the additional reply, my friend, but I thought of a practical example for you during my workout this morning.

      Try this:
      For one week, go biking every day for an hour. I know you like biking. Simulate a stationary bike, so consistent speed and consistent grade.

      For the next week, do 4 sets of pushups to fail (minimum 20) immediately followed by 90 seconds burpees (this is called active rest). There will be two things that become evident:
      1. Even though you technically burned more calories during the first week’s challenge, the calories you burned during the second’s week challenge will have yielded greater fat percentage loss. I know you have a scale to measure this. Please do so.
      2. The second week’s challenge only took you between 12 – 15 minutes, and yielded higher percentage muscle gain (use your scale to measure) than the first.

      So by following the “Cardio is a lie” principle, you gained more muscle mass, gained higher fat percentage loss, and were time efficient.

      THAT is what I’m talking about.

    • I’m sorry, guy. I misinterpreted “gateway” with entry-level. But, still, it’s like saying pellet-gun shooting is gateway to hunting big game for food. The first can help you stabilize and builds upon practice that can be of use – but of itself remains as productive as a hobby.

  7. On an evolutionary timeline the strength of humans has always been cardio, not raw strength. There is nothing to support your claims that we must either be walkers or sprinters. Stay with the fruity Rudy fitness, stay away from biology.

    • Actually, the evolutionary timeline shows the strength of humanity is its ability to adapt and reason. That is what has made the top of the food chain.

      If you allow yourself amount to concentrate on the application of this point of view, it’s about fruity Rudy fitness only. In the natural order of things, those that sprint, eat. Those that don’t, die.

      Old, weak, broken, they are the ones the herds leave behind. What good is the ability to run 40 km if you are killed by something that sprints you down in 40 m?

      So, since you believe in evolution, you must believe man evolved from the earlier blueprints. If those blueprints relied on sprinting to be in pristine survival condition (read good health), then why would that blueprint have changed?

      The only advantage being human has given us, with all our brains and adaptability, is the reasoning to figure out how to subjugate the world around us, and ourselves, allowing our bodies to do things they were never meant to do, good and bad.

      I am happy to debate this all day, with respect.

    • The fact that many of our archaeological finds unearth larger, and more muscular skeletal structures disproves you entirely. Where are you getting your information? Even Native Americans can prove you wrong on a more contemporary basis, seeing that they were very tall, fit, AND physically strong. They used stealth and cunning to hunt, not an aimless cardio run to tire down an animal that can both outrun and outlast a man running either today, or then.

  8. Hi,

    just stumbled upon this old Post of you and something jumped into my Eyes:
    “Going long distances is not how we are designed.”

    I think you’re wrong with it. I can’t explain it, but i think there is a guy who can:

    • Ah, my friend, you missed the point. Humans are quite incredible creatures, capable of many things, but finding a reason beyond what can be comparable to a hobby in just how beneficial or necessary distance cardio is, aside from low tech methods of communication. As for the connection to health, it’s the diet and choice of food that helps us fight illness more than anything, not the strength of your heart or lungs.

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