Smutty Fitness: How much cardio?

May 8, 2015 15:43:40 Posted at May 8, 2015 15:43:40
Hayley Posted by Hayley
Reefshots/ Splash News

Hi Hayley,

I'd love to get your advice on how much cardio I need in my exercise routine please. I'm currently doing 2-3 boot camp sessions a week, plus maybe one pilates and one yoga class. I'm generally happy with how I look, even though I'm carrying a couple of extra kilos since having kids which I would ideally like to shed, but I'm aware I don't have the diligence to do this - I don't want to give up the occasional treat like wine or dark chocolate. And my kids are young (2 and 3), so time is limited.

I'm not loving, or even really enjoying, boot camp right now. It's varied, with boxing, long runs, sprint sets, weights, and the usual burpees, lunges, squats etc, but I'm finding it a struggle - I have a mental block about running and hate that aspect of it, even though I know it's good for me. I've been doing it for about a year and really enjoyed it last year, but that could be because it was my first foray back into fitness, and feeling like myself, since having kids.

I'm loving pilates (reformer classes) and really feel like it's starting to make a difference to my shape. I also love yoga, and enjoy these sessions in a way I no longer enjoy boot camp.

However, I don't have the time or money to maintain three different types of exercise. Also, I feel like I'm starting to bulk up in a way that I don't like, especially my quads and shoulders. My pilates instructor says this is what happens after 12-18 months of doing boot camp - my strong muscles get stronger and my weak muscles don't engage, and so squats, lunges etc are just working my quads now, hence their bulk. She says if I do more pilates, I will get lean muscles.

Not so, says my boot camp instructor - as a female, I don't have enough testosterone to bulk up, and I'd need to be doing serious exercise and drinking protein shakes for this to be an issue.

So what should I do? I've heard that weight is 80% diet / 20% exercise anyway, so does it matter? If I blow off boot camp and just do yoga, pilates and walking, will I maintain my shape (if not my fitness?) I'd love to have the mental fortitude to do yoga, Pilates and running but I know I don't. How important is it to raise my heart rate in the way that boot camp does? Does cardio matter or is the fact that I sweat in hard yoga and pilates sessions enough? Can I substitute boot camp for walking (hilly walks, and quickly) without adding kilos or fat?

Thanks so much!


You sound like you are running in a million different directions with no idea of where your destination is, which is not uncommon for most people. I am not going to tell you exactly what you need to be doing but I am going to offer you some advice which I hope will help you find a path. The thing with exercise is that unless you are training for something specific, it is more important that you are loving what you are doing and you look forward to your workouts rather than dread them.

One of the main reasons people dread their workouts is because they are hard, but hard is a good thing.  Clients of mine hate it when I make them do something that pushes them, or challenges them outside of their comfort zone, but that is my job and that is why they come to me. I help them work through the exercises and empower them, rejoicing in their accomplishments. I teach them that being challenged is a good thing and before long, instead of dreading being pushed, they crave the challenge as well as how they feel after they have accomplished it. Ask yourself why you dread, or hate, a workout you are currently participating in and if it is because it is hard and makes you feel uncomfortable, see if you can embrace that feeling rather than run away from it. Remember, you need to be comfortable at being uncomfortable. 

On the other side of that spectrum is dreading your workouts because they are not challenging enough and instead, they are boring. If you go to your workout or a class and you do the same thing every single time, without ever seeing improvements in your body, or you walk away without being challenged or pushed and your strength and abilities never progress then something needs to change. Try setting some goals for yourself. Maybe it’s a month long push-up challenge, where by the end of the month you can complete 20 pushups without stopping. Or perhaps it’s a rowing challenge and you set a goal of rowing 10km in four weeks. Or maybe each week you learn a new exercise that you can add into your current routine. You do not necessarily need to be working towards a major accomplishment, like a marathon, but you should feel challenged in most of your workouts.

Also, workouts need to be somewhat social. This does not mean that you get to talk through your entire workout, but meet up with friends beforehand or gab with them over coffee afterwards. You can also try weekly runs or hikes that will allow you to catch up others or even try joining a recreational sports league together. Whatever it is, committing to it with friends is more likely to make it fun and force you to show up.

Do not be afraid of muscle – strong is sexy. But your Pilates instructor is right in the fact that if you are not recruiting the muscles properly, the strong muscles become stronger and the weak ones weaker.  This does not necessarily create bulk, but rather muscular imbalances. 

Yes, it is all about diet. If you are not eating properly you will not see any changes in the physique of your body. Fuel your body with healthy, real foods but allow yourself those treats once in a while. 
And as for how much cardio you should be doing each week? Health Canada prescribes 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity each week – what you choose to do with that time, such as hiking, boot camp or running, is up to you. 

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