I just went for a walk for cardio tonight. I didn’t walk very far, but I don’t walk very fast either, so I trudged around for about an hour. This gives me an opportunity to rant about cardio.
I used to hate steady-state cardio, and I’m still not terribly fond of walking (and other slow, low intensity cardio) for most people. However, like anything else, there are caveats and qualifications.
First, who shouldn’t be going low and slow:
- If you’re a 110 pound coed, you do not need to be walking. You should be running, sprinting, doing intervals on a cycle or rowing ergometer, or doing complexes with weights or bodyweight exercises. You’re walking because it’s easy and you’re lazy (not to say you’re not easy too).
Now, if I’m not a fan of walking and prefer running, who shouldn’t be running (or doing other vigorous cardio)?
- If you’re enormous, walking may be the only exercise you can (and should) do.
- If you’re very obese or overweight or you’re very frail, you don’t need to be running because of the orthopedic strain. This means walking is a good choice for you. This also includes most heavyweight powerlifters. Any time someone weighs over 200 pounds I have to question whether running or jogging is a good exercise for them, and certainly if their over 250.
- Any hard-training athlete regardless of bodyweight may benefit from walking or other low and slow cardio because their actual training is so intense they don’t need extra intense cardio on their off days. Essentially, it eats into their recovery. In this case if they need it they can do their intervals and sprints and such on their weight-training days and their low and slow (walking) on their off days. It will aid conditioning, and more importantly, recovery.
- This is an important point so I’m bulleting it again. If you’re going to do some high-intensity conditioning work (sprints, HIIT, circuits) alongside your weight-room work, do it on the same days you strength train. Otherwise you’ll be overtraining or under recuperating for sure. Don’t try to ration it out and do a little bit every day, this is a mistake.
Now, who should be doing both? This becomes a little more complex, but if you’re in the middle and don’t fit into any of these extremes, you can certainly walk or do some other slow, boring cardio, but it shouldn’t be the only thing you do, and it should be low intensity enough not to interfere with the other training you’re [hopefully] doing. Do it on your off days.