My breath, hot and humid, stings the back my throat. My tongue doesn’t fare too well either, probably the biological equivalent of 40-grit sandpaper. My lungs cry out for air, burning with accumulated carbon dioxide as they struggled to replace them with fresh air.
My shirt feels like a two-ton tunic (kudos if you get the reference), saturated with so much sweat that even my shorts are starting to damp. I literally look like I just took a dip in the pool with my clothes on before running. Doesn’t help with that damned belly fat swinging around like some grotesque jello on my abdomen, my feet already hurting from that weight that was thrust repeatedly on it. My clothes stuck to me like glue on my arms, chest, and stomach, adding resistance to every single motion that my body performed.
Just 10 meters left.
I cough hard, almost choking on my own saliva as I inhaled with a frequency of 10 kHz.
My victory was non-existent as I reached the 800 meter mark. I collapsed to the ground faster than an origami swan with a 1 kg weight stuck on top of it. I expected to feel like I had accomplished something, but it was naught, only a teeth chattering chill as a breeze passed by. That amount of sweat in my shirt doesn’t help, and instantly my two-ton tunic turns into the world’s most efficient natural freezer.
It was month 3, and I was going nowhere.
If any of you have had the ‘privilege’ of experiencing the above, then you know what I mean. You know, slaving away at cardiovascular exercises, then literally dying the moment it was over. It doesn’t get better when you finally piece all the figures together, a smile forms on your face as you count the barely net negative calorie values, only to be inverted as the calorie count is vice-versa-ed back into the positives after a single M&M.
So what do we do about it?
I’ll put it this way. Your body has a basal metabolic rate, characterized by the amount of energy that it uses for well, being alive. With that being said, you can think of your body as an engine, and the more complex/powerful the engine, the more fuel it requires to keep it running (let’s exclude efficiency for the time being, which we will cover later).
Let’s use an analogy we’re all familiar with.
Think of exercise as a job, the money you earn the amount of calories you burn. Taking cardiovascular training versus strength training into this context, you get a better understanding of how this all comes together. Cardio would be the equivalent of a part-time job where your income is proportionate to the duration and amount of work you put in. Strength training would then be the equivalent of running a business, where your income is determined by the assets (muscles) that you build, with an increased risk of injury. Both require you to invest time into, but one gives you passive returns in the form of an increased basal metabolic rate, while the other increases your toughness and endurance to perform exercises for a longer time, ultimately both burning more fat as a result.
The above analogy is an extremely simplified way of visualizing exercise. There are many exercise programs out there, many of them a hybrid of strength training and cardio. You could do a 80-20 split between cardio and strength training. You could try the inverse, and see different results. The ultimate question then becomes: what are your fitness goals? Do you want to look lean and fit? Or do you want to be a beast, a.k.a the next Mr/Mrs. Olympia? Or is your goal somewhere in between? Do you want to do enough to keep yourself healthy, or push yourself to your absolute limits and see how far you can take yourself?
Knowing that cardio doesn’t work for me, I have chosen to spend an 20-80 split between cardio and strength training, and today I’m well on my way to a 4-pack. What works for me might not work for you, therefore deciding on your fitness goals is imperative to getting you to where you want to be. Spend time looking up a suitable training regimen that fits you and your schedule, then stick to it.
Your body is one of the few things that you’re stuck with throughout your entire life (till the day we all become cyborgs). Until then, you owe it to yourself to keep it running smoothly.
Calculate your basal metabolic rate here. (Note that it’s an estimate at best, the actual number could be slightly higher or lower)
Here’s a list of exercise programs you could consider. None of them are mutually exclusive, so feel free to tailor one that suits you, but remember, all of them must challenge you in some way.
CrossFit, Yoga, Zumba, P90X, Dancing, Martial Arts
Liked the analogy? Leave a comment and your most memorable experience with exercise in the comments!! As always, have a nice day and remember to smile 😀