Change The Cardio Question

Exercise, Interval Training Add comments

Dr. Ken Cooper, the godfather of the aerobics movement, shared an interesting story in his book The New Aerobics

Two clients were prescribed a 2-mile run five times a week.  After following this dosage for a while they came back to his institute for a follow-up assessment.

Dr. Cooper said he had expected both patients to be in similar condition, since they had both been following the same training program.

Instead, one was in good shape and the other wasn’t.

What was the difference?

In Dr. Cooper’s words:

I was perplexed until I asked another question: “How fast did you run your two miles?”  The first said he averaged between 13:30-14:00 minutes whereas the second took over 20:00.  One was a runner and the other a jogger.  It was readily apparent that I needed to consider a factor other than distance – the time.

And then he finishes his story with the magic words: You achieve a greater training effect if you put more effort into your exercise.

It seems super-obvious when you see it written down like that.  But really, how many runners/joggers/cyclists/swimmers/pogo-stickers only worry about their distance and hardly give a thought to their time?  A high percentage, if not most.

If you only look at calories burned, 2 miles is 2 miles, whether you’re walking or running.  You perform the same amount of work.

But when it comes to improving fitness and transforming your body, you need to go to the next level and factor in the time variable.

Going faster works your muscles harder, and confers much greater benefits.

So now, let’s start changing the cardio question..

Every time someone says they’re a jogger, someone will ask “How far do you go?”

It’s maddening, like being asked how much you bench press.

Instead, let’s all start asking “How fast do you go?”

Maybe changing our question will help them change their focus from their mere distance to their power output.



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