The first thing that I notice when I meet someone is not their shoes, makeup, or their ironic T-shirt.
Rather it is the aura of health they project.
A radiant skin, a natural smile, a decent amount of muscle mass conveying discipline, and a look in the eyes that says “I am confident because I am what I worked for.”
In today’s society, most of poor health can be attributed to 3 things:
- A poor diet full of processed foods.
- Sitting too much.
- Not exercising enough.
As I have talked about in my 5 Health tips article, you simply must cut down sugar and eat more vegetables as a part of a healthy diet.
Important habits to address the sedentary lifestyle include getting up to walk every 30 minutes, walking more in general, and using standing desks. Personally I’ve never used standing desks, and so cannot recommend them. I prefer an old fashioned chair and table.
Finally, that leaves exercise.
To clarify, exercise comes in many ways. Doing a job that requires manual labour or extensive movement is exercise. Hobbies like gardening and walking are forms of exercise as well. Playing a sport is absolutely exercise, and one of the best ways to be healthy, happy, and fit.
That being said, I am a firm believer in the merits of structured exercise.
In this article I will focus on cardio.
If there is one thing I’ve learned through my many years of working out, it is that cardio is KEY to feeling and looking great. It is the key to sustaining a good baseline metabolism, and thus a good natural ability to “burn” fat. Cardio strengthens your heart and lungs, which are important for long-term health and fitness.
A good cardio routine (ideally paired with yoga/ mobility work) is the foundation to an ideal exercise regime. The wonderful thing about cardio is that the exercises are endlessly diverse, and can be done anywhere with or without weights.
All cardiovascular exercises share one common, obvious theme: Elevating the heart rate and breathing rate over a period of time.
In the past I have advocated for high intensity interval exercises (HIIT). I still do, however I have realised something.
Moderate paced cardio has a paramount place in health.
It is not only accessible and convenient, but also meditative. As with lifting weights, one can separate him or herself from thoughts while doing cardio. It is a truly transcendent experience that allows the person to focus on the energy and movement of the body.
My favorite meditative cardio is simply jogging with a hoodie. The reason for the extra clothing is simple: It provides the trainer with a good sweat.
A good sweat is a free, natural way to detoxify the body. There is a reason why so many people go to saunas to feel good, and why certain native North American tribes had sweat lodges for purification and healing purposes.
When jogging is not an option, stair masters and treadmills can serve as good alternatives.
However the downside to machines is that they are mainly located indoors. While I think gyms and indoor exercises have important places in bodybuilding and professional sports, I do not believe either is necessary for great cardiovascular health.
Furthermore, I am a firm believer that anyone can get a great workout anywhere. Since I am a big fan of nature, I recommend doing most of your exercises outdoors.
Below I will give you a medium level cardio routine that you can do anywhere. Without delay, I present to you:
The TRUTH AND STRENGTH CARDIO ROUTINE
Warm-up: Tony Horton’s Total Body Warm Up Routine
1) Towel Circles- 1 minute
To do this exercise, place a folded towel (or literally any small object) on the ground. Keeping your body facing forward, perform quick steps in a clock-wise fashion around the towel. At 30 the seconds mark, switch the direction. During this exercise your legs and arms should be active while your torso remains facing the front.
2) Lunges- 15 on each side
I advocate step-back lunges. To perform this exercise, simply step back with one foot while bending the front knee. The key is to not over-reach with the back foot. Your arms may be simply by your side, or you may raise them overhead for more intensity.
Demonstration video here, courtesy of Total Health Systems’ YouTube channel.
3) Burpees- 15 on each side
To perform a burpee, start in the plank position with your core engaged. Perform a standard push-up (or you may skip this), jump your feet up to your arms, and load up for a jump. Jump as high as you can, and when you land immediately return to the plank position and prepare to do the next push-up.
Example found here, from Performance U’s YouTube channel.
I recommend 30 seconds to 1 minute. During this time drink water or walk around. Your heart rate will be high so I advocate that you keep moving throughout this time.
4) Mountain climbers- 1 minute
To do Mountain climbers, get into a plank position. Lift one knee up towards your chest while the other leg remains extended. Step the knee back and alternate with the other leg. Pretend you are doing high-knee jogging while in a plank position. The faster you go, the greater the intensity.
Great example video found here on Performance U’s YouTube channel.
5) Jump shots- 15 on each side
As Tony Horton says in P90X, “Grab the ball, shoot”. Start in a neutral standing stance. Turn your body as if there is a rack of basketballs to your side, reach your arms out as if taking a ball, return to the neutral position, and raise up your arms as if shooting a basketball while jumping. This one is easier to see than to explain.
Watch this very aesthetically shot video of a jumpshot exercise in action, courtesy of PacificBeachFitClub’s YouTube channel.
6) Hook, elbow, plank- 15 on each side
The idea is to do a two strike combo, and then jump down to a plank position. The key here, whether you do hook-elbow, left-right jabs, or any other combo, is to put turn your hip as you strike. When you finish the combo, step or jump back into a plank. You may want to add a push up here for extra intensity. Step or jump up into a striking position with your fists raised and one leg in front of the other.
The next rep comes when you start the next strike.
Here is an example video courtesy of Ian Rooney’s YouTube Channel.
7) Jump knee tuck- 15 total
A P90X classic, this exercise is high impact and high intensity. You may want to skip this or simply do body-weight squats if you are struggling with feet, knee, or hip issues.
The key is to start in a squat position with arms by your sides. Swinging your hands upwards while jumping up wards. When you leave ground, tuck your knees up to your chest and let them fall naturally down as you prepare to land. When landing, make sure that you bend your knees as you sink down into a squat position to minimize the impact on your joints.
Example found here, courtesy of FitnessBlender’s YouTube Channel.
8) Hook, uppercut, sprawl- 15 on each side
This is the same exercise as Hook, elbow, plank. The difference here is that instead of a plank, you may wish to do a sprawl which is identical except that your back is arched/extended. I would advise against doing a sprawl if you have back issues. Instead, do planks or skip it all together and just throw your strike combos.
9) Plank or Mountain climbers- 1 minute
At this point you may be quite tired. You can do mountain climbers slower to lower the intensity. The key here is to engage your core for the whole minute.
This is one set of the routine.
I recommend doing one set to start if you are a novice, but you can do as many as you feel up for. You may also want to change the order of the exercises or replace them to your liking. The beauty is building on the basic structure with your own experience. That is the fun in working out.
Finally, this routine was inspired by the P90X “home” workout series, which I have done for many years.
I’ve tried many “home” exercise programs, and to this day my favourite by far is the P90X series. The reason is that it is simple and effective. I am a big fan of Tony Horton’s enthusiasm for working out, along with his sometimes off the wall humour. P90X is a classic for a reason: It simply works.
The reason I put “home” in brackets is because I no longer do these exercises at home. A few years ago I discovered that most of the workouts are so easy and intuitive that I could covert the videos to audio MP3’s and do them anywhere.
Here are the reasons why I recommend P90X over any other home workout routine:
- Diversity: From jump training, to weight training, to yoga, to martial arts inspired cardio, the variations of workouts is truly impressive. Each workout is unique, and fun in its own way.
- Flexibility: Not only are there multiple levels of exercises in each workout, there is also variations within each exercise. These include lower impact, lower intensity versions for novices, or so called “modified” exercises.
- Pacing: P90X workouts flow really well. There is a full warm-up routine in each workout. In addition, there are appropriate breaks in between sets where you can shake it out and rest. Finally, each workout comes with a full cool-down routine that allows your heart rate to settle, as well as time for stretching.
- Intuitiveness: The best part of P90X may be its intuitiveness. Humor and instruction aside, I often just tune out completely because I know whereabouts in the routine I am. I use the queues given by the audio to re-orient myself if I am ever lost. In this way, one can tap into the meditative nature of exercise.
For these reasons, I highly recommend the P90X series, especially for novice trainers getting into fitness.
For those who don’t want to make the investment, there are great free workouts and instructions found on Tony Horton’s personal YouTube Channel.
That is it for now.
If there is one thing you can gain from this article, it is this:
CARDIO IS KING.
Until next time.