Category Archives: cardio

Obese Marathoners: Cardio Overkill

cardio skeleton overtraining If your goal is to drop weight, running a marathon may not be the answer. Too much cardio may, in fact, make you fat! Have you ever watched the end of a triathlon or marathon and noticed how many competitors were overweight?  Talk about entering the ‘Twilight Zone’. In order to prepare for a marathon, these athletes must log in countless hours of workouts and yet some of them remain a tad hefty.  It is not uncommon to run in excess of 60 miles per week when training for a marathon or other long distance race.  Those training for an Ironman race (2.4 mile swim than an 110-mile bike race and then a 26.2-mile run – sounds like torture!) commonly devote 15-30 hours per week leading up to the race.  How can some of these individuals still be overweight?  Although it’s rarely discussed, chronic cardio can be fattening and even deadly.

Many years ago I trained a type-A Wall-Streeter who enjoyed indulging in back to back spin classes 4-5 days per week and a ‘short’ 50-mile bike ride on the weekends. In addition, he took 2 resistance training sessions per week with me, though cardio was his true love.  He was a glutton for the pain. The more the better, or so he thought.  But no matter how much cardio he crammed in, he was 15 pounds overweight. He did like to eat and enjoyed his vino, maybe a little too much, but with that amount of exercise, he shouldn’t have been overweight, right?  So what’s the deal?  After months of cajoling and begging, I got him to slow down and exercise less.  He purchased a heart rate monitor and dropped the double spin classes. During his cardio sessions, I limited his anaerobic exposure and kept him in the aerobic work zone for the majority of the time. Without changing his diet, in 4 weeks he dropped 10 lbs.  We both felt better. Continue reading

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Spend Less Time In the Gym and Be More Fit

sprinting vs. cheetah

Here is a thought experiment: Imagine spending less time working out and getting more fit.  How would that make you feel? Of course this would be great, right? Unless, you’re one of those rare humans who enjoy spending hours toiling away in the gym reading gossip magazines as you go through your daily calisthenics.  I, on the other hand, want more bang for my buck wasting no time in the gym. In two well done scientific studies published in the 2013 February issue of The Journal of Physiology, the researchers describe their recent discoveries “that three sessions of sprint interval training (SIT), taking just 90 min per week, are as effective as five sessions of traditional endurance exercise, taking five hours per week, in increasing whole body insulin sensitivity via two independent mechanisms”.  Sprint interval training has also been shown to produce superior cardiovascular and weight loss effects when compared to long steady state cardio training (SST).  The really amazing thing is SIT provokes these advantages in less half the time.  Additionally, sprinting, not jogging, has shown to decrease belly fat faster and utilizes glucose more efficiently preventing it from being stored as fat. Continue reading

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LSD Running Trip & Intervals

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Lysergic acid diethlamide has nothing to do with long slow distance (LSD) running, or does it?  Many  runners have reported hallucinatory experiences while engaging in long runs.  Vivid images and out of body experiences during long slow distance runs have rivaled the best of Timothy Leary’s LSD.  This is more than the runner’s high.  These powerful images and hallucinations are brought on by chemical changes in the brain, increased body temperature,  rapid sustained heart rate, loss of glycogen and dehydration.  A lack of sleep may also bring on these events.  It should be noted that only under extreme conditions would a runner experience these psychoactive effects.  Long slow distance running, which is primarily aerobic in nature, became popular in the 70’s and many still do it today.  It is doubtful that it’s popularity has anything to do with the desire to ‘trip’.  Until recently it has been touted as a superior way to improve cardiovascular fitness.   Research has shown that short bouts of interval training is comparable or better in increasing cardiovascular fitness and burning calories.  Nevertheless LSD is still a viable training option.

Interval training is a pattern of high and low speed training combined in one workout.  Correctly executed intervals benefits both health and fitness.  Some types of interval training (too hard, too long and/or not enough recovery time) temporarily increases your fitness level at the cost of decreasing your health.  Obviously, most would like to train for both health and fitness.  I see too many people unknowingly increasing their stress (chemically and physically) by working out too hard with not enough adequate rest.  This stress wreaks havoc on the body:

  1. Decreases you white blood cell count
  2. Protects you fat stores
  3. Increases your inflammation
  4. Lowers body defenses
  5. Interrupts REM sleep

Regularly training with a constant elevated heart rate taxes your anaerobic system (energy system that uses very little fat and no O2) and induces a high stress response.  At a certain point during intense exercise your body switches energy systems from aerobic to anaerobic.  This training is fueled principally by sugars (glycogen) where aerobic work is mostly fueled by fat stores.  It can be argued that anaerobic system evolved for short quick bursts of energy.  Think, running away from mad momma hippopotamus.  Many gym-goers tax the hell out of this high heart rate energy system at the cost of their health.  Modern life has given us some bad habits that carry over into our workouts, we need to learn to relax and slow down.

The average body may have upwards of 120 hours of fat stored and approximately 20 minutes of glycogen (for prolonged high intensity exercise).  The human body preferentially uses what it has most of, fat.  However, in an ‘alarm’ state (anaerobic training/high heart rate) it cannot convert fat to sugar quickly so it utilizes its’ glycogen stores (which has nothing to do with the fat around your midsection).  Chronically training anaerobically decreases the number of aerobic muscles fibers and fat burning potential.  It is is important to build a aerobic base and (re)teach the body to use fat for energy during workouts.   In order to do this, you will have to slow down and do some LSD.

I recommend that you get a heart rate monitor and follow the “Maffetone Method”:

Step 1:  180 – your age

Step 2:  Change this number by selecting one of these categories:

  • If you are recovering from a major illness and/or on regular medication subtract 10
  • If you are a novice or tend to get sick often subtract 5
  • If you have been exercising successfully up to 2 yrs without injury subtract 0
  • If you have been in exercising and progressing for more than 2 years add 5

Step 3:  The final number is your max aerobic heart rate.  Example: A 40 year old who’s been working out for 4 years would have a 145 max HR.  She would try to stay between 140 and 145 without going over for the duration of her run.

Challenge:  Find your max aerobic heart rate and run a mile while keeping your heart rate as close to that number (but not above) as possible.  Write down your mile time – it will be slow.  Do your normal amount of runs for the next 4 weeks but don’t train above your max aerobic heart rate.  These runs will be very slow, I urge you to leave your ego at home and take your time, the results are worth it.   At the end of this period re-test your mile and see how much faster you are.  It is not uncommon to observe  a 10% enhancement in your time.  I’ve had some clients improve by 30% in 1 month!  In other words, the heart gets stronger and generates more speed with the same effort.

After you build your aerobic base, training LSD for at least 4 weeks under your max aerobic heart rate, it may be time to add intervals (if you would like to burn more calories).  Without sacrificing your aerobic base and fat burning metabolism slowly add 1 minute of anaerobic work in every 6 or 7  minutes.  This means, go hard (on a intensity scale of 1-10: train 1 minute at a 7 or 8) depending on your goals.  Here is a sample workout (for the same 40 yr. above):

Slow 5 minute warm up at a heart rate of 110-120
Aerobic training 6 minutes at 145 HR
Anaerobic training for 1 minute at 165-175 HR
Then repeat  two step cycle until the end of the workout

Interval training is hard and some just don’t like it.  If LSD motivates you to run, than so be it. You can still be fit and healthy by training the LSD Maffetone Method.  A well rounded and planned  routine with lots of rest and a healthy diet will produce the best results.


1. LSD Hallucinations: From Ergot to Electric Kool-Aid
2. Gaitanos, G.C., Williams, C., Boobis, L.H., and Brooks, S. Human muscle metabolism during intermittent maximal exercise. J Appl Physiol 1993;75:712-719.
3. Hargreaves, M., Finn, J.P., Withers, R.T., Halbert, J.A., Scroop, G.C., Mackay, M., Snow, R.J., Carey, M.F. Effect on muscle glycogen availability on maximal exercise performance. Eur J Appl Physiol 1997;75:188-192.
4. Maffetone, P; Training for Endurance; David Barmore Productions; 1996.

Doug Joachim – NYC
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What Cardio/Aerobic Machine Burns the Most Calories?

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Weight loss is a multi-factorial process that is not fully understood. That being said, science concludes there are 6 major factors that affect weight loss:

1- Genetics
2- Hormones
3- Diet
4- Sleep
5- Exercise
6- Activities of daily living

Obviously there is not much you can do about genetics, that boat sailed long ago, blame your parents.  The rest of these items are on the table.  As I am sure you are aware, all of these factors are interrelated, some more than others.  I’d like to focus on diet, exercise and activities of daily living because they are the major factors in energy conversion. A goal of weight loss is to use more energy than you take in. Balancing bodily energy is a lot more complicated than calories in (food we eat) and calories out (exercise and activities of daily living). Calories eaten and subsequently used during voluntary movements are only two small parts of the energy equation and insignificant by themselves.  Your total energy expenditure fluctuates daily  and is quite difficult to accurately measure.  Most of your calories are spent on metabolic processes:

  • calories are burned during all involuntary movements (breathing, heart beat etc.)
  • heating the body due to environmental temperatures
  • calories are used in bone and soft-tissue growth
  • the largest caloric drain on the body comes from brain functions
  • metabolism of food
  • calories used on a everyday basis to combat infections
  • tissue restoration

Everyone burns calories at a different rate.  Furthermore, many people are better adapted for certain exercises/movements and burn less energy when performing those tasks.  If Micheal Moore challenged Lance Armstrong to a bike race, not only would Mr. Moore lose the race, he’d probably burn a lot more calories too.  Mr. Armstrong’s body has specifically adapted to biking and has become extremely efficient in that movement pattern (and his VO2 max, resting heart rate, recovery heart rate, lactic acid threshold, body weight, muscle mass etc. are all much better than Moore’s – this is just a guess) thus using less energy.

There is no one best form of aerobic exercise or machine that burns the most calories.  According to Kravitz and Robergs, “based on the fundamental principles of indirect calorimetry, to burn more calories during exercise you need to increase oxygen consumption. The issue of exercise and caloric expenditure is as simple as that.”   Research shows the greatest impact on caloric expenditure during exercise comes from contraction of skeletal muscles which therefore increases oxygen uptake. The more oxygen you need during exercise the more calories you burn.  Listed below are the other factors during exercise that play a role in calorie burn:

  • the amount of muscle fibers being used
  • complexity of the movement
  • prior experience with the exercise
  • weight bearing exercise vs. non-weight bearing
  • balance and proprioception requirements
  • resistance and incline of machine
  • your total body weight (the heavier you are the more calories you burn)
  • the amount of lean muscle mass you have
  • speed and intensity level
  • duration of the exercise
  • temperature of the room (colder rooms will induce higher energy demands)

Please keep in mind that any one of the machines listed below are capable of  inducing a higher caloric expenditure than the other.  This list is an estimation of which cardio machines have the potential of burning the most amount of calories when all other factors are equal:

  • Cross Country Skiing 
  • Running on the treadmill
  • Rowing 
  • Step-Mill (the one with real steps)
  • Elliptical with Arms
  • Jump Rope
  • Biking upright
  • Recumbent biking
  • Arm ergonometer

Most people benefit from switching aerobic machines once every 8 weeks.  This is the approximate time it takes to adapt to a new movement skill.  As your body becomes more and more familiar with the specific exercise you burn less calories due to neuromuscular efficiencies.  Another reason to switch every two months (or more) is to prevent linear wear patterns from developing within your joints.  This is especially true in regards to fixed foot position machines like the elliptical or bike.  Perhaps try something new like hiking, jump roping, kickboxing, trail running, swimming etc.  Depending on your goals, it may be a good idea to alter the speed, incline and resistance of the exercise you choose.


1. McARDLE, W.D. et al. (2000) Energy expenditure at rest and during physical activity. In: McARDLE, W.D. et al., 2nd ed. Essentials of Exercise Physiology, USA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins. 

2. DAVIS, B. et al. (2000) Physical Education and the Study of Sport. UK: Harcourt Publishers Ltd.

3.; Exercise for Weight Loss; 2009

4. Borg G.A.V. Psycholphysical bases of perceived exertion. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc. 14:377-381, 1982.

5. Toner, M.M., Glickman, E.L., & McArdle, W.D. Cardiovascular adjustments to exercise distributed between the upper and lower body. Med. Sci. Sports. Exerc. 22:773-778, 1990.

Doug Joachim – NYC
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