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Cardiovascular Workouts + Weight Training

We're keen on weight training as a way to improve your health and fitness. However, we would be remiss if we didn't stress that aerobic exercise is a necessary complement to weight training. In other words, if you want to get strong, lift weights; if you want to be truly fit, add cardiovascular (CV) exercise into the mix.

While it may come as a revelation to most of you, it's a misconception that aerobic exercise tones and firms muscle. Aerobic exercise helps you to decrease your level of body fat, which helps improve the muscle definition by thinning out the layer of fat that obscures the muscles, but weight training is what makes the muscles worth looking at. Theoretically, you can be thin from doing tons of aerobic exercises, yet still be flabby and/or weak. In order to achieve a balanced physique, you must include both aerobics and weight training in your routine.

Take Deidre's early foray into the world of endorphins. She started off doing aerobics without weight training; then weight training without aerobics. Next she did both, though she paid no attention to nutrition. Finally, she hit pay dirt when she combined aerobic exercise, weight training, and proper nutrition. Not only did she look strong, lean, and muscular, she felt great as well. (It was only after she'd been competing as a powerlifter for several years that her body said, "No more!")

Unlike weight lifting, there are an infinite number of aerobic activities that one can choose from: cross-country skiing, swimming, in-line skating, hiking, running, cycling (on- or off-road), stair climbing, and walking. Given this wide range of activities, almost anyone who enjoys working up a sweat can find something he or she derives joy from.

This isn't to suggest you have to become a marathon man like Joe or Jonathan. Consider one of Deidre's friends who would rather have rusty tacks driven under her fingernails than exercise aerobically indoors. Instead of making it a dreaded chore, she cycles or blades from her apartment in Brooklyn to her office in Manhattan and back several times a week. Integrating her working out into her workday leaves her feeling fit, virtuous, and on time. She's lucky enough to have access to a shower at her job, and brings a stack of work clothes in every Monday.

Deidre, on the other hand, prefers doing her aerobic workouts indoors rather than dealing with traffic, unruly dogs, and/or the aggressive cyclists one often finds in Brooklyn's Prospect Park. (It's bad enough that she lives with an aggressive cyclist.) Because she is basically a fast-twitch muscle person – no genetic predisposition to endurance in that muscular body – long periods of aerobic activity are not her idea of fun. In turn, unless she's jogging through a flowery meadow to soothe her urban soul, she'd just as soon escape to a treadmill in the gym and grind away as she listens to her Walkman.

Jonathan is another case study. He'll exercise wherever he can find pavement, a treadmill, or virtually any piece of aerobic exercise equipment. Tell him you have a new machine that works your anterior hip abductors called a floppy-loop, and he's sure to give it a try. He'll train in any kind of weather and at any time of the day or night. He loves it when it's 90 degrees; he loves it when it's raining. Call him noble, call him maladjusted, or just call him a true exercise junkie.

Joe is in the Jonathan camp. However, unlike Jonathan, who sinks even looking at water, you'll find Joe wherever kayaks lurk. He also has a penchant for climbing mountains and/or running or biking on trails. By the way, did we mention snowshoe marathons and winter triathlons? In fact, pick a cardio exercise that is long, hard, or stupid and he's generally game. (In fact, on Jonathan's insistence he trained for and competed on the Concept II rowing machine in an indoor regatta known as The St. Valentine's Day Massacre.)

Before we continue, let's define what we mean by aerobic exercise for adequate cardiovascular fitness and weight loss. This is any activity that sustains an elevated heart rate for at least 20 minutes, preferably at least three or four times per week. Once you are comfortably able to sustain 20 to 30 minutes of a CV activity, try to extend your aerobic exercise session to 45 minutes. Of course, don't try to do this all at once. Rather, up the ante five minutes per week. What we really hope to avoid is you attempting more than you can handle at one time. That's one way people get frustrated and stop.


Excerpted from he Complete Idiot's Guide to Weight Training © 2003 by Deidre Johnson-Cane and Jonathan Cane. All rights reserved including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form. Used by arrangement with Alpha Books, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc.

To order this book visit the Idiot's Guide website or call 1-800-253-6476.


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