From healthy to invincible: Step 7 – Cardiovascular exercise redefined

Your doctor will tell you, that 3-5 times per week for 30 min. of cardiovascular exercise will keep you healthy and fit. And he is probably right and if you are ambitious enough, you are already doing it. But there is more to cardiovascular exercise.

Let’s say, that you are one of the few of those who do their walking, running, elliptical training or stationary bike riding for 30 min. several times per week. Does that make you healthy? Probably. Does that make you invincible? Most likely not. This kind of advice from your doctor is average. And average advice even if followed religiously will lead to average results. Your health will be average. And this program is about becoming invincible.

So, how can you make your cardiovascular exercise even better for your health? How can it become more beneficial for your health, so you can say you did more for your health than average?

Here is the answer:

You do your cardiovascular exercise outside, while doing some skill activity, preferably without your shirt on when sun is out and you add some sprints and intervals to it.

Let me break it down for you:

Doing your cardiovascular exercise outside

Outside, even on the worst rainy day, or freezing cold weather and blizzard, the air is cleaner, the environment nicer, there are no TVs or Internet connection and the air you breathe is constantly ventilated. All your mental senses are working at their maximum, noticing always changing environment, water, woods, birds, hills, soft grass, smells of flowers, cold, warm, snow, rain, sun and others. In the Gym, you move on one spot and you are staring on the sweaty exerciser in front of you or watching some terrible news on TV.

Compare it to some gym environment, where air conditioning is always on, staff cleans the equipment with all kind of chemicals, windows are closed at all times. Hey we have air-conditioning, personal trainer will tell you. Night cleaning crew cleans the floors and carpets with a chemical that outgases and stays trapped inside. And Guess what? You will breath it next morning when you sweat on that treadmill.

I am a guy who is not overly concerned by cleanliness, in fact I don’t care much about it. But bring me a guy who hangs around me trying to bleach som part of the dirty machine or some insect chasing guy with chemicals while I am doing my cardiovascular exercise on treadmill (that really never happens in my life), and that makes me run away and never come back again.

Same with ventilation. I don’t care about cold and heat when I do my cardiovascular exercise. I prefer them. Especially cold environments. They can be actually used as a great tool to improve quality of your cardiovascular exercise. But the thing I can’t stand is gym with closed windows, and any not ventilated area. And many gyms are like that. Dusty, dark, air conditioned, stinky caves where people work their hamster wheel while outside is a beautiful sunny day.

Doing your cardiovascular exercise while learning, or improving new skill

Doing your cardiovascular exercise on cardiovascular equipment is certainly beneficial to your health. Your heart is pumping and you get a lot of benefits from it. But don’t you feel like a hamster on the wheal spinning there while years go by? You are really just passively working your muscles and your cardiovascular system and praying that your time will be up soon, so you can finally quit and go home.

Doing your cardiovascular exercise while learning, or improving a skill is incredibly beneficial. By far more beneficial to your overall health than exercising on hamster wheel. Yes, it is very uncomfortable, and often times little dangerous too. But if you endure that uncomfortable zone, and use protective gear, you will reap a lot of benefits.

Learning new skill, like rollerblading, ice-skating, playing tennis, playing soccer, surfing, swimming all kinds swimming strokes, playing ping pong, playing beach volleyball, bicycling, skiing, cross country skiing and others will make you better at these skills and on top of that, you will get another fantastic benefit out of it. Your brain notices that, you are learning something. It feels hard and challenging. You even take a few falls here and there. But new nerve connections start creating and while you exercise your heart, muscles and lungs, you exercise your brain too.

Not only you get smarter in general, but you are actually preventing some very scary brain diseases like Alzheimer’s and dementia with learning new skills.

I do all my cardiovascular exercise outside. I play tennis regularly, I play soccer, I am a surfer, I play beach volleyball, rollerblade regularly, play ping pong, swim, bike and in the winter ski, cross country ski, play some hockey, or just ice skate for an hour. I used to row competitively and kayak occasionally and I am planing to get back to these sports soon. It’s actually amazing how many sports I can do quite well.

You will see me very rarely on running track. Yes, I actually run sometimes, but not that often. You will never ever see me in the gym on elliptical machine or spinning bike. No, I prefer to learn or get better at the skill outside while getting my cardiovascular exercise done for the day.

Many of these activities seem like they require partner, or group of people to do. Yes, partner would be helpful, but you can do most of them by yourself. Often, doing them yourself only is way better than doing it with a partner. You get a better, more intensive workout that way. One simple activity, you can do now is to hit a tennis ball against a wall. I do this quite often and it is really improving my overall game too. So I can kick some butt on Monday evening when I play matches with my buddies. Your partner here is the wall, and that’s the partner that is always there for you.

The key here is to start hitting the wall with a tennis racket and a ball and do it intensively. Without stopping. Time yourself. Let’s say you will be hitting the wall for 30 minutes. Start a clock and start hitting using forehand, backhand, overhead and volley strokes.

If it doesn’t go very well and the ball keeps bouncing away, that’s OK. Just run to get it and start over. Remember? I said it’s not going to be easy. But over time you will get better at it. You will be improving this skill, while your heart rate is up and that means you are getting a great cardiovascular exercise. And hopefully you will have some sun out so you can take your shirt off and get some healthy sun exposure.

Doing your cardiovascular exercise outside and sun exposure

You most probably work somewhere in the office the whole week, and barely get to see the sun. If your job is outdoors, congratulations, keep it as long as you can. It’s rare these days. So why would you want to go on Saturday morning to the gym to do your elliptical workout in air conditioned cave? You want to bring your workout outside, especially, when the sun is out. And than, you want to expose as much of your skin as you can to the sun.

Take off your shirt while doing your cardio and sweat little bit on the sun. It’s so great for your health!

Sun exposure is very beneficial for us human beings. And we don’t get enough of it these days. Our ancestors would spend all day everyday outside on the fields and reaped all the benefits sun exposure provides.

I wrote about benefits of sun exposure in a previous chapter, but in short it keeps our body supplied with healthy amount of cancer fighting vitamin D, and keeps our mood elevated.

In one study, Cancer patients who exposed themselves to the sun regularly, were by much higher percentage to recover from the disease, than patients that didn’t get regular sun exposure. Smart sun exposure fights cancer.

Avoiding injuries while doing you skill cardiovascular activities outside

One thing is true. Doing skillful cardiovascular activities like skating, playing tennis, playing soccer is more dangerous than spinning on the treadmill somewhere in closed “safe” gym.

But if you follow certain safety procedures, you don’t have anything to be afraid off. You will get your cardiovascular exercise, you’ll learn new skill, developing your brain further and preventing it to go bad, and hopefully you’ll get some healthy sun exposure in the process. To avoid injuries, use appropriate protective gear and start slowly.

Adding sprints and intervals to your cardiovascular actvities

While I rollerblade holding my hockey stick in my hand in a nearby park, that has a big parking lot, I add few skating sprints to my workout. Usually 7 x 20 second sprigs. These are sprints where I try to give it my max. Other times I try to skate while having puck on the floor and leading it (very hard thing to do).

When I hit the ball against wall, I time myself few 1-3 min intervals when I hit it very intensively. You would think, that this kind of interval can’t be a good intensive interval, but my heart rate reaches up to 190 beats per min. And sometimes more. Which really makes it an incredibly intensive interval. And at the same time, I am improving my tennis game, creating some beneficial nerve connections, getting some healthy sun exposure, because I take my shirt always off when sun is out.

You can create these kind of practices while kayaking, rowing, cross country skiing, bicycling, swimming and in many, many other sports. Don’t be afraid to get creative.

One of the things I have been trying to do these days is running while playing guitar. Trying to hit the right chord while sprinting can be very difficult and I am still not very successful with it. But I will keep working at it. As long as it keeps challenging my brain and as long as I can get my heart rate up to the certain level, I will keep doing it. I am also seriously considering taking my shirt of while doing this. But it could really scare some people around me. Anyway, it’s worth a try, considering the incredibly beneficial sun exposure I would be missing if I kept my shirt on.

These sprints and intervals promote extra secretion of growth hormone, also called a hormone of youth. And you don’t want to miss that if you want to look beautiful and stay invincible.

My cardiovascular exercise turns into hard, challenging, technically difficult, intensive movement outside. And, I am getting enough healthy sun exposure while doing it. And so should your cardiovascular exercise look like if you want to become invincible. Just compare it with working that treadmill in stinky, dusty gym. Quite a difference. Don’t you think?

Stop complaining and take your cardio outside! Make it more challenging. Don’t  do it and it becomes average like your health. Do it and become even closer to being invincible.

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