Where’s the Cardio?

Pic from www.nymag.com

Every so often someone points out that there's no "cardio" in most CrossFit workouts. Sure, every now and again there's a 5k run, sometimes a 5k row, and once in a great while the good ol' 10k. But to the many who feel that a workout is incomplete without a good 45 minutes on the eliptical, CrossFit is missing something. For those of you who know Fran well or have broken 20 rounds during Cindy, you're laughing to yourself about the percieved lack of cardio in the programming. But to be fair, it is a departure from the traditional LSD (long slow distance) cardio many know and love. Check out this blog from yesterday at CrossFit Invictus (www.crossfitinvictus.com):

Say No To LSD
Written by Michele Vieux

I have been asked many times, especially now that the LGFGPG Challenge is in full effect, if people should do “cardio” on their own in addition to their strength and conditioning workouts at Invictus.  My initial reaction is usually, “how was traditional ‘cardio’ working for you before Invictus?”  Think back on the low-fat/fat-free craze of the 90’s – long, slow distance (”LSD”) endeavors are kind of like that “conventional wisdom” that we now know to have been poor guidance.

Paradigm shift here people.  What so many of you know as the quintessential pillars of health and fitness are wrong!  I know this blows some of your minds but fat-free and LSD are old news, and could even be causing you harm!

Besides being extremely boring (IMHO), there can also be health costs of repetitive mid- and high-level aerobic work that should make you take another look at your routine.

What is LSD?  LSD can come in many forms, including running, biking, rowing, and even CrossFit (you know, those chipper WODs or 7 to 10 rounders that take 45 minutes to complete).

Most of the Invictus workouts are a bit different.  Invictus workouts provide a strength foundation with conditioning that typically calls for quick bursts of speed.  Work periods are typically shorter, and often some rest periods are provided to ensure that athletes can recover and regain their ability to perform at a higher intensity.  Most (not all) of the workouts at Invictus will take under 15 minutes (of work at least, if not the total time of the workout).

LSD workouts typically require large glucose reserves created by the body from large amounts of dietary carbohydrates.  Invictus workouts, on the other hand, train the body to derive more energy from fats, not glucose, requiring fewer calories from carbohydrates.

LSD also increases cortisol and insulin levels, which can tell your body to store fat, cannibalize lean mass, and make you more susceptible to infection and injury.  Invictus workouts work in different metabolic pathways and tend to increase aerobic capacity, insulin sensitivity, and natural growth hormone production.

Finally, LSD tends to emphasize quantity of movement (distance, high volume, etc…) over quality of movement – which can reinforce poor movement patterns.  Invictus workouts tend to include less volume and higher intensity (heavier weight and/or shorter work durations).  Focusing on heavier weight shifts focus onto quality of movement and helps to emphasize proper mechanics and technique.  Think of it this way, you don’t need to be very precise to snatch 65 lbs, but if you’re snatching 135 lbs. or more (ladies), you’re probably going to need to perform the movement a bit more precisely.

To me, the choice is obvious.  Spend your valuable time on short, intense workouts to increase aerobic capacity, train your body to burn fat for fuel and build lean mass, and move in a safe and efficient manner.  If you have spare time, spend it preparing your meals (remember folks, nutrition is going to be your best friend for changed body composition).  If all of your meals are planned and prepared, you’ve completed a hard Invictus workout, you’re getting at least 8 hours of sleep at night, and you still want to do some extra “cardio,” come talk to one of your coaches about a good plan.  It can be beneficial, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of your nutrition, rest or recovery.

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