I Hate Cardio by Lisbeth Darsh

I Hate Cardio by Lisbeth Darsh

I hate cardio. Are you with me here?

I usually don’t use the word “hate” because I feel it’s crass and overblown and perhaps should be reserved only for expression of dire circumstances beyond redemption.

I think that applies here: I hate cardio.

I hate all parts of cardio:

  • The anticipation
  • The pit in my stomach before
  • The queasiness of my stomach after
  • The first few breaths that seem sweet as I start to work (It’s a trick! There’s pain coming!)
  • The middle breaths of the hard part—the dreaded middle of any workout (Read “The Real Suck”)
  • The last breaths where I am certain I am dying, killed by cardio, leaving the mortal plane, evaporated from this Earth in a big pool of sweat, and, ironically, dead in a totally boring and unsatisfying manner. Dying by cardio is simply not sexy. It’s not falling off a cliff or my parachute failing to open. It’s just boring and (unfortunately) common. I can hear my friends talking later:  “She died during cardio.” “Oh my. That’s really sad, isn’t it? Do you want to get coffee?”  

In my mind, cardio sits alone at a lunch table in her little pink sweater set, annoyingly perfect and perfectly annoying. People want to say they know her well, but most of them are lying. Most of them don’t really like cardio; they only like what cardio can do for them. They like to be seen with cardio, but they don’t really want to talk to her.

Tough Mudder, 2011: Possibly the last time I smiled during cardio

Tough Mudder, 2011: the last time I smiled during cardio

Meanwhile, weightlifting sits at the jock table, big and loud and FUN. We all want to sit with weightlifting, and sit during weightlifting (between sets). Sure, the work is hard but it’s short and cool. You get to talk with your friends and use chalk. What could be more fun?

But, unfortunately, lifting weights is not enough … and we know it.

If you want to be healthy and live a long life, you need to lift weights and you need to do some cardio. You need to condition your heart, test your heart, use all fitness tools available so you reduce your chances of dropping dead at far too early of an age because your heart just couldn’t take the strain of your life and your work and your weight.

Ugh. Reality. It’s not always fun, is it? 

Weightlifting will make you strong and happy, but it’s not going to make you fit. For that, you’re going to need some cardio.

But how to do that? How to make yourself do cardio when you don’t want to?

Some folks like to use distraction:

  • Run with music
  • Swim with friends
  • Zumba (I hear people still do this? Can anyone confirm a sighting in the wild?)
  • Dance/fitness/movement classes
  • Anything that moves you but takes your mind off your movement (like this “air drum” workout)

Then there’s the ultimate cardio mind-trick: CrossFit. You lift weights but faster, and you mix those movements in with bodyweight exercises, quick and cycling, so you are constantly re-adjusting your muscles and your mind, losing yourself in the moment instead of the pain.

But no matter what method we choose, the pain always comes. Always. There’s no hiding from it. If you would have results, you will have pain, you will have marks. 

And that’s okay, even with cardio. So, here’s the big lesson, folks: you need to change your mind about cardio, because the experience of cardio is not going to change.

Cardio is going to suck. Unless you’re missing part of your frontal lobe or you’re a cardio bunny (or both), you will likely experience the suckage. It’s okay! Go deep into the suck. Because the suck is where the good stuff is, the suck is where change lurks, the suck is where they hide the great.

Nobody ever got fit by doing nothing or close to nothing. Nobody ever got better by not trying. Nobody ever lived a long life by doing everything they could to shorten it.

Achievement requires effort, a healthy heart requires some cardio, and cardio requires work that you might hate.

So, hate cardio. I do. But realize its inherent worth and importance to your life, and then work it into your exercise regimen. Why? Because you probably love your kids or your partner and your life—and cardio will help you to stay on this Earth longer with them all.

Lucky for all of us, there’s an I Hate Cardio Club! It meets every day at the gym. Membership? Almost everyone. They say misery loves company, and that’s true. Misery also loves cardio, because cardio is pretty much the membership chairman of misery. Nobody recruits misery like cardio. It wins every sales contest. Cardio is a closer. (Listen the next time you’re in the gym: “Ugh. I hate this! I hate cardio!” Ah, another new member of the misery club.)

But hate or love cardio, the thing you need to do is lace up your sneakers, get ready to sweat, and then go sweat. Because there is one GREAT thing about cardio—it doesn’t last forever. (It only feels like forever.)

So get to the “cardio is over” part. Smile and breathe and make a sweat angel. Feels good, doesn’t it? Remember that, and come back tomorrow. Your body, your heart, and your family will thank you for it.