Smart Cardio: Finding the Low Hanging Fruit for Efficient Gains

A few years ago, we did a podcast episode called “cardio is stupid, and you don’t have to do it.” Maybe not the most nuanced explanation, but there’s an important point here: appropriateness.

Since that early discussion, we wrote an article that lays out more specific recommendations on what appropriate looks like and how to figure out what that is for you.

This discussion brings us up to date with some recent research and Jarlo’s personal experience over the past couple years working on improving his own cardio conditioning. We’ll talk about different kinds of exercise, different needs for cardio training, and figuring out what’s best for you.

Resources mentioned

How Much Cardio Training Do You Really Need?Cardio is Stupid EpisodeEfficient Breathing During ExerciseImprove Your Movement to Improve Your Health

Transcript of Our Cardio Philosophy

Andy: All right. All right. Welcome to the Give Me Bacon podcast. My name is Andy.

Jarlo: I am Jarlo, back on. How’s it going?

Andy: Yes. And with that enthusiastic and energetic greeting, we are going to get into today’s show which is about the cardios.

Jarlo: That’s why we’re so enthusiastic. We are enthusiastic about cardios.

Andy: So cardio, I think it’s a topic that it’s interesting because it’s been a central topic of the fitness world for as long as there has been such a thing. It’s been considered the number one component of fitness. In some circles, it’s been considered the number one thing that will make you lose your games. It’s been important, it’s been something you should worry about. However, it is the thing that has probably the most research attached to it. And in addition to being a really, really vague way of describing an entire mode or outcome of exercise, it is also related to the fact that our cardiovascular system in our bodies happens to be pretty important. And in the US, especially, heart disease is one of the leading causes of death. So having a healthy cardio system is important for life and longevity, and so that’s something that we also have to weigh alongside all of the fitness implications of this.

Jarlo: Yeah, and that’s the thing, right? Just what you described, it’s like why is it so controversial? Why are there differing opinions? And it really comes down to what that person is saying about it. The person making the statement has their own priorities. So if you’re someone saying, “Well, I don’t do cardio because I don’t want to lose my muscular gains.” Right there, they outline their priority which is looking muscular, or being muscular, or being strong. Versus someone else who says, “Oh, this is the most important thing.” And so you have to ask, why are they saying it’s the most important thing? If they’re a physician or an epidemiologist, they’re probably saying that because of overall health. And that’s the morbidity and mortality things of high blood pressure, cardiac disease, and actual death. So yes, that’s the most important thing for them.

Andy: Actual death, it should be something you are hedging against in your fitness.

Jarlo: Right. And they’re not worried about you losing maybe that half a pound of muscle because you’ve decided to walk for half an hour. Right? So that’s the most important thing I think when discussing, like you said, a very vague, nebulous term of cardio, or cardiovascular training or conditioning. All of those, that can mean so many different things to so many different people. So unless you’re talking about the same thing and realizing that you’re either talking about the same thing or not talking about the same thing, then any discussion is just not going to go well.

Andy: Right. It’s something that we’ve talked about before at GMB. We did another podcast with Ryan and I before with the extremely, extremely non confrontational title of Cardio is Stupid. Which was based on the idea of, well, why are you doing it? And if your goals are A, B, or C, then maybe cardio doesn’t need to be your priority. We’ve also written an article that goes into a lot more depth on different kinds of cardio training and how we approach it in GMB, because we do actually include it in some of our programs. And I say, “Include it.” I mean, you can’t do anything physical without including your cardiovascular.

Jarlo: That’s exactly right. There’s the old trope about, “Okay, what is aerobic?” Versus, “What is not aerobic?” Well, if you’re breathing, it’s aerobic. If you are existing as you are right now and talking, then you are doing an aerobic activity.

Andy: Yes.

Jarlo: So its specificity. Cardio is stupid if you want to build muscle, or something like that. I don’t know. All these things to me and that’s why I’m like … it’s even harder for me to talk about a lot of these thing because it’s just something I’m not interested in. I’m not interested in that whole … Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger’s whole thing. You want to build muscle, right? You don’t run when you can walk. Don’t walk when you can sit down. Don’t sit down if you can lay down. Right?

Andy: Yep.

Jarlo: Those are the priorities. And so yeah, I was like that in my teens, and maybe 20’s. But then after a while you’re like, “Man, really?” Yeah, I turned 45 this year, I’m like, “That’s not it.” Strength is important. Strength is important, but also being able to get up and bow and do all that stuff. But, I want to be able to do other stuff and not just think about, “Oh, look at my biceps. They’re shrinking away.” They’re not really.

Andy: They’re just withering on the vine there.

Jarlo: They’re withering on the vine. So let’s maybe start with establishing what are the primary reasons for someone when they … Say someone asks, “What about my cardio? What about my conditioning?” And so, what we’re talking about primarily, or just now is the general health idea, right? “Is this going to help me live better? Is it going to help me live longer?” Straight epidemiological studies. And yes, yes it is. Of course. We’ll talk a little bit more about the specifics of that later, and I think you alluded to it too before is like, it’s actually a lot less than you think you need. Especially if you are doing other things, especially if you’re making yourself move around. And then the second thing is the whole losing weight, or losing fat. That’s another big reason why people are like, “Oh, I got to get my cardio on.” Or, “I got to get my conditioning on.” And there’s a lot of things to that. Mainly, it’s probably not the best thing for you to do. Or not the priority thing for you to do.

Andy: Not the most important thing.

Jarlo: Right. And we’ll talk about that. And then the last thing is, what more of the fitness thing is. The fitness priority of cardio is athletic performance, or getting better at your sport, or getting better at your recreational activity, or whatever you decide to do. Or maybe people even decide that their priority is to get better at exercise, and that falls under the realm of athletic performance. So I think it’s those three things, and I think it’s hard to argue against those three things. Because what else is there? Why else would you want to do cardio for? Maybe you like it.

Andy: Yeah. I mean, there’s possibilities like you like it, or because you feel some sort of Puritan ethic thing where you feel like you should. I mean, there’s lots of reasons. But in terms of actually solid logical reasons to do a thing, or why someone might be telling you to do something like this, those I think are really the main ones for cardio. You don’t see a lot of people they’re like, “I’m doing cardio so that I can …” I don’t know.

Jarlo: Right, there isn’t anything else.

Andy: Right. I don’t even know.

Jarlo: And you could do it just because you like it, or another … I think even for me, when I was running a lot, I liked because I could listen to the music uninterrupted for an hour. That’s actually a pretty good. I thought that was pretty funny. That’s a good reason. Or people like to do the books or read audio books. And again, it’s mostly going to be you’re doing it for your health, you’re doing it to … And that’s why we distinguish that though. Because losing weight and doing all these things, maybe it’s not necessarily for your health. Maybe you think it’s because you want to look better, or you feel better. Right?

Andy: Right.

Jarlo: So there is a distinction there, even though people can argue it’s the same. And then the same thing with the performance benefits. Because there’s a difference between doing really well in a performance activity, and being healthy. And I think people to understand that too.

Andy: Yeah. So let’s talk a little bit about cardio in terms of just basically what does this mean? How are we defining it? We’ve had questions like, “How legit is it to estimate VO2 max versus sex, age, body weight, BMI?” How do all these things fit together? Do they matter for most people? What is all this stuff?

Jarlo: Right? Well, we can frame that into … That will be a couple of categories, right? The VO2 max thing is this athletic performance and then health. General health. For general health, absolutely doesn’t matter. Absolutely doesn’t. Because VO2 max is just the measure of how … And there’s a lot of other people that talk about this much better than we can. But VO2 max is just simply a measure of your oxygen input, output. An exertion. But really, it’s a matter of how much you can endure. And this is from … Endure is a good book by Alex Hutchinson, and I just read a few months ago. But it does come down to that because the test, the test is a … the treadmill test, you’re going to do better if you can switch off your pain receptor down and just go as hard as you can. That’s the test for the VO2 max. Saw the question on Facebook by … Who was it that said it?

Andy: Dave Trend.

Jarlo: Dave Trend is like, “Is it legit?” And yes, the running the mile as much as you can, it is legit because if you can do it, your VO2 max is high. The standard test used to be Cooper test, which was 12 minutes. And it actually correlate really well with the distance you can run in 12 minutes. And they did standards against different age groups and things. It’s actually under estimated, a better test is six minutes. Like how fast you can run in six minutes. For some people, it’s a mile. And some people, it was whatever. How fast you can run, how far you can run in six minutes and the time. For general health, it’s just not a number that is necessary.

Andy: Right. And so this is a thing where you see all these people trying to … And a lot of it is marketing, but a lot of people trying to sound like they’re experts in various things and throwing terminology at you that really is not applicable to somebody whose job is not athletic performance.

Jarlo: Right. Exactly. Exactly.

Andy: You don’t need to worry about your VO2 max unless you are really working at competing at a high level where you have to overcome severe endurance. And that’s not something that most of us really have to do. Endurance and stamina for most people in our daily lives … and I’m using this interchangeably here. Really just means can you carry some groceries up a flight of stairs without being out of breath?

Jarlo: Right, exactly.

Andy: Most of us don’t have tasks that are more taxing than that.

Jarlo: That’s right. And so if you’re going to have any kind of a number for that six minute or that 12 minute test, is can you even run for six minutes?

Andy: Yeah. Can run for six minutes?

Jarlo: Can you run for six minutes? And the number is a binary, it’s like yes or no. And if you can, it’s actually really good. You’re above that percentile. And even … this is a little bit off topic, but since they’ve asked, even the VO2 max for performance, that’s controversial too. Steve Magness who did The Science of Running, it was a book, a few years ago. He and a lot of other people, they argue it doesn’t matter. Yes, there’s a correlation between people that have high VO2 max and how well they do in endurance things. It’s just genetics, it’s just the way it is. But there’s people that outperform their VO2 max all the time. You look at their numbers like, “This guy shouldn’t be able to do it, because his VO2 max is this.” Or, “This woman can’t do it because of that.” But they outperform it. So don’t let that limit you. If you do want to improve it, there’s a … And it does come down to what you can endure.

Jarlo: One of the things in this specific question you ask, “Well, I don’t like running longer. I only like to run one or two miles.” And well, yes, one of the really good things that came out with a lot of research is yes, you can run as fast you can for six minutes and that’s your VO2 max. But that’s really shitty to try and do it three times a week, because you’re just going to kill yourself. So that’s where they came up with intervals. So if you got at least … I forget the woman’s name, the researcher’s name. But she figured out if you run at your velocity, your VO2 max, if you did their time trial and you figure it out that you’re running at a eight minute per mile pace. Well if you do that 30 seconds at a time, then jog or rest another 30 seconds, and do that for a total of six minutes, then you’re going to improve.

Jarlo: It’s just how much volume can you accumulate at that pace? These things are really specific and really, really into these thing where, “Yes, why are people arguing?” It’s because of these performance thing. But again, this thing that doesn’t fit for 80% of the population. It just doesn’t.

Andy: This is why it’s really important to understand. We’ve hit on this a lot of different times before, but what are you comparing yourself to? This is very, very important. Everyone wants to say, “You got to be the best.” Well, you think about it, we can’t all be the best. I’m sorry. That’s just how it is. Well, you should at least aim to be above average. Well, you can’t. You can’t have everyone be above average, is just that’s not how math works. And so we have this Instagram post that’s says, “On average, most people are going to be mediocre at most things.” And we get so many people saying, “I can’t believe you would say that. How demotivating. You should be encouraging people to do better.” Like, “No, it’s just math dude. It is only math.” So that’s just how it is. Let’s say everyone in the global population increased their athletic capacity by 20%. You know what that bell curve would look like? Exactly-

Jarlo: The same.

Andy: … the same.

Jarlo: Right, it would be the same.

Andy: Be exactly the same. And the people at the top of the bell curve, the people we considered athletes, the people who considered strong, their performance would also increase. It’s just how it happens.

Jarlo: Right. You just simply cannot compare yourself to somebody else. And there’s even the thing where like, “Well, okay, so I’m only going to compare myself to myself.” Well, that doesn’t mean anything either. What does that really mean? By, “Okay.” You still don’t improve. I have my example. I think I talked to you about this before was like, I say, “Okay, I’m going to improve my conditioning, I’ll improve my running.” Because it’s always been not the best. Like I was always strong. I was always flexible. I could always do my stuff. But my mile time was shit, too much. I could do it, I could run. So I put the effort in, and I did it. I did a few months, and I did good. I got slightly above average. And I was stoked because I went from slightly below average, slightly above. But I was still … A 13 year old boy could beat me for real. And he wouldn’t even be a state champion. Right?

Andy: Right.

Jarlo: But so what? Did I down myself? Or like, “Oh.” But I also can’t be like, “Oh, I’m better than I was before.” Of course, I’m better than I was before, I actually did stuff. And then we talked about this, unless I go and make myself … make myself. Unless I go and do things, I don’t even do 1,000 steps a day, because I work from home. We’re in meetings, we do stuff. I write, I like to read. Shoot me, I like to sit down and read.

Andy: Reading is not one of those activities that really gets your heart rate up.

Jarlo: Right. So I go and I do … like today, I go on my new thing is I’ll just go walk for an hour, which is great, because the weather’s great. Or I’ll exercise for an hour, or I’ll train for two hours. See that? That’s funny too, right? Because I differentiate walking, exercise, and training. I don’t consider my martial arts training, and my other stuff exercise. I like it, straight up like it. And so these are the things that I think we need to talk about, like why are the government’s Physical Activity Guidelines like … everyone, all these hardcore fitnesses are like, “150 minutes a week? Well, I do that every day.” Like, “Man, they’re not talking about you. They’re not talking about you, man.”

Andy: Well, you have to understand that most people in the fitness industry … and this is not true of everyone, of course. But most of them are ex-athletes.

Jarlo: Right.

Andy: What they’re doing as fitness coaches is actually less activity than they have ever done in their lives and that’s not most people.

Jarlo: So they are already biased, whether they know it or not. And luckily, and thankfully, a lot of the really good ones realize that.

Andy: They do.

Jarlo: They realize that and so when they have right programs, or they train their clients, they know that and they know that “Oh, this person, I’m not going to be able to progress them the way I want to progress myself.” Because it doesn’t matter. If they’re doing their work, if they’re doing their 30 minutes a day, 30-60 minutes a day, they’re stopping themselves from having high blood pressure. They’re reversing diabetic complications. They’re getting less appearance of heart attack. And that’s what cardio is for, really. It makes your life better by decreasing your chances of disease and fully decreasing your chances of early death. And that’s why you don’t need to run a marathon, or train to do a marathon unless you really want to do that.

Andy: Unless you just want to.

Jarlo: VO2 max doesn’t … And that’s why I say, “Oh, it doesn’t really matter.” Because it doesn’t. It’s more important for this person to decide to do something for a half an hour to 60 minutes a day. That’s what it is.

Andy: Right. And if you do see a fitness expert online saying, “Oh, 150 minutes a week, that’s nothing.” Then I think what you should really do is ask them how much free personal training you can get. If 150 minutes a week is nothing, they should be willing to give you that training for free, right? Or maybe for 10 or 15 bucks, right? But most of these people charge what? $75 an hour, or something like that, or more. $150 an hour? “Well, then don’t say it’s nothing because it’s obviously valuable to your clients.”

Jarlo: Right. And that’s why you have to make the distinction between general health and this athletic performance thing. When they’re talking about athletic performance, then yes. Actually, yes, it is relatively nothing.

Andy: It is.

Jarlo: It is. You have to do more to get to a certain level. But you have to ask yourself what it is. I think I had told you last time we tried to record this about my friend who went to the doctor and the doctor straight up told him, “You’re going to have a heart attack within five years unless you start doing something.” That’s the people where cardio is the most important thing to do. Right there. We can’t be any more clearer than that, the doctor just straight up looked at him. “No bullshit, you’re going to die. So get going now.” So don’t listen to other people than that.

Andy: That’s for real.

Jarlo: That’s for real.

Andy: On the flip side of that, I went and got a routine physical last week too. I went, got the blood drawn, did the thing, got measured every, you whichway. And the doctor comes and he’s like, “Here’s your chest X ray, et cetera, et cetera. But I can look at you and tell you that you’re fine.” He basically says, “Looking at you, you’re fine. You’re over 40 years old, you’re not overweight. You have no problem bending over and picking things up off the floor. You look fine, you’re fine. I’m going to wait for the blood work to get back, but your blood pressure is fine. You’re fine.” If you’re a physician … and this is where you were talking about stats and national averages and recommendations come in.

Andy: If you’re a physician, you see maybe 100 patients for physicals every week, you don’t need to really see the numbers and compare them against a BMI average or anything to know when somebody’s in bad shape. You already know what average is, and then you can look at people and you can tell what problems they have. You can listen to them wheezing and know that they have trouble breathing.

Jarlo: Right, exactly.

Andy: For most people, there’s yes if you’re athletic and if your goals are athletic, then you need to compare yourself against that or at least measure yourself again, so improving towards that. But at the same time too, if your doctor is not telling you, you are in danger. If you look better than most people around you, if you feel good, then it’s important to understand that you probably don’t need to be worried about fixing broken things with your body if nothing is broken.

Jarlo: That’s exactly it.

Andy: I’m not saying don’t try to get bacK, that’s not what we’re saying. But you should not be worried about, “Do I need to add this? Do I need to add this? Am I okay? Is my VO2 max going to be all right?” If you’re walking around and doing the activities that you like fine without pain and feeling good about yourself, you are okay. Act it.

Jarlo: Right. Exactly.

Andy: Everything else is gravy now.

Jarlo: That’s exactly it. So another question from the, past Sandy York. She asked, “What’s the …” this is exactly what it is. It’s like, “How do you find the goldilocks amount of intensity for heart health?” And really, if you’re asking that and you’re already doing things, you’re already there. We talked about this 10,000 steps thing, this, “Everyone, get your 10,000 steps.” And you know where that come from, right? From Japan.

Andy: Yeah, the odometer was invented in Japan. They called it manpo kei. And that basically, it’s four syllables. It sounds nice to the Japanese ear, manpo kei. And also, the character for ‘man’ looks like legs walking. So the guy just … arbitrarily, ‘itchi man,’ one ‘man’ is 10,000. So it’s to see if you hit a 10,000 steps, that’s what it does. And that’s where this whole 10,000 steps came from.

Jarlo: And it’s actually a good thing.

Andy: Oh yeah, it’s great.

Jarlo: It’s a decent thing. I looked it up after we last talked, and this woman … again, you can google and look, she actually did the research because she knew that it was arbitrary. Just straight up knew it. And she found it, she found the numbers and the numbers are actually in terms of like that heart health, and mobility, and dying, and all that stuff. It’s about 4,500 a day. 4,500 a day, and then it pops out for benefit at about 7,500 a day. So it’s not bad. It’s not bad. And so what is that? What’s 5,000 steps? Well 5,000 steps, it’s about a mile. It’s about a mile. A mile’s what? 5,280 feet, something like that. And so for most people if you are actually doing stuff, you’re okay.

Andy: Ain’t that weird to say from a fitness company? “Oh yeah, you’re doing stuff. You’re okay.”

Jarlo: What we are supposed to do is just tell people they’re not okay until they just give us their wallets.

Andy: Well, isn’t that the way it works?

Jarlo: But that’s also the thing of why we chose strength, flexibility, and motor control as our attributes. Everyone’s like, “Well, what about conditioning? What about cardio?” And we’re like, “Yeah, what about it? You have to tell us more. You have to tell me more about why you’re asking that for us to give it.” But strength, yes. Come on, now. Strength is the difference between getting up and off the ground if you fall down.

Andy: And the fact is, if you build the strength and flexibility and motor control to be able to do the things you want to do, you probably have more than enough cardio capacity to that.

Jarlo: That’s exactly it. If you’re doing the things that we espouse, and training and doing all that stuff, that’s automatically enough. Yeah, that’s why we really have to harp on, “What do you mean by what you need to get out of cardio?” And so that’s a lot about the general health. But that’s it, right?

Andy: Absolutely.

Jarlo: For losing weight, this is the thing. The very technical number of how much cardio you have to do for losing weight is a lot.

Andy: Oh no, it’s not a lot. It’s too much.

Jarlo: It’s nearly impossible. It’s nearly impossible because it’s just … Okay, what do you think about running a mile every day? That’s pretty good, right? To run a mile every day. Right? And even if you go super fast, but that’s only 100 calories. That’s 100 calories. You would have to run over five miles to get rid of that Big Mac.

Andy: And I’m just googling this while we’re talking. What is it? Was it five miles for a Big Mac?

Jarlo: Yeah. Yeah. Because a Big Mac is what? 560 calories, or something. It’s super easy.

Andy: It’s two hours and 30 minutes of running. Four hours, 11 minutes of dancing. Six hours of strength training. Two hours of cycling. Six hours of yoga. Four hours of walking. Two hours of cardio. So in other words, your exercise is not burning off your foods. Just give that up. Yeah, you would have to do a lot.

Jarlo: And it’s really more if you do things throughout the day. Like for example, a friend of mine, Bean, he’s a landscape. He works as a landscape. That’s hours and hours, and he is lean. But he also exercises and does all these things. But you would have to do that. That’s the amount of activity you have to do, 8-10 hours a day for that type of exercise for you to do anything. The whole thing also about Michael Phelps, the whole thing. He’s eats 10-14,000 calories a day, and he looks like that because he exercises. Well, yeah, he also exercises like 10-12 hours a day. And more so, it’s bullshit. He’s not eating 14,000 calories a day, I’m sorry to rain in your parade. Your body can only process so much.

Andy: On some days, occasionally, he eats that much. I mean, I’ll some days occasionally, I eat that much. You’ve seen me do it too.

Jarlo: And that’s the thing, is people really have to know these things and be told that, “Yeah, exercise is good for you.” And we’re not saying don’t exercise. And that’s another thing too, why does it to be so extreme? Why does it have to be … If they say, “Don’t do exercise if you need to.” But it’s just the benefits of why are you doing it for have to be very clear, we have to be honest about that. We have to be honest there. It’s much easier not to eat that that hamburger actually. Well it depends, it’s [inaudible 00:28:03]. But maybe choose a better hamburger. Make it yourself actually. Make yourself the hamburger and then you’re ready saving two miles at work right there versus buying it from some bad place, man.

Andy: Right. And the thing is nobody wants to hear this, but it’s true. Everyone knows it’s true, but still people look for the way around it. The way to lose weight, if that’s what you’re trying to do is always, always going to go through nutrition.

Jarlo: Always.

Andy: Ideally, it’s also going to include better sleep because you need to be well rested for your metabolism to function properly for your body chemistry to be doing what it needs to do. And yeah, exercise and movement daily are a part of that, they are a part of it. But you are not going to make up for what you eat with any, any magical declassified, mystical hoodoo exercise. It just does not exist.

Jarlo: Exercise, and movement, and all that is important for your health. And that’s the distinction. We can never argue against that, it is the fountain of youth.

Andy: And if you are improving your health, you will probably also see a return to a healthier weight.

Jarlo: Right. But number one is you have to control what you eat. We can talk about that for the … That’s a whole nother thing.

Andy: That’s a whole different thing.

Jarlo: That’s a whole different thing. But that’s the truth. That’s the hard, hard facts. And then the last thing now is athletic performance. And this is the thing where all of these arguments about cardio is this cardio, and cardio is that, those are the ones. And as you can tell from our perspective, it’s the least interesting thing.

Andy: It is.

Jarlo: It really is. It all depends on your specific goals. And for most people, it is general health, or losing weight, or feeling better. In terms of athletic performance, actually I am really big on having seasonal goals or things like you want to run that charity, half marathon. Or for us, we do that Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

Andy: Nightly Stories.

Jarlo: We do the … it’s called the Big Climb, and it’s every March and it’s 69 flights. Right, 69 flights. And most of the time I make sure I’m ready for it a couple months, and I walk some stairs because it’s shitty if you’re not ready for it.

Andy: It’s no joke.

Jarlo: And I did it. This year, I was telling you, I just didn’t because I had some other things or maybe I was sick and so I wasn’t prepped. But we still did it, and I still was able to do it. it wasn’t in the best time ever. But I was able to do it and I was able to go and teach my classes after. And so I was pretty happy about that. And so those are the things where if you decide you want to do a certain thing. Like I have … if we’re going to talk about athletic performance, I have a couple of friends that they’re straight up iron male athletes. Like my friend, Yam, she’s going to do a lot of these things. And she’s awesome. But she’s also training a lot. You have to train a lot.

Jarlo: I think people maybe don’t realize that it really is, in terms of for athletic performance, it is very dependent on your effort and volume of effort. That’s a reality. And so those are the things where people are like, “Don’t be mediocre.” Or, “Strive for the best.” Or whatever. Maybe in that respects, it really does fit. But that doesn’t fit us, I think. It doesn’t fit me.

Andy: Right. Right. This is really important. I mean, without getting too much into that. It really does come to what fits for you. I always harp on if, if you want to be an elite athlete, then you need to be prepared to be mediocre at everything else. Because you cannot build at more than one thing, nobody can.

Jarlo: That’s right.

Andy: It’s not a thing that exists. You can be pretty damn good at several things, and that’s okay too. It’s great. You need to choose which of those little plastic solo containers are you going to pour your sauce into? You only got so much sauce, you know? So you can choose where you want to put it. And for us and a lot of people we work with, it’s family work, or personal enjoyment. And that’s completely fine too. If it’s athletic performance for you, then you just got to know that’s fine. It’s just a little less sauce or any other containers.

Jarlo: And not to talk about us too much, but we talk from experience. I know you did a lot of martial arts work long time ago, and at a high level. I’ve done it. I wouldn’t say I’m super high level, but I’ve done my stuff. I’ve done my stuff, and I’ve done it well. And there’s video out there, right? That’s the nice thing. There’s stuff out there. But we talk from experience about, we knew what it took. And yes, a lot of that times … I remember in Hawaii, before we had kids and before we had all that stuff, and I figured out a way where I was just working part-time. I was training more than I was working, that’s what it took. Yeah, that’s what it took. It’s a question since we worked into this. It’s like, John was asked about, what’s your favorite conditioning for martial arts sparring?

Jarlo: For me, it was sparring. I did a lot of sparring rounds because I hated doing other stuff. But actually when I was doing more stuff, I liked doing the long interval stuff. Like I would run three, four minutes, hard and then walk. And then repeat that because that fit really well. What did you like?

Andy: Well, so my martial art is pretty acrobatic. A lot of full body movement, very dynamic. And so what I would do is I basically just did intervals with our actual techniques. Some of it looks somewhat capillary-ish, somewhat wooshy-ish. And so if you are doing 20 jump spin kicks in a row, that’s pretty full body. So I would do 10 on one side, 10 on the other side. Rest a couple minutes than I do. Then I’d switch the order and do 10 on one side, 10 on the other side. So both got the fresh and entire experience. And ideally I do those against a bag because you get that little bit of resistance, which-

Jarlo: Right.

Andy: … I always said I think it depends a lot on your art too. Because when we do this for BJJ, it’s completely different.

Jarlo: And that’s the thing about this athletic performance thing is very specific. So even just saying, “I’m getting better at athletics or exercise.” You have to say, ‘Well, what is your sport?” Or, “What’s your recreational activity?” If you are ultra miler or you like to run, if you want to run a lot, you got to run a lot. You got to be on your feet. And there’s a lot of stuff with, “Oh, should you be working on aerobic capacity?” Or, “Should you be working anaerobic things?” Yes. The answer is yes. The answer is you got to do all these things, but you got to relate it to what your particular activity is. Your example is right there too. If you’re doing a lot of jumping, and spinning, and all these things, that’s got to be part of your your exercise activity or your conditioning.

Andy: You can’t simulate that with running.

Jarlo: You can simulate that.

Andy: There’s no amount of running that does that.

Jarlo: Right. So if you do like to run though, and you want to do it in terms of getting better at what you’re doing, you would have to incorporate jumping within it. You would have to incorporate that stuff that was really popular in the 70’s and 80’s where there were trails where you jump over stuff, and then you-

Andy: Cross training trails. Yeah. Right.

Jarlo: That was really good. That kind of stuff fits more into it where you have to do that. I didn’t do a lot of jumping and a lot of stuff, so I was not good at it. Straight up not good at it. But I could do other stuff really good. For like, for wrestling and for BJJ, you have to do a lot of … Because you are actively trying to get someone, moving around while you’re grabbing them. You have to do a lot of different things like that, where you’re maybe static against something because someone’s fighting back. And so a lot of the things like sandbag work, or getting up and down with a bag, or making yourself go up and down, that really fits well. And maybe you decide you want to do like these Spartan races, or these obstacle course races and that’s why a lot of that CrossFit stuff really works. That’s why they go hand in hand. I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Look at them, of course that’s going to help.”

Andy: But it’s a combination of disparate things.

Jarlo: Right. Of course. But do you think that’s necessarily going to help with, say, martial arts sparring? Or this or that? Maybe, the answer is maybe.

Andy: Very probably better than not doing anything.

Jarlo: Right. But is it really better than being really specific like you just said? Like what Andy described, or what I was saying with like, “Oh, I like long intervals because I need to be on my feet.” It bursts stuff when that when the sticks coming at you, that kind of thing. So that’s the specificity of it all. It’s specificity, man. It’s not being mediocre, it’s not whatever. It’s making the choice about where you want to expend your energy.

Andy: Right. Yeah, there’s just one more question from Sheldon here about are things like animal movements, or the kind of the movements that we show in some of our programs good for cardio? And the answer is Yeah, definitely.

Jarlo: The thing about that though … and these are … it’s the limiting factor. You have to ask yourself what the limiting factor is in, especially animal movements? And you got to see, “Will my wrist and my fingers …” and all of these things and maybe even your knees, will they be able to handle the amount of volume that you probably need to get good at cardio. So again, define the cardio thing. If you’re doing it for this general health thing, then doing elements and vitamin just by itself, is already there. You don’t have to add anything to it, you just do that. Now, if you’re looking for athletic performance and stuff, well then we do show protocols where there’s intervals, or a long, long thing.

Jarlo: I used to do that too. What I would do is I would warm up with 15 minutes of locomotion. And what I would do is I would do intersperse it. I would do a minute to two minutes straight of say the bear, and then the monkey, and the frog. But in between, I would do a minute of the bear. So what I did is I gave my joints a break, rather than doing like monkey for 20 minutes straight. And doing a particular motion for 20 minutes straight. So yes, the answer is yes. But you have to decide what you need it for and, and you have to decide will … Not decide, but you have to figure out, “What can my body handle to get the effect that I want?”

Andy: Yeah, absolutely. A lot of these things just like choosing exercises with anything, a lot of these skill based kind of movements that we tend to gravitate towards are great because they do use the whole body in a lot of different ways, which is wonderful. But there are limits to what we can take in terms of the amount of volume for our joints and things like that, because most of us don’t move like this most of the time. So you might need to reduce complexity to remove difficulty. If you’re trying to challenge yourself in terms of endurance, you don’t want to also be challenging yourself in terms of complexity at the same time. You see, you need to reduce one variable while you ramp up another. And that’s a whole different thing that goes into programming. But the short answer is that yes, you just need to make sure you’re choosing the right things for your goals.

Jarlo: Exactly. And this all becomes the limiting factor for what your specific benefit that you want out of it. And that’s why when people talk generally even in the athletic performance, reason for cardio, they still talk about cyclical things like running and, and biking, and rowing, because those are the easiest things really on your body and your joints.

Andy: Even running. Running gets a bad rap, but there’s plenty of studies that say runner’s knees are better than non runners knees, just because.

Jarlo: Right. It’s just all depends on how you built up to it and how you are able to do it. But yeah, there’s a reason why those are the cardio activities because you can do enough of it in a way that doesn’t hurt yourself to get right desired benefits.

Andy: Cool, we covered a lot of ground. But I think the most important thing is just maybe theme wise is just to know, if you’re thinking about adding cardio or changing part of what you’re doing to focus more on cardio, then you mostly just need to think about why you’re doing it and then choose the path that’s going to be the most appropriate and efficient for that. But don’t try to do something because somebody on an Instagram post told you that you need more of it.

Jarlo: Right.

Andy: This is hard. This is hard. It’s unsatisfying I know sometimes if you’re listening to this, and if you’re looking to the official GMB big brain gurus to tell you what to do with your life. And every week, we have a new podcast episode saying, “I’m going to tell you what to do with your life.” I mean, that’s not probably why you signed up for this. But-

Jarlo: Well, I think we can though, because if instead of having this pronouncement that arbitrary standards, if we can can help you ask yourself the right questions, then you’ll know. And then if you ask yourself the right question, then still have more … and then you have specificity of like, “Okay, so how can I help myself do that?” Then we can answer that for sure.

Andy: Yeah, absolutely. All right, so there you have it. We can tell you what’s right for you.

Jarlo: We can.

Andy: You just have a little legwork first.

Jarlo: Yeah, you just have to figure out the the main question yourself. Because that’s what it is, man. I don’t want to tell people what to do, because I’ll be wrong. If I
just straight up tell you what to do, I’ll be wrong.

Andy: I also have an aversion to authority. So if anyone tells me what to do, I basically do the opposite. And so the reason I try not to tell people what to do.

Jarlo: Yeah, I’m actually the same way.

Andy: Yeah. All right. Well, I think that’s it. Thank you everyone for listening. And please continue to ask questions and share this with your friends.

Jarlo: Thanks a lot, everybody.

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