Do you? Why? For who? Why do you feel like you need to do more cardio? Do you feel unfit? Are you training for a marathon, or are you suffering from a deep inner adequacy of being enough? Certainly not a question I can answer for you.
Cardio for the sake of cardio isn't necessarily meaningless. You might simply enjoy the endorphin buzz - for example, runners will understand this. But if you think you have to drag yourself by the ears onto the stair master... think again.
More doesn't equal better. Let's establish our objectives here - is the question "do I need to increase my aerobic capacity", or "do I need to establish a calorie deficit?"
If you are seeking performance-based goals, then the best thing to do would be to get a periodised, strategic training plan in place - there is no point going on bits of kit for random periods of time and hoping that it will somehow get you closer to your goals. Sure, you'll get a kick out of it, and you certainly won't lose fitness from it - but mindless execution isn't conducive to personal bests. Plus, without proper metrics such as pacing, heart rate, etc. etc. it is very difficult to measure progress and create structure as you're basing all your training on the relative question of:
'How hard am I working?'
This, again, is very vague as the answer can and will be influenced by your emotional state and life factors ("I'm tired", "I'm fed up", "I'm not feeling my best").
A similar concept applies if you are on a weight loss journey. If you are using cardio as your main weapon when creating a calorie deficit, then you may very well find yourself needing to eventually do more, more and more. Our body's primary goal is survival - we adapt to cardiovascular training very quickly, becoming more and more 'efficient' in terms of calorie burn. Which means: over time, certain physiological adaptations occur which lead to less calories expended at the same intensity and duration of your cardio. For example, say you are currently going on the cross-trainer six times a week for thirty minutes at level six, and burning around 250 calories a pop. In three weeks time, this might become 200 calories a session, and decrease over time as your thirty minutes starts feeling easier and easier. Congratulations, you have adapted. This doesn't mean you're not burning calories - it just means that to burn more, you're going to have to... well, work harder. But unless you are somehow measuring effort and output, there is no accurate way of gauging how much harder and/or how much longer.
How quickly this happens depends on your individual situation, but it is bound to happen, and you are left with no choice but to either:
- Increase the duration of your sessions
- Increase the intensity of your sessions
- Drop your calories through food
In addition to the prior, if you are doing random, sporadic sessions of cardio throughout the week, there is no consistency in your calorie expenditure and therefore no consistent weight loss. If you find yourself stuck in a cardio loop, the best thing to do would be to take a step back reassess your training. How much cardio are you doing every week, especially in proportion to resistance training? The internet has been screaming about this in the past couple of years - abandoning cardio in favour of weights when it comes to weight loss. I believe that in a well-balanced fitness protocol, there can be room for both and there needs to be room for both. But only in a thought-out, well-balanced protocol.
Instead of doing more cardio, here are three things you can do:
1.GET MORE STEPS IN
1000 steps a day burns anywhere from 20 to 50 extra calories, and is easier to obtain than it might initially seem. Walking is one of the most low-impact, easy ways of burning calories and remaining active. Short walks here and there, park your car further away from the shop, you've heard it all before - so set yourself a realistic step goal (anywhere from 8000 and above is ideal), and try to stick to it. If you know that on the weekend you've got both time and energy to go on a long walk, set your goal a little higher but the key is to adhere to it weekend after weekend, and auto-regulate the numbers based on your weight loss progress. For example, if you've stalled, add 2000 every day - that's 100 calories extra burnt per day and over the course of the week, 700.
2.DIAL IN YOUR DIET
Unfortunately, you can step, cardio and train your soul out but if you wipe out your hard work with a 'well-deserved' Starbucks muffin and grande latte, you might as well have spared yourself the hour's of work and simply not had the 'treat'. Without an accurate track of what you're consuming exactly, you're spinning your wheels and just wasting time. Download a calorie tracking app, keep a food diary, buy a scale, whatever - unless you really hone in on what you're putting in, you will be stuck in the loop of 'I'll just burn it all off' forever.
3. FOCUS ON PRODUCTIVE WEIGHT TRAINING
The more metabolically active tissue you have on your frame, the more calories you burn at rest - this is not news, this is just science. Lean muscle tissue. Difficult to obtain, but does wonders for your health and calorie expenditure at rest. Granted, you will burn far less calories during a hypertrophy-based gym session than a long-duration cardio one. But in the long run, as you accumulate more and more muscle, you will rev up your metabolic rate and find the whole process of creating a calorie deficit a lot easier.
Here is the thing. Strip back the obscurity - get a piece of paper, and write down a layout of your past training week. Paper doesn't lie - write down the time, the intensity, the movements you've done; then, write down and calculate out what you ate. Be relentless and brutal. Was it really a tablespoon of peanut butter, or was it more like half the jar? Once you've laid all of this out, assess how many times you are consistently able to make it to the gym, and decide how best to spend that time - consult me to create a well-rounded resistance training plan, and only then build your steps and cardio around that.