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Cardio with Jill Coleman

September 13, 2013


One of my best friends in the world jut happens to be one of the best fitness experts in the world J I may be biased, but Jill Coleman has opened up my eyes and heart to following my passion for fitness. We met back in 2004 at Wake Forest University where we would meet religiously at 6:30am to train. She still teases me for being the only college student to get up that early for “fun.” We would talk about our goals of competing and gracing fitness magazines. Jill has done that and so much more already and she’s barely in her thirties!


Jill is the owner of JillFit Physiques, a business partner with her husband of Metabolic Effect, a National Xfinitiy Fitness Personality, a professional figure athlete, and a great author. Today Jill spoke with me about cardio, something I think we all have a love/hate relationship with. Here’s what she had to say.


KV: A few days ago I wrote about high intensity training and an effective cardio workout in 20 minutes. Can you tell us your philosophy on interval training and its benefits for health and physique?


JC: The bottom line when you’re talking fat loss is intensity, not duration. And though it sounds counterintuitive, the only want to boost intensity is to build in rest to your workouts—hence interval training.


The more you rest, the harder you can push. This is the basis for Metabolic Effect’s Rest-based Training (RBT) concept and for fat loss, it works great. Push until you can’t; rest until you can. Because intensity is most important for results, I usually keep pushing segments to 60 seconds or less, and rests vary from 30-90 seconds. In general, shorter and harder is best!


KV: I know from our good old days at Wake Forest, we used to be Cardio Queens, you would have the Stairmill, I'd take the treadmill, we'd switch. I think we've both experienced the down side to hours upon hours of daily cardio. Can you elaborate on why endless cardio is not beneficial to overall health and optimal metabolism?


JC: Adding more and more minutes to your cardio routine is unsustainable and can definitely damage your metabolism in the long run (especially when paired with chronically low-cal or low-carb dieting).


When you use cardio as your primary tool for fat loss, the more you do, the more you have to continue to do to stay the same size. A study came out a couple years ago that showed that for distance runners, they had to increase their mileage by a certain percent each successive year just to maintain their weight. Ugh.


In short, that kind of volume is simply unsustainable, but at that point, you are caught up in a cycle where your body expects a certain amount (is operating at a certain volume) or else you gain. Not fun. Breaking the cycle takes time and strategy. Not to mention, your metabolism becomes less and less responsive the more up and down your weight fluctuates.


One other thing to remember, is that the more cardio you do, the more your hunger and cravings increase. So the cycle becomes: do more cardio, get hungrier, eat more and then need to do more cardio to “exercise off the extra cals”—not a great place to be.


KV: Ok, so people are probably asking, how do you lose weight if you are only doing 45-60 minutes of cardio. Can you share your secret with us?


JC: I actually do a lot less than that J I focus on weight training first and foremost. I train heavy with weights 5 days a week for 30-40 minutes each. I will usually do track sprints 1-2x/week and maybe 10-20 minutes of interval training 1-2x/day, plus lots of slow, restorative leisure walking.


I’m personally at the point now that I don’t need or want to lose weight, I simply want to enjoy my workouts, do the least amount of cardio possible in order to maintain my weight and muscle mass.


But for those who are trying to lose weight, focus your energy in the kitchen. You only have so much willpower and using it up by doing hours of cardio each day leaves you with very little to resist food temptations. For fat loss, nutrition is the gross control, while exercise is the fine control.


KV: What does a week of cardio in the world of Jill Coleman look like?


JC: Monday/Tuesday/Thursday/Friday, I do the following:


10-15 minutes of interval training on either the stepmill or treadmill, followed by 30-40 minutes of heavy weight training, followed by 30-60 minutes of leisure walking (the last piece I don’t consider exercise because it’s restorative)


Wednesday: I train heavy legs by itself, plus leisure walking


Saturday: I do track sprints. Either 8 x 80m or 6 x 200m.


KV: Any advice for the annoying voice in our heads that says, you didn't do enough?


JC: The thing that always helps me maintain perspective is the fact that ultimately, I want a cardio routine that I could do forever. Two hours of cardio a day is simply unsustainable.


And if you find yourself having to clock more and more minutes to simply maintain your weight, you’re in a cardio cycle and can potentially be damaging your metabolism long term (not to mention be miserable!).


So instead, ask yourself, “Could I do this regimen forever?” and if the answer is no, then head back to the drawing board. Sustainable exercise will be a) time-conscious (not take hours), b) fun or enjoyable (you don’t dread it) and c) it will get results (remember those??). If you’re logging time on the tread, don’t forget to measure!


The right amount of cardio, in my opinion, will be the least amount you can get away with and still maintain your physique.


If you’re interested in trying my favorite INTENSE cardio interval and sprint workouts, I recently put out a workout workbook containing my tried-and-true routines: The Cardio Acceleration Workout Workbook. [link:]


Thank you Jill! Tweet at us and let us know your cardio regimen @kelleyvargo @jillfit #cardio


Have a great weekend everyone! I look forward to seeing you tomorrow!





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