3

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Is the couch-to-5-k program "enough" cardio without the problems of "chronic cardio"?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created January 03, 2011 at 5:03 PM

I haven't been particularly athletic for well over a decade now, but I'd like to get back to it. In the past year or so I have read (ok, skimmed) various posts in the Paleo blogosphere about the problems of "chronic cardio" and the superiority of short intense exercises, but I'm not at all confident that I understand the issues. So, for those who have looked into this more deeply, would something like the Couch to 5K program - in which one ends up running for about 30 minutes at a stretch - be getting into chronic cardio territory? I'm not really going for ultra-marathon types of fitness here; 5k seems like more than enough distance to be able to cover at any one time. Is this level of cardio "safe"? And why would greater intensity be more effective at achieving it? Thanks.

(reference: http://www.fromcouchto5k.com/articles/training/the-couch-to-5k-training-plan/)

15480ad0efe9168bc518967b9a2e240d

(608)

on January 26, 2012
at 05:37 PM

@Laura - I am also doing that program. Have you been following her nutrition guidelines? I am not and wondering if it makes a difference...

2c66c95d8234cf850b1981c9edcd6b4a

(253)

on September 27, 2011
at 01:15 PM

good question! I have been wondering when the chronic cardio wall starts. I have been following Jamie Easons twelve week trainer on bodybuilding.com and after the first month we are supposed to start cardio (bout a half hour 4 days a week) and I was wondering if this was chronic. Thanks for asking it for me! :-D

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 03, 2011
at 08:33 PM

"My" program just means lifting 2-4x + conditioning 1-3x per week. =) 5k is indeed a reasonable goal. However, being able to complete a 5k doesn't make you fit, or even healthy. In short: if you physically can't run a 5K now, then C25k will yield a net gain in health. But, you will probably get *bigger and better* gains from lifting, and adding a little conditioning here and there. The reason is that you will build muscle; lose fat; gain strength, power, speed, mobility. As a novice, you'll even gain some endurance. C25k won't gain much muscle; it may actually burn muscle.

C1ea79115a062250a7263764797faa30

(851)

on January 03, 2011
at 07:23 PM

See this is what I don't understand and was trying to avoid by asking this question. I had thought that if this was *not* chronic cardio that it would not get into the realm of being detrimental to other health aspects. I'm not thinking that endurance is *more* important than other aspects, just that a 5k endurance is a reasonable goal. Also what is your program? Do you have a link that explains it? Thanks.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 03, 2011
at 05:41 PM

Plus, as I argued above, the benefits gained from a strength program are probably more important for health and longevity. Strength and mobility are critical for long-term health and quality of life (freedom from pain, ability to care for yourself). Endurance is not nearly as important. I am heavily biased toward strength training, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 03, 2011
at 05:38 PM

Maybe I should have put this in my original response. It's not necessarily true that short+intense is "better" -- especially for newbies (or people just getting back into a fitness program). But it is arguably true that a strength training + short conditioning program will get you MANY MORE benefits than the C25K. My program will get you increased strength, power, flexibility, coordination, balance, and will also contribute to your endurance. The C25K program will only really benefit your endurance and may actually be detrimental to strength, power, and flexibility. More bang for your buck. =)

C1ea79115a062250a7263764797faa30

(851)

on January 03, 2011
at 05:32 PM

To clarify, I was planning on doing both strength training and cardio conditioning, and this was what I was thinking of doing for the latter. I'm completely willing to shift my plans to a better program, I just don't understand why brief, occasional and intense is better than this. :/ Better ideas welcome, BTW, to everyone.

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2 Answers

2
7e746be2f0e550a8cd7df881322ae705

on January 03, 2011
at 05:20 PM

I've recommended C25K to lots of people that need to be eased into a new state of fitness. If you haven't been active at all, it really helps to have such a specific program outlined.

Once you are comfortable moving your body, adding in interval or strength training once a twice a week will be key to continuing your progress.

2
77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 03, 2011
at 05:14 PM

Seems ok to me. Looks like 3-4 days a week, 25-30 minutes of running at most, and only toward the end of the ten weeks.

For the purposes of developing general fitness in an untrained individual, I think this program is vastly inferior to basic strength training + brief and occasional conditioning, but hey, I guess people have different goals.

Something like the C25K program is useful for making people feel like they accomplished something they felt they couldn't do (which is very valuable).* Strength training + occasional conditioning is more useful for long-term health and quality of life improvements (IMO).

You could do worse than C25K. You could do a lot better.

To end the editorializing and to answer your actual question, I wouldn't worry about this being chronic cardio. It lasts 10 weeks and has you running for relatively brief periods, coupled with built-in walking intervals. The question is, what are you going to do AFTER you finish the C25K program? =)

*Just want to make clear: if you choose to do C25K, I think this is a VERY valid reason to do it. The psychological/emotional aspects of a training program are important, and often overlooked.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 03, 2011
at 05:38 PM

Maybe I should have put this in my original response. It's not necessarily true that short+intense is "better" -- especially for newbies (or people just getting back into a fitness program). But it is arguably true that a strength training + short conditioning program will get you MANY MORE benefits than the C25K. My program will get you increased strength, power, flexibility, coordination, balance, and will also contribute to your endurance. The C25K program will only really benefit your endurance and may actually be detrimental to strength, power, and flexibility. More bang for your buck. =)

C1ea79115a062250a7263764797faa30

(851)

on January 03, 2011
at 05:32 PM

To clarify, I was planning on doing both strength training and cardio conditioning, and this was what I was thinking of doing for the latter. I'm completely willing to shift my plans to a better program, I just don't understand why brief, occasional and intense is better than this. :/ Better ideas welcome, BTW, to everyone.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 03, 2011
at 05:41 PM

Plus, as I argued above, the benefits gained from a strength program are probably more important for health and longevity. Strength and mobility are critical for long-term health and quality of life (freedom from pain, ability to care for yourself). Endurance is not nearly as important. I am heavily biased toward strength training, so take all of this with a grain of salt.

C1ea79115a062250a7263764797faa30

(851)

on January 03, 2011
at 07:23 PM

See this is what I don't understand and was trying to avoid by asking this question. I had thought that if this was *not* chronic cardio that it would not get into the realm of being detrimental to other health aspects. I'm not thinking that endurance is *more* important than other aspects, just that a 5k endurance is a reasonable goal. Also what is your program? Do you have a link that explains it? Thanks.

77732bf6bf2b8a360f523ef87c3b7523

(6157)

on January 03, 2011
at 08:33 PM

"My" program just means lifting 2-4x + conditioning 1-3x per week. =) 5k is indeed a reasonable goal. However, being able to complete a 5k doesn't make you fit, or even healthy. In short: if you physically can't run a 5K now, then C25k will yield a net gain in health. But, you will probably get *bigger and better* gains from lifting, and adding a little conditioning here and there. The reason is that you will build muscle; lose fat; gain strength, power, speed, mobility. As a novice, you'll even gain some endurance. C25k won't gain much muscle; it may actually burn muscle.

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