My Voice - 2019


Cardiovascular Fitness is Integral

By Kamal Darji

When I was in the army, specifically the Infantry, much to my chagrin we would go on long distance runs and/or alternate with sprints for physical training. It was a rare occurrence when we were authorized to go to the gym as a squad or platoon for PT.

As a result of the aforementioned redundancy, I began to develop an intense hatred for running of any kind. Most of the people in leadership positions were lean in build and looked like the poster boys for any cover of any running magazine. Even though seasoned vets of multiple combat deployments would point out the benefits of switching up the training, a lot of those suggestions would fall by the wayside and the physical training program essentially became a runner's dream.

The schedule would be something along the lines of running 5-8 miles on Monday, doing sprints on Tuesday, running 3-5 miles on Wednesday, and Thursday and Friday would be a variation of something related to running.

After I finished my contract and left the Army; more often than not, I would go to the gym and proceed to lift weights. Over time, I became quite consistent in that regard; however, my routine was devoid of a cardio workout as the Army had simply filled me with an intense and deep-seated hatred at the very thought of cardio.

The turning point would come one evening at my parents' house. I was helping my sister move boxes upstairs to their bedroom. After I had reached the top of the stairs, I was breathing similar to someone who had just finished running a few miles at a decent pace. As a former soldier and as someone who values fitness, it was quite embarrassing that climbing up a flight of stairs had left me so winded. My sister even made a remark about how my breathing was rather labored for just having gone up a flight of stairs. Needless to say, this sparked something inside of me and I decided it was time to get my cardiovascular fitness back on track.

Cardiovascular fitness is often called aerobic fitness and it is distinguishable in comparison to other forms of fitness due to two factors.

The first being that it increases the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to one's working muscles. Moreover, it enhances the aforementioned muscles' ability to provide adequate energy for movement.

Aerobic exercise is used to describe any rhythmic and continuous activity that includes the simultaneous use of multiple large muscle groups. The main thing this does is that it challenges the heart and lungs making them work harder than when they're at rest. Pertinent examples of aerobic fitness include running, jogging, cycling, swimming, brisk walking and aerobic dancing.

Research has shown that people with a high level of cardiovascular fitness have low blood pressure and decreased levels of LDL or “bad" cholesterol. Furthermore, the aforementioned demographic possesses a higher level of HDL or “good" cholesterol. This grants them more energy, more stamina, and an endorphin release that helps regulate their overall mood.

There are many different forms of cardio and the benefits of each are well documented. However, I personally prefer high intensity interval training or HIIT as opposed to running around my neighborhood for 30-45 minutes. You can execute HIIT on either the treadmill or you can do it outside, weather permitting. More often than not, I perform HIIT on the treadmill.

The way it works is I sprint all-out or as fast as I can for 30 seconds making sure I really push it. For me, the speed I start sprinting at the on the treadmill is 10.2. After that, you recover by jogging or walking for a minute to two minutes until your heart rate returns to almost normal. I walk at a speed of four on the treadmill to recover. Then you do another set and I usually do 8-10 repetitions of this. The speed that one utilizes for sprinting on the treadmill is going to vary by fitness level. As a result, it is important to start at lower speeds to get your body somewhat accustomed and then you can gradually build up over time.

I prefer HIIT because it really engages you and you really feel the intensity as your heart rate is going to reach higher levels than normal. Furthermore, it is convenient as you can do it just about anywhere without any equipment and it burns more calories in a shorter amount of time. With that being said, I have learned that in relation to fitness, everyone finds their niche, so to speak. Therefore, some people are proponents of long-distance runs and steady state cardio for a prolonged period of time. The point is to get out there and do something even if it's walking around your neighborhood. I think it's best to have a mixture of both as the redundancy can get to you at times.

It is not always easy to find time for exercise as one's problems and responsibilities often take up a lot of the time; however, this is not an excuse to neglect one's health. Just like many things in life, there has to be an effort and one has to have the bigger picture in mind. With consistent exercise, one's life quality can greatly improve and that energy is transferred to other areas of life as well. There is only one Usain Bolt, but even you can take steps to ensure your health, and, in essence, your future.

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Kamal Darji enjoys lifting weights, reading, and long walks on the beach filled with bad puns.