Category Archives: cardio

On Keeping the Goal the Goal – Cardio edition

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I’m delighted that people are finally getting the message that cardio is not only not bad for them but it is actually essential.

For long time the fitness industry rebelled against the cardio craze of the 70’s and 80’s, taking a massive knee jerk over reaction and doing it’s best to tell everyone that cardio was bad, bad for you and all you ever need to do is lift heavy weights and sprint or do high intensity interval training.

Thankfully, and I’ll give a nod to the works of Joel Jamieson (8 Weeks out & BioForce) and James Fitzgerald of Opex.
These two lads have done great work getting the word out that of the three energy systems, the aerobic system is the foundation that underpins the others.

Stolen from

Combat athletes have known this anecdotally and instinctively since day dot.
Kettlebell Sports athletes know this implicitly.

However, when I talk to my athletes and clients about cardio, the conversation often takes a predictable path, which is why I think we need to lay out a few points on how to think about the whole topic.

And we star with a quote from the Grand Visier of strength and conditioning, Dan John.

Dan has a (one of his many) quote which goes:

“Keep the goal the goal”

So, you decide that you need better cardio because you gassed out in BJJ last night.
That’s fair.

So you go running.
Also fair.

After a few runs, you start using Strava or similar and you’re now comparing this run against the last run and looking to make progress.
Which is fair, but this is where we need to start checking ourselves.

Is the goal to be a better runner?

Probably not eh.

You’re running to achieve better cardio-vascular fitness.
You’re running for the aerobic benefits.

And by aerobic benefits we mean the ability of the heart to push large volumes of blood around and the ability of the lungs to efficiently exchange gasses (Oxygen ad CO2)
There are other considerations, but we’ll not confuse ourselves with them just yet.

In order to best train the aerobic system Phil Mafetone, an absolute authority on the subject, suggests we work at a heart rate of 180 – your age.
Now this is a guideline, there is play in this.

But go too much higher and you will be working above the aerobic threshold, which isn’t your goal.

Roadwork has been a staple of boxing training since day dot, and for good reason.

Now relate this to your Strava times.
So you ran 10k, great.
Do you NEED to run it faster?
If you run it faster are you still benefiting from what Mafetone calls “Maximal Aerobic Fitness) or MAF.

(I’m always jealous of these people that can make cool acronyms from their names!)

Am I suggesting that you put away your Strava?
Not necessarily, what I’m suggesting is you only use it after your run to get a breakdown of the session.
A Heart Rate monitor would be more useful (many HR apps will sync to Strava….) as you can see how hard you’re working.

But I still don’t like this as it can be a distraction while running.

You can use the talk test.
Essentially, if you can hold a conversation then you are in the aerobic zone. If you can only snatch at short sentences, you’re working too hard.

I also love to nasal breathe as it has a stack of secondary benefits to it as well as slowing you down to a pace that is very likely to keep you in that aerobic zone.

But first and foremost we must keep the goal the goal and not get tied up by the act of running.

If you’re simply looking for aerobic development, may I strongly suggest you also use:

Circuit training, long intervals with short breaks (45:15 works well) keeping an eye on the heart rate as you go.
Select a variety of exercises, these can include relatively light strength exercises, kettlebell work and bodyweight drills work a charm. You can also have in stationary bikes, rower, jump jacks, skipping and sport specific drills such as shadow boxing, bagwork or floor drills.

These circuits should go on for a while, I’ve done them for over an hour in the past, but 20 minutes is a good start point.

These circuits are a great time to work on skill drills, such as a guard pass, or mobility drills such as cossack switches.

After all, the goal is aerobic fitness, so the exercises are of secondary relevance, we might as well pick ones that will give us maximal benefits across as many attribute categories as possible.

Other circuit formats would be to simply do one exercise for 5 minute then move to another, and carry on for 20 minutes though to an hour and a half.
With this format, you don’t have to run from exercise to exercise, but don’t hang about either…

Or simply set a timer for X amount of time (20-90 mins) and cycle through a few exercises, for example:
Kettlebell Clean & Jerk, Crawl, Sledgehammer Slams.
Say 10 reps of each, keeping an eye on that heart rate!

A few weeks of this and you should feel like you are able to recover faster from the more intense training, that your gas tank is bigger, that you don’t hit that pain place as quickly.

And then, a few weeks out from an event, THAT is when you switch to the high intensity intervals, the heart in your mouth suck sessions.

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Dave Hedges

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The Art of Running Efficiently, Effectively and Injury Free


If you believe the internet then running is:

  • Going to make you fat and weak, cos “cardio”
  • Not natural for human beings
  • Will ruin your knees
  • Will hurt your back
  • Will cause plantar fasciitis

And a whole lot of other misconstrued, conformation bias lead claims.

Claims that are mere correlation, not causation.

If you follow my work, you will know that I approve of running.
It IS completely natural for the human being to run, to run well, to be able to run at a variety of speeds of a variety of distances.

And while it is very true that a great many runners fall victim to injury, mostly in the lower body, I believe that this has nothing to with the act of running itself and everything to do with the body being ill prepared for running.

It’s my opinion that poor biomechanics are more to blame than poor choice of shoes.
Many runners take on ambitious weekly mileages with little to no thought on how they run.

And the myths that are spouted by the running media is, well, pure mythology. Very little talk of bio mechanics, of introspectively developing a smooth, efficient style that optimises your individual attributes.
And those that do talk about running methodology, usually try to get everyone to fit into a one size fits all approach.

And I’m sure I don’t have to convince you that one size does NOT fit all.

But then through my Anatomy in Motion studies, I met a fellow practitioner named Helen Hall.
Helen, it turns out, is a running coach, a bike fitter, an accomplished Ironman Triathlete who runs the Perpetual Forward Motion School of Efficient Running (PFM)

When she launched her book “Even With Your Shoes On” I was on the waiting list and received a very early copy.
Which I devoured voraciously.

The approach laid out is anathema to the majority of other running coaches.

The PFM style is way of encouraging self learning. To offer exercises and drills that offer experiential learning with a set of progressions based on where you actually are.

A way of finding how you and your body can run without developing the issues that are “expected” in fact, because your develop “your” running, the potential is there to clear up the causes of those problems as your joints move better, in greater synchronicity, loading the correct tissues in the correct manner, ie the manner in which they have evolved to be loaded, a way that is actually built into our DNA.

That is possibly the longest sentence ever written……

Enough waffle, lets get to the point.

Helen will be in Dublin to teach this method in person for one day only.

On April 6th, 15 lucky people will spend the day with Helen, and myself of course, on a one day workshop where she will bring the information in her book to life.

The day is strictly limited to 15 places, first come, first served.
If you don’t book, I can’t promise you a place, I expect this to sell out as there’s already been interest as I’ve been setting this up.

This will tell you all about the topics we’ll be covering, the times and location and most importantly, how to secure your spot:

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You don’t have to be runner to benefit from this.

Running is superb supplementary training to develop the aerobic system for any sport. Especially for Combat Athletes and Kettlebell Sport competitors.

To please the marketing gods, here’s another booking link:

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I hope to see you there


Dave Hedges

Conditioning Made Easy part 3 – Cardiac Output or Building an Aerobic Base

Aerobic training doesn’t necessarily mean dancing around in a leotard with big hair

It’s not the 80’s any more…..

But it does need to be done.

Your cardio vascular system underpins everything else, the other cooler energy systems rely on the aerobic system for replenishment, to take over when they’re done and keep you moving forward.

In the last round of the fight, in the last quarter of that game, this is where you are going  to wish your aerobic system was better developed.

Traditionally you’ve had two choices:

Cheesy aerobics classes or long slow boring cardio (ie running/roadwork)

Roadwork has been a staple of boxing training since day dot, and for good reason.

Is that really all we have?

Hell no!

Aerobic training simply means training that emphasises the aerobic system, this is best done by keeping the heart rate in the 70-80% of max for an extended period of time, at least 20 minutes up to a few hours.

How you do that is completely up to you.

The most fundamental of all aerobic practice is known as Cardiac Output training.
This is what we think if as endurance work like running or cycling.
In reality the method is unimportant, it is the response in the body that we are looking for.

Cardiac output is just that, the volume of blood the heart can pump out in a single beat.

Training at around 120 to 150 bpm for at least 30 minutes (up to 90+ minutes) helps develop this ability to pump more blood per beat.

Suggested exercises for this:
Skipping, Jogging, Cycling, Kettlebell Swings, Indian Club Swinging, Mace Swinging, Shadow Boxing, technique work specific to your sport, light weights moved though large ranges (curl and press, squats, lunges etc).

Even walking at a fast pace is great for this.

You can change exercise as often as you wish, maybe every 45 seconds, maybe every 5 minutes or anything in between.
You may do a single activity, you may lay out several.

Pick exercises that are as relevant as possible, so runners, run. Swimmers swim. Fighters punch and kick or do animal flow type drills. If it’s the end of the week and you’re knackered, just walk or string together a series of mobility exercises.

Here’s the kicker, push too far above 150bpm and it’s currently thought that the heart chambers don’t have enough time to fill up to capacity and receive the stretch we’re looking for.

It’s a good idea to wear a heart rate monitor to prevent you driving too hard, but in time you’ll get a feel for the required intensity.

A sure fire way to keep the intensity down is to keep the mouth shut and breathe solely through the nose.

Very often I personally cycle, run or skip while holding a tea spoon of liquid in my mouth (usually olive oil, sometimes salt water). This ensures I keep the mouth closed.
The added bonus of this it helps keep our sinuses hydrated and reduces mucus production, you may find you are snotting everywhere at the start, but after a few session, you’ll be breathing easier than ever before.


Nasal breathing carries the added bonus of having a more direct stimulation of of the diaphragm so you use more of the lung.
You will also benefit from the stimulation of Nitric Oxide (NO) in the sinuses, this is a vaso dilator which means it opens the blood vessels and further aids in the development of cardiovascular efficiency or aerobic fitness.

If you can make you’re own NO, then there’s NO need to wasting your money and shit like this:

Get in anything from 1-3 cardiac output session per week and see how much better you feel.
You should find you recover faster from more intense training, you tire less quickly and generally feel like you can go all day.

I’ll talk more on Aerobic development in the next installment of this series, there are other factors to consider, such as stimulating mitochondrial development or cardiac threshold work.


Dave Hedges

Sweep the leg. Do you have a problem with that?

It’s on TV now, I’m sat here mucking around online while the missus is sat flicking through TV channels, guess what she found, hang on it’s the final……..

……………Go on Danny Laruso!! That’s right, The Karate Kid!

Anyway back to the point, 21 years ago I was sat on the sofa, aged 10 watching this same film. Within the month I was training. I had joined the local karate school (St Martins Jnr Karate Club, under Sensei Jack Parker) and finally started something.

This had a major effect me. Karate was one of the few things I really stuck at as a kid. As I grew up, all the other lads grew out, I was a beanpole. While I cycled everywhere, I wasn’t strong. Around the time I was 16/17, Jack turned to me and said that if I wanted to continue improving to black belt standard and to stand a chance in the tournaments.

As a result I asked my mates on the school rowing squad if I could join their gym sessions, they asked their coach and a new era started.

We had two gym sessions per week, the lads obviously had other sessions out on the water, I ran and practiced karate. Plus we’d meet once or twice a week for a session on the ergo’s (what we called the concept 2 rowers, still my machine of choice)
One session was “light day” consisting of Pyramids, the other session was “Heavy day” using 3×10. The exercises were always:
Leg Press, Bench Pull, Power Cleans and bench press. I think that was all, there were certainly no isolation’s!

It’s the warm ups i really liked though. A 20 minute circuit that would make Steve Maxwell blanch, then onto the weights.

Now, I realise it wasn’t the most scientific training we could have done, but we got results!
I put on a little weight, but got much much stronger with conditioning to match, got my black belt and fought for my country. The rowing squad were in the top 15 in the country.

When I need to train up for something these days, I always look back to those days, my first gym experience. Although I know much more now, it was the heart and soul we put into the training, it was the basic exercise selection, it was the high intensity circuits.

I look around the Gym I work in and see the girlie boys spending over an hour trying to get from a b cup to a c cup while I’m in and out in less than an hour, full body done, heavy weights moved and heart in the mouth intense cardio ( I like to finish with a 4 minute tabata after a strength workout). I could never get my head around bodybuilding.

I got into training to improve my martial arts, I continue training to improve not only my martial arts but everything else I do. If strength isn’t functional can it truly be called strength?

Fuck it, the sun’s shining, the Karate Kid won his fight and I’m in the mood to get out into the garden and do some training of my own. Bodyweight only, cos I took my Kettlebells to the gym.

Lets go


Wild Geese
any cause but our own

The Road to No Where

Weight Loss, fat burning and better body composition – Wild Geese Style!

Talking heads said it best when they sang “I’m on the road to nowhere”, endless miles pounded out on the treadmill/bike/crosstrainer/[insert machine of choice here], and the results………

Now be honest……

Yeah, I guessed it, pretty minimal. I’m a personal trainer in a city centre gym and I see the same faces coming in and doing the same thing day in day out, how do they look? same as they did last week and the week before that!

Don’t believe the hype:
· Fat burning zone – Really? So why have you still got that spare tyre?
· Weights make you big/bulky/slow – Go home and watch some sport on TV, every professional athlete will have trained with some form of resistance training, are they big/bulky/slow?

Have you ever heard of EPOC? Probably not, I hadn’t untill a few years ago.

Here it is:

It’s the amount of Oxygen your body uses AFTER your workout. Simply put, more is consumed because your body is burning more calories, more calories burned equals greater fat loss. World renowned fat loos expert and author Craig Ballantyne calls this “turbulence”, read about it on

Aerobic training and the “fat loss zone” do burn fat, but do not induce the EPOC effect. Pretty much as soon as you’ve cooled down, your metabolism returns to normal and you are in a resting state. However, high intensity training, for shorter durations will induce EPOC, you cool down after an intense interval and your metabolism will remain jacked for up to 30 or 40 hours after. In other words, you’re still burning calories when your at home on the sofa watching Eastenders!
Proof? Well seeing is believing, get a picture of a sprinter and a picture of a marathon runner, I know who I’d rather look like.

If you want to boost your metabolism even further, lift weights, and I’m talking Bodyweight, Kettlebells, Bar or Dumbbells. Just, please, forget body part splits, get your whole body done and dusted in a single workout, 2-3 times a week. Resistance training will shape and tone the body, making more aesthetically pleasing, further boost the metabolism and burn calories, improve bone density and release mood enhancing endorphins (so does sex & chocolate, but that’s another story!)

Wild Geese
any cause but our own

Why Cardio Doesn’t Work for Fat Loss

Here’s an article I picked up from my favorite fat loss specialist. Craig Ballantyne uses what he call “Turbulence” ie the post exercise calorie burn to strip fat off his victims. This is done with the use of intense interval training as opposed to the regular long slow cardio sessions.
Wild Geese also use intense interval training, not for fat loss, but because it delivers the fastest results for increasing endurance and improving recovery time, essential for any martial artist or fighter.
Either way ou look at it, intervals work, the following article is an explanation of

Why Cardio Doesn’t Work For Fat Loss By: Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS

Cardio exercise is such a strange thing. In theory, it should work
so perfectly well for all men and women, but as anyone who has
tried it knows, the practicality of it just doesn’t add up.

After all, some men and women do cardio 6 hours, 9 hours, or more per week, and still have belly fat to burn. On the other hand, it works just fine for others.

British researchers wanted to get more insight into this paradox, and studied 35 overweight men and women, who weren’t previously exercising.

(Reference: International Journal of Obesity 32: 177-184, 2008).

Subjects exercised 5 times per week for 12 weeks. That’s a lot of
exercise, but it helped the subjects lose an average of 8.2 pounds, which is great – I was positively surprised by the results.

So cardio will work for some people, however, in my experience, it works best in young men, who need the help the least!

Back to the study, the variance in fat loss between individuals was huge. Check this out…

The best subject lost a staggering 32.3 pounds in 12 weeks, while the worst subject actually GAINED 3.74 pounds.

The scientists think they know where things went sour. They
classified the subjects into 2 groups, called the “Compensators”
and the “Non-compensators”.

The Compensators were hungrier, and as a result consumed an extra 268 calories per day, all but wiping out their cardio efforts.

Therefore, the Compensators lost the least amount of weight, and scientists believe that was due to the huge “compensatory” increase in appetite experienced by this group.

Does your appetite increase when you do slow cardio? If it does,
research shows it will ruin your cardio efforts.

So if your cardio program is not working for you, check your
appetite and calorie intake to see if you are “compensating” for
your efforts. If you are, you might be better off using a program
of high-intensity resistance and interval training (i.e. Turbulence Training) for your weight loss efforts.

As Australian Professor Steve Boucher has shown in research,
interval training increases hormones called catecholamines. And
increased catecholamines can reduce appetite, among other fat-
burning benefits.

In the real world, few people lose 33 pounds after 12 weeks of
cardio. Heck, few even achieve an average weight loss of 8 pounds with aerobic exercise.

So again, check your appetite, and consider giving high-intensity
exercise a go for your next workout program.

Beat the curse of cardio with high-intensity Turbulence Training.

Craig Ballantyne, CSCS, MS
Author, Turbulence Training

About the Author

Learn about the “Dark Side of Cardio” in the free report from Craig Ballantyne at Craig is a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and writes for Men’s Health, Men’s Fitness, Maximum Fitness, Muscle and Fitness Hers, and Oxygen magazines. His trademarked Turbulence Training fat loss workouts have helped thousands of men and women around the world lose fat, gain muscle, and get lean in less than 45 minutes three times per week. For more information on the Turbulence Training workouts that will help you burn fat without long, slow cardio sessions or fancy equipment, visit

Wild Geese
any cause but our own