Wise Eats Guide to Cardio

When I first got into fitness back in 2009, I lost 90lbs mostly by running, since it was all I knew. Years later, once I decided to get in great shape and optimize my health instead of focusing only on weight loss, I turned to popular programs like P90X and Insanity, but those didn’t work for me. I assumed that the more cardio I did, the better shape I would get in. WRONG. I wasted a tremendous amount of time and energy working in programs that failed to get results, but I did learn one important lesson along the way: to absolutely fall in LOVE with working out. And that’s what I’m hoping to help you do today.

That’s me doing P90X in 2013. I had so much to learn!

In this article, I’m going to discuss the benefits of cardiovascular exercise, how much of it you should do, what types I recommend, share my current routine, and help you decide what type of cardio is right for YOU.

Benefits of Cardio

Cardiovascular fitness, whether it be from low, moderate, or high-intensity, has amazing benefits:

  • Burns calories to maintain a healthy energy balance
  • Improves heart health
  • Increases lung capacity
  • Reduces risk of heart attack, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and cancer
  • Boosts energy and mood
  • Helps you sleep better

The question is, what kind of cardio should you be doing and how often? Well, that depends on your fitness level and goals. The first step is evaluating your current state of health and physical abilities/limitations, for which you should consult a doctor. Assuming you’ve already done that and are good to go, let’s proceed.

After I lost 90lbs, I jumped from program to program and yo-yo dieted for years. I had no idea what I was doing.

Here’s how I look at it:

  • If your goal is to build muscle and improve your physique, focus your attention on weight lifting 3-6 days per week and minimize cardio to 1-3 days per week.
  • If your goal is to run a race or improve cardiovascular endurance, focus on cardio and minimize strength training.
  • If your goal is improving overall health and fitness, use a mix of strength training and cardio.

How Much Cardio Should You Do?

If you’re anything like I was back in the day, your idea of starting a fitness routine involves spending countless hours running on a treadmill or some other piece of cardio equipment. Well, I’m here to tell you that those days are OVER.

I got myself in the best shape of my life doing very little “cardio”. Currently, I average about 10,000 steps a day, lift weights 3-6 days per week, and stay lean by doing just that. Of course, I throw in some cardio to maintain health and because I love it, but if you don’t want to, that’s perfectly fine, and here’s why:

Traditional cardio is NOT REQUIRED to achieve an athletic physique.

That said, it does help and can be great for your health. Here are the general recommendations from the American College of Sports Medicine:

  • At least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise (40-60% of HRR) on 5 or more days a week (150 minutes total) or
  • 20-25 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise (60-85% of HRR) on 3 or more days per week (75 minutes total)

Deciding on how much cardio depends entirely on your goals and current fitness level. My moderate/high intensity cardio is limited to 1-3 days per week when focused on building muscle. If I were focused on cardiovascular endurance, I would be doing cardio 3-6 days per week. The duration and intensity are going to vary substantially from person to person.

Doing some HIIT in the backyard with my best bud

What Type of Cardio Should You Do?

The most important question when it comes to deciding what type of cardio to do is WHAT ARE YOU WILLING TO DO? What gets you excited to move?

If the answer is “nothing gets me excited to work out”, that just means you haven’t found the right form of exercise yet. But you’ll get there!

Exercise can be as simple or complex as you want to make it. Most humans simply need to get out and GO FOR WALKS. It starts there. I walk every single day and it’s my FAVORITE FORM OF EXERCISE. Add some stretching, foam rolling, and some core routines/mobility. That’s my “cardio” on most days.

So, what type of cardio should YOU do? The answer is simple:


Kettlebell HIIT in the sun might be my very favorite form of cardio

Cardio doesn’t have to be boring or torturous. I ultimately fell in love with exercise around 2015 doing an at-home cardio/weight lifting program called UFC Fit. It worked great for me because I could do everything at home, the workouts were unique, challenging, and got me in incredible shape. I absolutely love the program and still do some of the workouts to this day, because they get me EXCITED to work out and make me feel great.

Today, my favorite forms of cardio are:

  1. Walking
  2. Biking
  3. HIIT with kettlebells, dumbbells, barbells, running
  4. UFC Fit – Great for cardio, mobility, endurance and full-body strength

Obviously, the options for cardio are endless. Here are some other ideas:

  1. Swimming
  2. Jump Rope
  3. Group fitness class
  4. Group sports
  5. Elliptical
  6. Stair climber
  7. Rowing
  8. In-Home workout programs like P90X, Insanity, Body Beast
  9. YouTube

There is something out there you’ll love to do, I promise. You just have to find what resonates with you. But don’t stop there.

The truth is, cardio is great, but if you really want to make permanent improvements to your physique, resistance training is the way to go.

Lifting weights at home whenever possible!

And you don’t have to get too crazy with it. You’re not going to get big and bulky if you lift weights; I PROMISE. Even just 1 day of resistance training per week can make a big impact, especially if you’re a beginner or coming off a long break. If you have more time, dedicate 2-6 days per week if you’re really serious. But, 1-3 days per week is PERFECT for a beginner.

I know we’re dealing with cardio, but weight lifting really is where you’re going to get your best bang for your buck, so I urge you to consider making that the focus of your exercise time.

My History & Current Routine

I originally lost 90lbs strictly through calorie restriction and cardio

I began my fitness journey back in 2009 at 270lbs and virtually no muscle. I did a whole bunch of running, some weights here and there, and consumed a mostly junk/processed food diet. I lost 90lbs by restricting calories and doing endless amounts of cardio, but at the end of it I was just sick, skinny and unhealthy. Once I focused on healthy nutrition and consistent weight lifting, it completely changed my life.

I might’ve lost weight but I didn’t transform my physique just by doing cardio!

Ten years later, after a ton of hard work, here’s what my current exercise routine looks like. This isn’t exactly what I believe YOU should be doing, because you’re at a different level of fitness than I am and may have different goals. This is to give you some ideas on where and when to incorporate exercise into your own life. You can do something very similar based your time availability, goals, and skill level.

The schedule below is based on a 5-day “body part split” weight lifting routine. I also switch it up to a 3-day, full body routine or several other combinations depending on my current situation and goals:




Getting fit should be FUN!




  • Morning: Fasted Walking, Constant Walking Throughout the Day, 20-min Stretch/Mobility
  • Afternoon: 20-30min HIIT Cardio Session: Kettlebells or UFC Fit
  • Evening: Relax, Stretch, Walk


  • Active Recovery: Walking All Day
  • Rest, Stretch, Mobility
  • Cold Baths, Cold Showers, Foam Rolling

All Day, Every Day

  • Staying Hydrated
  • Moving Constantly
  • Eating Real Food
  • Going to Bed Early
  • Resting Fully
  • Minimizing Stress
  • Minimizing Poison

The bottom line is, I stay in great shape without doing a ton of “cardio”. I remain fairly lean all year and have an athletic physique. In the above routine, I’m only doing moderate-high intensity cardio once per week!

And it’s all because I focus on WEIGHT LIFTING, which is so much more efficient and beneficial than cardio in my opinion. Both are important for your overall health, however.

Again, finding something you love to do or that you will do consistently is the key. I can recommend the latest and greatest workout program for you, but if you’re not going to do it, what’s the point?

So, that’s my crash course on cardio. I hope you enjoyed reading it. If I left something out or you have additional questions, feel free to hit me up at WiseEatsPodcast@gmail.com. You can also follow me on Instagram @weswisefitness.

If you want some workout ideas, I have several HIIT-style kettlebell routines over at Wise-Eats.com/Workout. When I’m ready to break a sweat, these are some of my favorites. I also have a quick start guide to weightlifting there if that’s something you think you’re ready to try.

To stay plugged into all the different stuff I put out, whether it be podcasts, articles, videos, head over to WiseChoiceNation.com and sign up for my free mailing list.

Take care, thanks for reading, and make wise choices!

Doing some UFC Fit in the backyard!

Why Every Human Should Lift Weights

As discussed on Episode 6 of the Wise Eats Podcast

There’s something I wish someone had told me when I first started working out: Stop doing so much cardio and start lifting heavy weights more consistently. Resistance training is the most effective way to lose body fat, build muscle, and achieve that healthy physique most of us desire. Don’t get me wrong: I love cardio. I lost 90lbs mostly by running my butt off. Eventually, I got into the best shape of my life by doing high intensity cardio at home with bodyweight movements. I used P90X, Insanity, Body Beast, UFC Fit, whatever I could get my hands on. Those kinds of routines are convenient to do at home and far better than doing nothing. But if you want to make the biggest change in the shortest amount of time, resistance training is your best option, especially if you’re not currently lifting weights regularly. If you’re a newbie, you have the added benefit of making significant progress very quickly. You can also burn fat and build muscle at the same time, which is the perfect recipe for achieving the body of your dreams.

Find Your Exercise Passion

So, what actually is the best workout program for you? In short, it’s whatever you’re able and willing to do, and do consistently. Any exercise program is better than no exercise program. If you’re currently doing nothing, you better stop what you’re doing right now and go for a walk around the block. Seriously, walking is one of easiest and very best things you can do for your body. I actually used to believe walking was pointless. It’s so natural and easy, how could it really be good for you? Well, turns out it’s extremely good for you, and you can do it anytime, anywhere. So, why not start there? Walk for at least a mile. If it takes you 25 minutes to do, fine. Just do it again tomorrow, and get it done one minute faster. A little bit better every time is the key with all forms of exercise.

Weight Lifting is a GAME CHANGER

Now, if you’re looking for something a bit more intense than walking, I believe weight lifting is the answer. I can’t recommend any form of exercise more passionately. Sure, I love biking, swimming, running, kettlebells, stretching, foam rolling, and yoga. They all play a part in optimization, but nothing beats moving heavy weights. No matter what exercise routine you’re following or fitness goal you have, resistance training can help you get there faster. Even if you want to run a marathon, you can incorporate high intensity training with dumbbells or circuit training with a variety of resistance movements. I once trained for a 5k almost exclusively by doing dumbbell cardio workouts in my living room. I just did it for fun, and finished top 5 for my age group! Obviously, a 5k is no marathon, but you get the idea.

Lifting weights not only can improve your cardiovascular fitness, but it will also help you burn more body fat because the benefits last for hours beyond just the actual work out. I’m going to get more into cardio in future episodes, but if you want to know what I think the best workout program is for you, it’s definitely one that incorporates resistance training. If you only have 30 minutes for a workout, you’re going to get much more accomplished by using that time for lifting weights than you would with any other exercise.

So, we’ve established that I love weight lifting and believe it’s the best way to get fit, but the perfect exercise routine for you depends entirely upon your goals. If your goal is to get a lean, sculpted body, then you want to lift weights regularly to build strength and muscle. If your goal is to run a race in the fastest time, you want to be doing high intensity cardio workouts. If you’re into just general wellness and want to be more functional, then go with full body movements, stretching routines, and yoga. Like I said, it’s all part of the puzzle, you just have to identify what your primary goal is and find your passion. Let me know what YOUR goal is by e-mailing wiseeatspodcast@gmail.com or leaving a comment on this YouTube video.


Weight Lifting Routines & Tips

Alright, let’s say you’re ready to buy into the whole weight lifting thing. Awesome. What should your routine look like? Although there are countless ways to go about it, you can make significant progress by lifting weights at least 3 days a week and focusing the bulk of your energy on the four major compound lifts: squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead shoulder press. I recommend doing at least 3 heavy sets of 3 different full body movements per workout. That’s 9 sets all together and can be accomplished in 30-60 minutes. That’s really all you need. For example, on leg day, you would do 3 sets of barbell squats, followed by 3 sets of walking lunges, followed by 3 sets of split squats or leg presses. 9 total sets is very doable and you can make huge progress doing just that. For each set, the 4-6 rep range is great for men and the 8-10 rep range is ideal for women. And for those of you who don’t know, a set is just the number of times you perform the same exercise at any one time. No matter how many reps you’re doing in each set, the key is that on your last rep you can just barely get one more without your form breaking down. So, say you’re doing bench press at 4-6 reps. You want the weight to be light enough so that your performing the movement correctly but also heavy enough so you’re coming close to technical failure on the 4th, 5th, or 6th rep. If you can go beyond 6 reps, it’s time to increase the weight.

If you’re just starting out, it will only take a couple workouts to get your baseline numbers down and then you can increase weight and progress from there. Remember, proper form is essential. As soon as your form is starting to break down, you’re done. I work in the 4-6 rep range most of the time, but also throw in extra sets of 8-10 reps later in the workout, or if I feel like I wanna change things up. So, by the time I hit that 6th rep, my muscles are fatigued to the point where I can’t go anymore and have a rest until the next set of 4-6 reps. As I mentioned, 3 sets on 3 different compound movements is really all you need, but do as much as you can depending on your fitness level, goals, and available time. I’m typically doing 9-15 total sets in any workout and am done in about an hour.

A couple other quick things. Rest time between sets should be anywhere from 1-3 minutes, which is about how much time your muscles need to recover and get ready for the next lift. If you’re looking for some nutrition tips and supplements I recommend, head over to Wise-Eats.com/approvedfoods, and you’ll see a list there. The thing about supplements though is that you don’t need them. You can get strong and in excellent shape without taking any supplements. Good nutrition, proper rest, regular training, and hydration are all you need to make progress.

Finally, if lifting weights makes you nervous or you’re intimidated, I get it, we’ve all been there. You just gotta know that everyone is there to do their own thing and they’re not paying attention to you nearly as much as you’re paying attention to yourself. So stay focused, train hard, and you’ll get over that real quick. Finally, if you’re worried that lifting weights is going to make you look big and bulky, think again. That’s a myth. The only way you get that bulging muscle look is if you’re on steroids.

How to Get Started

So, how do I get started you might be asking? If you head over to Wise-Eats.com/Workout, you’ll see a list of workouts that I currently follow and recommend for most humans looking to build a stronger physique and better overall body. It is a 5-day lifting program that is based on Mike Matthews’ Bigger Leaner Stronger Program. If you can’t lift weights 5 days a week, that’s fine, you can combine some of the exercises to accommodate 2, 3, or 4 days per week. Just make sure you’re hitting those big lifts: squat, deadlift, bench, overhead press. There are videos outlining each of the workouts, including exactly the number of reps you should be doing. This is not meant to be the epitome of good form, it’s just to give you an idea of what the workouts look like. If you’re a newbie, search videos on the exercises and start with light enough weights.

Are You Ready for Weight Lifting?

Actually, depending on your fitness level, you may not need any weights yet. Bodyweight movements may only be appropriate for you. If you can’t do a proper bodyweight squat or pushup, you need to start there before you start throwing weights around. The goal is not to lift the heaviest weight you can. The goal is to perform the movements as close to perfect as possible while challenging yourself and getting better every time. Progression and safety are the most important aspects of training in my opinion. Evaluate your form with a trainer, a friend, or by videotaping yourself and comparing to other videos. Finally, make sure you track the exercises you’re doing and the number of reps you get, and try to improve on those numbers every time. If you’re able to lift heavier weight or do more reps with good form, that’s a great sign that your diet, training, and rest are on point.

Do You Even Lift?

So basically, there are two types of people in this world. Those who lift weights and those who don’t. Obviously, it’s the form of exercise I believe will help you achieve results the fastest. But what do I know? You’re probably saying Wes what makes you so smart? Why should I listen to you? You’re not even a personal trainer! Well you’re right, I’m not, so don’t just take my word for it. I only know what I know because, for years, I’ve followed amazing coaches like Mike Dolce, Ben Greenfield, Mike Matthews, and Shawn Stevenson. Take my advice, but also do your own research and seek knowledge for yourself.

At the end of the day, only you can decide what the best workout program is for you based on your goals and fitness level. But I think the majority of people looking to build a better body and improve overall health need to be doing some sort of resistance training several days per week because it’s by far the best way to lose body fat, build muscle, and achieve that healthy physique most of us desire. Outside of weight lifting, another strategy I recommend is getting movement throughout the entire day. I love randomly going for a quick walk or doing some push-ups, pull-ups, or bodyweight squats to get an energy boost. I also love foam rolling or stretching first thing in the morning to loosen up. You don’t have to confine your workout to a ½ hour or hour in the gym. You can incorporate exercises throughout the whole day no matter where you are.

Take Action!

Some say the best workout program is the one you’re not currently doing, and I couldn’t agree more. If you already exercise regularly, it’s time to step up your game and take it to the next level. If you’re sitting on the couch every day doing nothing, it’s time to wise up and get to work. Stop wishing you were in better shape, take ownership of your body, and get into action. Whether it’s lifting weights, P90X, a group gym class, a YouTube video, or walking the dog, it’s time to find something you’re capable of doing that you love and will keep doing no matter what. Exercise is never a chore when you’re doing something that motivates you and makes you feel great.

That’s gonna do it for today’s article. This was just a quick rundown of a simple but effective workout program that I believe may be the most beneficial for you, if you’re up for the challenge. I’ve gone from being obese, to super thin, to super fit, trying many things along the way, and can say from experience that having a consistent weight lifting regimen made the most impact by far. Regardless of what you end up developing a passion for, a lifestyle centered on physical movement should be a non-negotiable element of your life. So, find that thing, get good at it, then get great at it, and become a better version of yourself through it every time.

Contact Me!

So, let me know what you think and any questions you may have. What did I leave out? What can I help YOU with? What workout programs get YOU fired up? I’d love to know more about them. Again, if you want to see some weight lifting programs mapped out for you, head over to Wise-Eats.com/Workout. This is the exact program I currently follow, and it’s a great one for beginners also. Let me know what you think in the comments or via e-mail. There’s a million ways to contact me. Facebook.com/WiseEatsPodcast, wiseeatspodcast@gmail.com, and WesFitness.com. Before I go, just a quick reminder to please subscribe wherever you’re hearing or seeing this show. If it’s on YouTube, click the thumbs up and subscribe buttons. If it’s on apple podcasts, make sure you’re subscribed there also, and if you have a second, leave a 5-star iTunes review so other people know this is a cool show. You can also find all my fitness articles, recipe videos, and more over at Wise-Eats.com. Thanks a lot for tuning in. Now get out there, find your workout, get moving, and of course, make wise choices!

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