Do you see this? THIS is why you should run. Good grief.

See, you might see the title of this blog post and think I’ve gone off the deep end.

I haven’t.*

I’m serious, though. C’mon — I can’t be the only person who has seen The Walking Dead. I mean, it was a pretty darn popular show, I thought. (It was also a comic, buuut… I’m not trying to let my nerdy side show too much, here.)

It was also scary as hell.

What was The Walking Dead? A TV show about a zombie apocalypse and the last uninfected people. I’m trying to remain one of those uninfected people.

And really, lets keep it real… y’all know Black girls don’t last long in these zombie episodes, shoot. Jada Pinkett didn’t last longer than 10 minutes when she was in Scream 2, and that killer was human!

I’ve got to prepare myself to protect myself.

That means… when I’m in that unavoidable situation where I’ve got to run for my life – be it from a zombie or psycho in a ghost mask – I’ve got to be ready.

All jokes aside, this means that I need to be able to run consistently for a mile straight without needing to stop in the middle to take breaks along the way…

…and that’s what today’s post is all about.

Cardiovascular health is important. Think of all the reactions that happen when you run. The heart pumps blood into the lungs where the blood is then blended with oxygen and pumped to the rest of the body. That cycle carries not only the oxygen our bodies need to function properly, but the nutrients and energy as well. You want that cycle to operate as efficiently as possible.

That’s what cardiovascular exercise is supposed to help you do. It gives you the opportunity to test your cardiovascular ability in a controlled environment and push it a little closer to the limit each time you get out there.

For example, take a basic jog in the park. You get moving… you start breathing a little heavier… your heart is pumping blood into your lungs where it then carries oxygen into your body… where the blood then picks up nutrients and energy and carries it throughout your body. This action not only clears the channels through which blood flows – like, for example, arteries – but this activity within the body generates heat… which then causes you to sweat, since sweat is the body’s natural cool down system.

Remember… as calories are a measure of heat, generating heat in the body equates to a burning of calories. This is why cardiovascular activity is seen as being so “important” to weight loss.

You can gauge your cardiovascular ability by how much effort it takes your body to execute basic functions. Do you break into a sweat when you climb a few flights of stairs? Do you have a hard time making it from one end of the block to the other? Um, the zombies are gonna get you… and I like you. I don’t want the zombies to get you.

With cardiovascular exercise, you work your heart and body to what it considers maximum capacity, then you hit “that brick wall.” Y’know, the wall where you feel like if you go any further, you might keel over and die?

Yeah, you’re not gonna keel over and die. In fact… look at it this way – if you slow down, then zombies are gonna get you. I’d rather keep going and keel over while I’m in motion than have the zombies catch me while I’m still alive.

I’m just sayin’.

The more you push yourself to remain at that “maximum capacity,” the more your heart gets used to what that “maximum capacity” is and since it has trained for how to handle that amount of work, it requires less effort to properly pump what you need through the body.

Y’know.. the good gooey stuff that the zombies want.

This is why cardiovascular exercise can be such a great way to stave off high blood pressure… because as blood pressure is the measure of how hard the heart has to work to pump blood through the arteries, cardio helps the heart become stronger and more effective at pumping blood through those very same arteries. Remember, the heart is a muscle just like any other. You lift the same 10lb weight for a few weeks, the forearm/bicep/tricep muscles become strong enough to deal with exerting that force, and it becomes easier to lift that same 10lb weight. The heart works the same way.

So… back to this zombie thing – the most important issue, here.

How can you train to run a mile straight without having to stop for breaks? ‘Cause believe me… the zombies don’t come complete with a pause button.

Ever heard of high intensity interval training? It’s one of those buzz words – something I try to avoid using when I can, here – but the difference is that this one actually has value. High intensity interval training is basically a way of saying that you practice your cardiovascular activity in intervals with different amounts of intensity. For example:

If you powerwalked for 4 minutes, then made a million dollar mad dash for 1 minute, then powerwalked again for 4 minutes, then another minute-long million dollar mad dash… and continued that cycle? That would be you successfully training in intervals.

You could even scale it back a bit. If you’re a beginner to cardio, simply try walking at a leisurely pace for 4 minutes, then power walk as fast as you can for a minute.

It doesn’t matter what you do during that 4 minute/1 minute interval, as long as they are of varying intensity and you are pushing yourself to the limit.

Once that feels like it’s no longer challenging? Shift your intervals. Power walk for 3 minutes, make that mad dash for 2 minutes. Keep your leisurely pace for 3 minutes, then power walk for 2 minutes.

Keep moving like that until you’re power walking for 5 minutes straight.. and if you feel like you need to slow down a tad? Then give yourself a minute. Before you know it, you could be power walking for 8 minutes, and then taking it slow for 1. Power walking for 10 minutes, slowing down for 1. The same goes for power walking/mad dashing.

How do you know that it’s challenging you? You’re sweating – that’s a big hint. You’re breathing harder – that’s another one. Remember, you’re challenging your heart to work harder, so that’s your biggest indicator of whether or not you’re challenging yourself. You’re training for cardiovascular ability… so that you’ll eventually be able to duck those pesky zombies. Once you no longer feel that in your heart, it’s time to move up to the next level.

After you’ve reached the point where you’re power walking (or mad dashing, depending upon what your intervals consist of) for your entire cardio session, it’s time to try to up the ante. Start over – yes, start over – so that if you were once leisurely walking and power walking, now you’re power walking for four minutes and jogging for 1. You just keep playing with the intensity at a controlled pace and before you know it, you’ve increased your cardiovascular ability.

…and while you’re increasing your cardiovascular ability, you’re also losing weight. All that generated heat burns calories, y’know.

Intervals are an awesome way to not only sneakily issue a cardiovascular challenge to your heart, but get in some extra calorie burnage, as well. If you can’t mad dash for your entire cardio session, getting in a minute or two of it here or there also makes a big difference.

I’m still a big proponent of interval training and even though now, I’m training with an extra 50lbs on me – no, I didn’t gain weight… but I am pushing a jogging stroller with one hand and controlling an Alaskan Husky with the other – I’m still working to get my speed up. Intervals are the best way to do it.

So… who else is going to join the Zombie Apocalypse Preparedness Team and prepare for the end with me?

*I might be kidding – slightly – with the zombies, but I’m a firm believer that every person should be able to run to save not only themselves but someone they love from danger or harm. It might not be zombies, but whatever it may be… at least you’ll be ready.