When many people start doing CrossFit workouts at the INFERNO, I usually get the question, "so when do we do the CARDIO?" First, a cardio, or aerobic workout, means that your body is needing to pull oxygen into the blood so that it can use it to fuel the muscles. Cardio DOES NOT mean just running, or just swimming, or just cycling only. It literally is ANYTHING that causes your body to need to use and draw in more oxygen.
We all know that CrossFit is Constantly Varied Functional Movements done at High Intensity. Most have a decent understanding of what the goal of a CrossFit workout is: increased work capacity across broad times and modal domains. This means you should have a broad based level of strength and conditioning to be able to attack any task. This increase in fitness and functionality will render a body that is not only a badass machine but looks like a badass as well. The hot body becomes the by-product of the fitness program, not the goal.
The old school of thought is that to get "in-shape" or to look good, you need to burn calories. The first thing almost EVERYONE will think of is running. "If I run for 30 minutes every day then I will burn X number of calories and I'll lose weight." Not an untrue statement but seemingly puts emphasis in the wrong directions. For most, running 30 minutes will burn anywhere from 300-500 calories. if you do this three times a week then you are burning up to about 1/2 a pound of fat a week.
For many, this will be on the treadmill at the globo gym. And if they haven't been doing anything, then yes this is a great exercise for them. The downside is that the majority will never increase the speed, the duration, the incline, etc. and with this, you will only be able to advance to a point. Then you will actually lose fitness because you will have maxed out your potential at this speed, time, and distance.
With the advent of high-intensity interval training, or even more importantly, CrossFit, the increase of intensity (the amount of work done faster) has become the magic ingredient. Studies have shown that as you increase the level of intensity, you can actually decrease the amount of time needed to get all the benefits of the workout. In fact, the shorter the duration and the higher the intensity, the more strength and muscle toning benefits there are as well as cardiovascular benefits. Think about the body of a sprinter versus a marathon runner. The sprinter will have much more muscle tone and be much stronger than a marathon running. There are some world class runners that can even jump on to a 20" box yet they are one of the fastest long distance people on the planet.
The next important thing about this training is that instead of your calorie burning ending at the end of the workout, you can continue to burn for hours after the workout. Think about an oven. If you turn the heat up to 100 degrees and let it heat for 15 minutes, and then compare it heating the oven to 475 degrees and letting it heat for 5 minutes, the 475 will be hot for much longer than the 100 burn even though it was heating for a much longer time.
Have you heard of a Tabata workout? 8 Rounds of: 20 secs max effort work and: 10 secs of rest for a total of 4 minutes. This workout time frame was developed by Dr. Izumi Tabata. He found that doing this intermittent max effort work for short amounts of time with a small rest to be able to have a "sort of" recover to go again. These types of workouts have been shown to burn just as much as the long slow to moderate intensity but in fractions of time. Sounds to me like a win win to do these!!!
But here's the thing, you need to push hard!!! If your intensity level, your speed, tempo, or work done, in a 6-10 minute workout is that of a 16-20 minute workout, then you are just doing a short activity. You won't get the long burning that shorter high-intensity workout will. You won't get the strength and muscle toning benefits. You won't get the fat loss benefits. Basically, you are losing out all around! The entire key is to get yourself going!!! But, yes I know......this is VERY uncomfortable. And usually, the shorter the workout, the more painful the experience.
Here is where your mental toughness pays off. Yes, the workout is short, but you NEEEEEEEEEEED to stay in the fight for the ENTIRE time! You can't let yourself take a break. You can rest when you are done! But now is the time to fight!!! If you have much left, especially to go and do some 30 minute run after, then you didn't go hard enough. If you aren't laying on the floor exhausted, smashed, then you didn't do a maximum effort.
Of course, maximum effort will be relative based on the individual but also the length of the workout. So you have a 20-minute workout, then your job is to go as hard and as fast as you can for that 20 minutes. It's not just about burning a few calories. It's not about training for the Games. It's about getting the maximum benefits you can get from these workouts. It's all right there for the taking. You just have to take it!
So if you need that 30-minute run because you need to settle your head, then by all means. But if you feel like you need to add "some more cardio" to your regiment, ok, but why not try to just go faster in the workout you are given. I'm not opposed to testing things out, but just make sure you test out going "ALL OUT" in the workout as well!
Good Luck out there and get those GOALS!!!!