5 Reasons to Include Cardio in Your Training

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Written by Coach Lisa

Cardio. You either love it or you hate it. There’s really not much of an in-between for people. Regardless of your opinion of it, you absolutely should be including into your training in some way.

In fact, did you know a 5K run is the most commonly programmed workout by CrossFit HQ on the mainsite. Yep! Monostructural training (a.k.a. ‘cardio’) is part of CrossFit, too. Whether it be running, biking, swimming, or rowing, you need to be doing it.

Side Note: Let me state that in this article, cardio is constituted as running, biking, rowing, swimming, etc. In CrossFit, we would also consider a typical metcon like Fran or Karen to be included in cardiovascular work, but for the sake of this article, I am leaving metcons out.

While you can get your heart rate elevated by doing Fran or by rowing 2000m, the importance of properly programmed monostructural workouts should not be discredited. Why? Continue on reading (in no specific order)…

1. Train Different Metabolic Pathways

Depending on the type of cardio, long slow distance or short sprint intervals, you will be training different energy systems and metabolic pathways – all of which should be trained to be well-rounded.

Running a 5k, rowing 2000m, swimming 500m, etcetera all are considered aerobic training. Your body will primarily use aerobic (in the presence of oxygen) energy pathways, and this type of training will help you become efficient in exerting more energy over a longer period of time.

Doing a tabata, sprint intervals, or short row repeats are all primarily anaerobic (without oxygen) activities due to the short time of the exercise bout.

Because your body has different energy systems, doing multiple types of workouts will benefit your training and allow you to get better at both shorter and longer workouts.

2. Change of Scenery

Don’t get me wrong, we LOVE when you come into to gym and give it your all in a WOD, but sometimes a change of scenery is nice. Getting in a trail run on a nice day will help clear your mind and boost your spirits. Being outdoors or in a different setting is a good mental reset and will help relieve stress.

3. Increased Heart & Lung Function

Your heart is the most important organ in your body, without it you don’t have life. If you take care of it you can extend your life and the quality of your life. Doing cardiovascular-based workouts will help increase the health and function of your heart – heart rate, stroke volume, and contractility will all improve.

Cardiovascular work will also condition your lungs to supply oxygen with the help of your heart to your body for long periods of time, thus improving lung capacity and function.

4. Better Mental Confidence / Resilience 

There is something to be said about surpassing your perceived limitations you set for yourself, and nothing quite does that like being able to run for longer than you thought you would or feeling better than you thought you would after a long row.

Endurance workouts take mental grit, you have to get into your own head and tell yourself you CAN do this, and that feeling of pushing past mental limits will absolutely extend into other areas of life.

5. Broaden Your Scope of Practice

Barbell EMOMs and spicy met cons are only going to make you so fit. If you really want to become the best, healthiest, fittest version of yourself, your training needs to be varied.

While that may be a tough pill to swallow, you need to work on your weaknesses to take yourself to the next level. That being said, if you despise running, you don’t always have to run – you should still do it occasionally, but find something you enjoy to get your heart rate up for extended periods of time.


It is also important to note that cardiorespiratory capacity can be transferable, depending on the type of activity. That is, CrossFit classes can help your running, swimming, biking and definitely rowing easier – and the same can be said for the reverse, but maybe not to the same extent.

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