Effective Cardio Training

Exercise, Interval Training Add comments

Whether you’re training for fat loss or athletic performance, cardio training is an important part of your plan.

If you only have time for a few cardio workouts per week, 15 to 30 minutes of steady state training on an elliptical machine at an intensity easy enough that you can read a magazine isn’t going to cut it.

The fewer workouts you do, the higher quality each needs to be.

Here are three types of cardio training, and below is a sample cardio training program.

Cardio Training Method One: Long, Slow Distance Workout

What is long, slow distance (also called LSD training)?

These are long, continuous aerobic workouts at a low intensity that lets you cover a lot of distance.

LSD training causes a lot of adaptations that will increase your aerobic fitness. Chief among these are an increase in the number of your red blood cells and hemoglobin.

The hemoglobin in your red blood cells transports oxygen through your blood vessels, the more red blood cells and hemoglobin you have, the more oxygen you can deliver to your muscles and organs.

Long slow distance training also cause you to store more glycogen in your muscles, create more capillary vessels (for a more rapid diffusion of oxygen into your muscles), and increases mitochondrial density and the amount of aerobic enzymes within them, which improves your muscles’ aerobic capacity.

These adaptations enhance your ability to conserve carbohydrates and rely on fat as fuel.  This is great if you’re training for an endurance event such as the Tough Mudder or a marathon, but becoming more efficient at burning fat means you’ll burn LESS of it, so LSD training isn’t the best if fat loss is your number one goal.

You can do LSD training on any piece of cardio training equipment, such as an elliptical machine, stationary bike, or treadmill.  You can also run, bike, or swim.  The more muscles you use and the more weight-bearing the exercise is, the more calories you’ll burn during your workout.

Cardio Training Method Two: Tempo Workout

Tempo training is performed at your “lactate threshold.”  This is an important physiological term that “demarcates the transition between exercise that generates energy almost purely aerobically and exercise that includes energy generated from both aerobic and oxygen-independent (anaerobic) metabolism.”

Did you know that fat and carbohydrates provide energy for exercise on a sliding scale?  As you increase the intensity of exercise up to your lactate threshold, the energy you get from fat decreases and the energy you get from carbohydrates increases.  When you exercise at an intensity above your lactate threshold, you use only carbohydrates for fuel.

Why do tempo training?  Well, tempo training raises your lactate threshold to a higher percentage of your maximum heart rate, which will delay fatigue during aerobic exercise.

Since tempo training is done at the highest intensity you can maintain aerobically, they are great for burning fat.

Even though the percentage of calories burned from fat is small when exercising at (or slightly below) your lactate threshold, the total number of calories you burn per minute is much higher than you do at a lower intensity.

Studies have shown that exercising around your lactate threshold will give you the highest rate of fat oxidation (fat burning).

You can again use almost any method or piece of equipment for tempo training.

Lactate  threshold intensity is about 75-80% of your maximum heart rate if you’re new to exercising, or between 80-85% if you’re fairly fit.  If you’re not sure, split the difference and choose 80% :)

You can do tempo workouts continuously for 20 minutes, or do them as aerobic intervals, e.g., 5 minutes work with 1 minute rest, repeated 6 times.

(Note: tempo workouts for competitive athletes are slightly different.  In their case, “tempo” refers to a race pace.  So for a runner training for a marathon, tempo training might include one mile repeats at a slightly faster pace than their last race.)

Cardio Training Method Three: Interval Training

There is plenty of information about interval training on this blog, click the “Interval Training” category on the menu to the right to find out more.

A Swedish physiologist name Per-Olof Astrand found out that by breaking a set amount of work up into smaller segments (or intervals), you can perform the whole set of work at a higher intensity.

When put like that, it sounds obvious, but it is one of the most effective training methods ever described.

Interval workouts alternate high intensity work with low intensity recovery periods.

You have four variables that you can manipulate during your interval training workout:

  1. Time/distance of work period
  2. Intensity of work period
  3. Time of recovery period
  4. Number of repetitions

Why do interval training?  If your number one goal is fat loss, intervals raise your metabolism the most (you can still be burning extra calories 36 hours after your workout!).  If you’re looking to improve your aerobic fitness, intervals may be even better than LSD.

Aerobic intervals target your cardiovascular system and will increase your maximal oxygen uptake (VO2max), stroke volume (volume of blood your heart pumps each beat), and cardiac output (volume of blood your heart will pump each minute).

Shorter, more intense intervals will increase your anaerobic power and capacity by improving your anaerobic metabolic pathways that don’t use oxygen to produce energy for exercise.

Since more intense intervals use your fast-twitch muscles, they will complement your resistance training workouts.

As stated above, all interval training raises your metabolism after your workout, but the more intense your intervals, the greater and longer the after exercise metabolic burn.

You can do interval workouts on any piece of cardio equipment.  For long intervals, run, cycle, or row for 3-5 minutes at 95-100%  of your maximum heart rate with your recovery periods equal to or slightly less than your work periods (e.g., 3 minutes run, 2.5 minutes walk).

For shorter intervals, go all-out for 20-60 seconds with your recovery periods two to three times as long as your work periods (e.g., sprint for 20 seconds, walk for 40 seconds).

Advanced interval training keeps the short, intense work sessions with reduced rest periods.  The most famous of these is the Tabata protocol, that uses 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest, repeated 6-8 times.  The problem with using the Tababta protocol is that most people don’t work nearly hard enough on the intervals to get the effects reported in the study.  For best results on advanced interval training, you truly need to go ALL OUT.

Time is your most precious resource.  If you don’t have time for some sort of cardio every day, but still want to improve your cardiovascular fitness and burn fat, mix and match these three methods to work all of your metabolic pathways.

 Sample Carson City Cardio Program:

To maximize the efficiency of your cardio workouts, aim for 3 QUALITY cardio workouts each week.  Make sure to include a warm up and cool down before and after your workouts.

Alternate between weeks 1 and 2, increasing the volume in each workout as you progress.

(This routine supposes that you are coming to bootcamp Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, or doing some other type of training on those days.  Change the schedule to meet your particular needs)

Week 1:

Tuesday: Interval Workout

5-8 30 second sprints with one minute of active rest (walking) between each set

Thursday: Tempo Workout

15-20 minutes at lactate threshold (85% max heart rate)

Saturday: Long, Slow Distance Workout

60 minutes at 65-70% max heart rate

Week 2:

Tuesday: Interval Workout

3-5 sets of 3 minutes at 95-100% max heart rate with 2 minutes of active recovery between each

Thursday: Tempo Workout

5 sets of 5 minutes at lactate threshold (85% max heart rate) with 1 minute recovery between each

Saturday: Long, Slow Distance Workout

75 minutes at 65-70% maximum heart rate

For week three, start over with week one, upping intensity, distance, or number of sets, or reducing rest periods.

Have fun and get training!

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