I think many people don’t even consider any other form of exercise for various reasons. They think of exercise as something which has to make you hot, sweaty and panting, which cardio workouts done properly certainly do. Also, they experience the best feel good factor from the release of endorphins after good cardio workouts.
This is excellent news if you want to improve your cardiovascular system, that is the mechanism by which our heart and lungs work together to deliver oxygen to our bodies. This is ultimately what CV exercise is all about. Working the cardiovascular system to improve and maintain its maximum efficiency is a vital part of any fitness program.
However, as a personal trainer I see many people in my gym every day working away on the CV equipment and just not getting the best out of their gym workouts.
One of the main reasons why many people never see any improvement is because they consistently do their CV work at the same level of intensity without ever increasing the workload or challenging themselves. Then of course they get bored, so bored that they end up trying to do it while listening to music, watching TV, or even reading the paper!
Believe me , this is such a waste of time! There are techniques to getting the best out of your cardio workouts, and if you’re paying attention to them you certainly won’t have time to get bored and you’ll get much better results.
There are two main ways of working your CV system. They are both important and should be combined in your program for the best results.
This is a method by which you alternate between a comfortable pace and short periods at a more challenging or training pace. Short periods of overloading your heart and lungs encourage them to get stronger as they respond. The result is better cardiovascular capacity.
Fixed Pace Training
This is a method by which you do a longer training session at a fixed comfortable pace. This method used over time will enable you to sustain CV activity for longer. The result is better cardiovascular endurance.
The best way to determine your comfortable pace and your training pace is first to work out your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. So, a 30 year old will have a maximum heart rate of 190 beats per minute.
Your comfortable pace should be between 65% and 75% of your maximum heart rate. In the case of the 30 year old that would be between 123.5 and 142.5 beats per minute. Your training pace should be between 80% and 85% of your maximum heart rate. So for our 30 year old that would be between 152 and 161 beats per minute.
A simple heart monitor will tell you your heart rate throughout your workout. This will enable you to moderate your workload by altering the pace, incline or resistance of the particular piece of equipment you are using.
As your heart and lungs adapt to the work you are demanding of them, you will have to increase the workload to maintain the same heart rate. So if, initially you reached 65% of your maximum heart rate by running at 5 mph and you need to maintain this heart rate you will eventually need to increase the speed at which you are running or perhaps increase the incline. If you work constantly at the same workload you won’t improve!
One of the other reasons people opt only for CV exercise is because equipment such as treadmills, steppers, rowers, elliptical trainers etc often tell you how many calories you are using. Many people associate burning calories with burning fat and assume that these are the machines that are going to help them lose weight.
However, this is only true to a small extent. The important thing to remember is that CV work is only fuelled in part by body fat and only when done at the correct intensity and duration.
During CV exercise your body will burn a much greater percentage of sugars or glycogen, which is the energy derived from the food you eat.
So if weight loss is what you are trying to achieve, you’ll have to get off the treadmill and do something else as well!
It’s all about raising your metabolic rate. That is the rate at which your body turns the food you eat into useable energy. Well toned, active muscles demand far more of our calorific intake than stored body fat does. So the greater percentage of lean muscle we have, the higher our metabolic rate.
When we work our muscles they grow to meet the demands we put on them. If we work them regularly and keep them toned and active we can not only increase our metabolic rate but maintain it at that improved rate.
So if you want to lose weight, don’t rely on CV exercise alone. Try to alternate it with a program of weight training to isolate each muscle group to strengthen and tone them. This is best done with a program based on the use of hand held or free weights sometimes known as dumbells.
Combine this with a healthy eating program and you have a recipe for effective weight loss.
And, if you want better CV function as well, take off the headphones, stop watching the TV and get a good, challenging program!