Cardio is king! We said it. And, it’s true. Want to know why? Read on to find out. Along with why we give you the info you need to enhance your cardiovascular endurance.
Cardiovascular health is one of the most vital aspects of physical fitness.
The state of your cardiovascular health defines the level of your fitness when you are put to task athletically. No matter what sport you compete in, the more cardiovascular endurance you have, the better you will be able to perform. And, that goes for the field, track, diamond, court, ring or ice.
Are you ready to unlock the secret weapons to better your cardio endurance?
The challenges that follow will boost your fitness level and help you achieve your goals.
What Is Cardiovascular Endurance?
Cardiovascular endurance can be summed up as the overall health of your heart and how well it, along with your lungs and blood cells, sends oxygen to your body’s working muscles.
When your cardio health is top notch, a chain reaction happens.
It goes a little something like this: Your healthy heart, blood cells and lungs efficiently send blood that is rich in oxygen to your muscle tissues. This causes a boost in the amount of energy on hand for movement by your muscles, thus making your muscles more efficient no matter how you are using them.
Can you think of any athlete who can’t benefit from more efficient muscles?
Bodybuilders, swimmers, CrossFitters, fighters, soccer players and everyone in between can benefit from efficient muscle power and become better athletes or just lead a healthier life. The more efficient your muscles are, the more you can do.
Here’s A Little Background Knowledge On Your Heart And Lungs
As you know, your heart is a muscle and muscles drive your lungs. Just like any other muscle in your body, they can be strengthened through aerobic exercise. The long-term result of doing regular aerobic activity is cardiovascular endurance. Cardio endurance is also commonly referred to as cardiorespiratory endurance, or the ability of your body to complete aerobic exercise continuously for extended amounts of time.
Boosting your cardiorespiratory endurance helps you to:
- Live a longer life due to great cardio health.
- Lose weight.
- Maintain a healthy body weight.
- Improve your athletic performance.
- Achieve sport-specific training goals.
Let’s get started.
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Achieving Better Cardiovascular Endurance
We all have to start somewhere. Any aerobic exercise works to develop your cardiovascular fitness. If you like walking, running, swimming or basically any activity that involves the constant use of oxygen, it will work to build your cardio fitness.
But, you can hit plateaus in aerobic activity just like you can when you lift. For instance, if you jog 20 minutes every day, five days a week, and it takes you 10 minutes per mile, that 20-minute jog is like your base exercise. It should become easier over time, but at some point, your times will become pretty steady.
But, you’re ambitious!
What if you wanted to knock three minutes off each mile?
Sounds like a lofty goal. Still, it can be achieved if you progress through the following stages of cardiorespiratory endurance. Each stage slowly but surely injects overload into your training program. Overload means asking your body to work harder.
The reason is so that it adapts to working efficiently at a higher performance level.
Building cardiorespiratory endurance over time allows you to attain peak athletic performance and function at higher levels of athleticism than you ever dreamed you could.
First Stage – Beginners
The first stage is the base building stage. Before you get started, the one thing you need to know is your target heart rate zone. The standard way to calculate your maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age.
For example: If you are 30, your max heart rate is 220 minus 30. That equals 190. You need to be able to complete 30 minutes to an hour of nonstop cardio two or three times per week at 65% to 75% of your max heart rate before you can advance to stage two.
To calculate your target heart rate of 65% to 75% of your max heart rate, we will do a little math. For a 30-year-old we saw that the max heart rate was 190.
Let’s do the math:
190 x .65 = 123.5
190 x .75 = 142.5
So, for a 30-year-old, the target heart rate range while you are doing cardio training is 123.5 to 142.5 beats per minute for 30 to 60 minutes. If you are consistent in your training, you will build stamina each week.
As you build aerobic stamina, try adding varying intervals so that you are not always working at the bottom level of your heart rate range. Try to walk or jog a little faster for segments of your session. Pick up the pace! Once you have built a solid cardio endurance base, you will be ready for stage two.
Second Stage – Intermediate
If you can already complete 30 to 60 minutes of continuous cardio at 65% to 75% of your max heart rate, you have surpassed stage one. Some of you reading this may be starting at stage two or even three.
In stage two you will begin interval training. Interval training means you will work out at varying intensities. You will push yourself hard for a period of time, and then it will be followed by a rest or recovery period where you slow down.
Your intervals can be manipulated as your cardio fitness improves. For example, you may start your intervals at one minute of high intensity followed by two to three minutes of rest. As you get stronger, you may complete a minute of high intensity with only one to two minutes of rest.
The moderate to high-intensity periods are the introduced overload where you are asking your body to work harder. The overload periods are very important because that stimulus is what teaches your body to work at greater intensities, thus making it stronger.
Can you see the pattern?
The second phase steps up from phase one. It requires that you work at higher heart rate intervals ranging from 65% to 85% of your max heart rate.
If we use the same 30-year-old person from the prior example that means this person’s target heart rate range is 123.5 to 161.5 beats per minute for stage two. Once you can sustain cardio at this interval, you are ready for the advanced stage, stage three.
Third Stage – Advanced
As you guessed, stage three gets even more intense. Instead of running during your intervals, you will all-out sprint! The third phase steps up from phase two and requires that you work at higher heart rate intervals ranging from 65% to 95% of your max heart rate. The target heart rate range in stage three is 123.5 to 180.5 beats per minute.
Your goal should be to constantly improve your efficiency and effort during high-intensity periods. You’ll notice that as your cardiorespiratory fitness improves, you will recover more quickly during recovery periods.
Recovery periods can be viewed on a heart rate monitor. If you use one of these, watch and time how quickly you recover from a high heart rate nearer to 180 back down to the 120 range. The more quickly you recover, the better shape you are in.
Invest In A Heart Rate Monitor
As you embark on this journey, you will need to have the right tools to help you along the way. A heart rate monitor is the best tool for this.
How else will you know your heart rate?
Some treadmills give readings.
With that said, who wants to do their cardio training on a treadmill every day?
That could get dull.
The best heart rate systems come with a chest strap and a watch. That gives you a way to precisely and quickly see how hard you are working with the flick of a wrist. Many systems also log and keep data over time.
You can upload all of your workout info to your computer and watch your progress through charts and graphs. Believe it or not, this data is very motivating. It’s like having a daily contest with yourself.
Exercise Suggestions For Better Cardiovascular Endurance
Treadmill life can become boring.
If you want to spice up your cardio training, try these types of workouts or add-ons to your workouts:
This is high-intensity interval training. It was made based on a 1996 study of Olympic speedskaters. Tabata that is used by trainers across the nation today, a modified version of what was used with Olympian trainees, consists of 20 seconds of intense training followed by 10 seconds of low-intensity training continuously for four minutes or eight rounds. Trainers will even make sessions that last 16 to 20 minutes, or four to five rounds of Tabata, using different exercises for each of the four-minute rounds.
Simply put, Fartleks are interval running. Think of track workouts.
Do you ever jog the curves and run or sprint the straightaways?
If so, you have completed Fartleks. There are quite a few ways to complete interval running. However, you do not need a track. You can complete intervals any time you head out for cardio training by simply changing your pace. Of course, you can even complete intervals on treadmills, step mills or any other cardio machine.
Circuit Training –
Circuit training also uses high-intensity aerobic exercise, and it is usually combined with resistance training. Think of it as a mash-up of cardio and weights. There are thousands of combos of circuits that you can do. If you have never trained using circuits, a simple Google search will yield the info you need to get started. If you are going to do circuits, it is best to plan your workouts in advance.
Cardio Between Sets –
Cardio between sets could be considered circuit training. With that said, it can also be used differently. On days you lift heavy, you can engage in cardio between sets. For example, after doing lateral raises and front raises, you spend 30 seconds to one minute doing one of the following before starting your next set of raises:
- High knees
- Butt kickers
- Jump squats
- Scissor squats
- Other plyometric cardio exercises
- Or any other aerobic exercise
Working out in this fashion keeps your heart rate up in between completing exercises that may not otherwise keep your heart racing.
What If You Have Always Been A Runner?
If you have always been a runner and only a runner, then it is time to add some weightlifting to your life. Cross-training, also referred to by some as circuit training, can enhance your cardio endurance and improve your running times.
Let’s talk about muscles. Runners tend to have quads that dominate. Sometimes this leaves hamstrings and glutes neglected. Distance runners are more often than not smaller framed people. It makes sense because you are covering a lot of ground. Being lightweight is key when it comes to swiftness over the course of many miles.
But, studies show that strength training can improve stride power. This leads to longer stride length and decreased ground contact time. These elements add up to quicker race times.
That’s not to suggest that runners should go through a bulking season like a bodybuilder, but rather that they use weightlifting sessions to build well conditioned and balanced muscles. Your cardio endurance will improve through the overload introduced with weight training.
Fred DeVito once said that “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you.” The secret weapon to cardio endurance is pushing yourself. Push yourself during training. Mix new types of interval training and push your body to endure hard work using overload. These are the methods that will fine tune your cardiovascular endurance and make you a better athlete.
By: Sarah L. Chadwell, CPT
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