Sure, you do cardio, right? Everybody who trains knows it's necessary to keep body fat levels low and show all those well-developed muscles from years of hard work pumping iron.
Most of you will probably agree that cardio is also a pain in the butt, and if you didn't have to, you wouldn't waste another early morning sweating it out on the treadmill for a long, boring hour.
If you're looking for some guidance or you simply want to revamp your program, read on to find out how you can maximize your cardio and get shredded quicker, easier, and without being so bored.
First, let's explore the different types of cardio available, of which there are five. They include continuous training, interval training, fartlek training, super circuit training, and cross-training.
1. Continuous Training
Continuous training is also known as long slow distance (LSD) cardio, or steady state cardio. It involves training at the same workload for a extended period of time, usually 20-60 minutes, without any periods of rest.
Taking a long jog on the treadmill at a pace of seven miles per hour continually would be an example of this style of training. It's safe and easy to pick-up, which makes it a great option for all levels of fitness.
2. Interval Training
Interval training can also be used for all levels of fitness. It involves training at a high-intensity heart rate for a short period, then following that with an easy recovery period.
This is a great option if you get bored easily and like to constantly change your intensity during your workouts. An example of this would be to run at 8 mph for 2 minutes and slowly jog at a 5 mph pace for 3 minutes of recovery.
This sequence then would be repeated for the desired amount of time, usually 20-40 minutes. Since this style of training elevates the heart rate much higher, the duration of training is less than that of continuous training.
3. Fartlek Training
Fartlek training is much like interval training, only less structured. It is very demanding and best-suited for the advanced individual, however. The alternations involve intense training and recovery periods are non-systematic. They fluctuate between "high speed, high intensity, anaerobic work and low intensity, relief type periods" (Yoke, Gladwin, 2001).
4. Super Circuit Training
Super circuit training is also called aerobic circuit training and involves alternating short periods of cardio with short periods of anaerobic exercises, like resistance training.
An example of this would be 3 minutes on the elliptical trainer followed by 1 minute of squats, then three minutes on the treadmill followed by 1 minute of leg presses, etc.
This is a super way to maximize training into a minimum amount of time. It also prevents boredom and is easy to follow for all levels of fitness. Super circuit training is also a great option for fitness and bodybuilding athletes pre-contest. It ensures maintenance of muscle mass while shredding body fat in a minimal amount of time.
Cross-training involves alternating pieces of cardio equipment within different periods of time. There are three varieties to this type of training.
The first would be to alternate equipment within the same cardio session, such as performing 10 minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the stationery bike, and 10 minutes on the elliptical machine.
The second option is to vary the equipment each day, using a different piece each every day of the week. The final choice is to periodize training based on the seasons. An example of this could be swimming in the summer, hiking and rock-climbing in the fall, skiing in the winter or running in the spring.
This style of training is great for preventing injuries as well as boredom.
Cardio Frequency, Duration & Intensity
Aside from knowing the different types of cardio, you must also be aware of the frequency, duration, and intensity of training sessions. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a minimum of 3-5 sessions per week for a period of 20-60 minutes, at 55/65%-90% of your max heart rate.
Obviously, this will differ from person to person. Off-season, most fitness and bodybuilding athletes perform 2-4 weekly sessions to maintain their weight while allowing the muscles to hypertrophy (growth). Pre-contest, those sessions can range from 7-14 sessions per week of 45-60 minutes each, as needed for the individual athlete.
Vary your sessions by incorporating all of the five types of cardio into your weekly workouts. This will ensure continual progress and eliminate chances of burn-out. Another great option is to incorporate one day of fun cardio, such as your favorite sport, into your weekly program. This is also a great stress-reliever and gives you a chance to hang out with friends or family and have a good time.
One question that I always get asked is, "What's the best type of cardio?" I always respond exactly the same. The "best" type is the one that you enjoy the most and that yields the most adherence. Anything you don't enjoy will result in mediocre efforts and mediocre results. Do something that's fun and you're more likely to try harder without feeling like you're working.
So now you know what type of cardio to do, when and how to do it, and to vary your program. But sometimes that just doesn't cut it, and you're still bored and still wishing you were in bed dreaming of Twinkies instead of trekking along on the treadmill. Well, don't fret, there's more help for you.
One way to get motivated is to workout with your buddy. You have someone to talk to and push you through your workout. Also, you can try reading your favorite bodybuilding magazine or a good book. If your gym doesn't supply them, you can buy magazine holders from online fitness equipment stores. Before you know it, you're at the end of the chapter and the end of your cardio session.
Listening to pump-you-up music is another great way to get through the cardio. Many electronic equipment companies have come out with portable CD, MP3, and FM radio devices that are skip-proof and have handles and/or straps for ease and convenience during training.
Getting outdoors is another great motivational tool. Starting at the same sweaty bodies and training equipment in front of you for 60 minutes can get really boring, not to mention sucking in all that hot, stale air. Get outside and enjoy the cool fresh air, bright sunshine, and ever-changing scenery. You'll get through your workouts in no time flat.
Now that you know the ins and outs of cardio training, you're ready to revamp your program and reach new heights in your training. I've given a sample weekly cardio split for you to try. You can use the program as is, or make changes as necessary based on your needs, goals, and desires. Remember there are many ways to have fun with your cardio besides the suggestions I've given.
Sample Cardio Program
Day 1: Interval Training On Treadmill
- 2 minutes of running at 8 mph alternating with 3 minutes of jogging at 5 mph
- Total time 30 minutes
Day 2: Long Slow Distance On Treadmill
- Jogging at 7 mph
- Total time 60 minutes
Day 3: Sport Day
- Game of one-on-one basketball
- Total time 60 minutes
Day 4: Fartlek Training
- 10 100 meter wind sprints alternating with recovery periods of jogging
- Total time 45 minutes
About The Author
Alissa Carpio is an NASM Certified Personal Trainer, NPC National Fitness Competitor and recreational runner. She heads the Running Club Program at her local gym. To contact Alissa or learn more about her, visit her websites at: www.alissa.net, www.fitfigures.net, www.chayahwellness.com.