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Tips to help you get the most from your cardio training sessions

Effective cardiovascular training is a crucial factor in for many fitness related goals including athletic goals, weight loss & general health. In this article I would like to add to your knowledge and understanding of cardio training so you can design a program that leads you to your goals.

When I was just starting out in fitness, I was certain that I could achieve all my goals by running an hour (or more) everyday. I figured the more cardio I did (no matter what the type), it would make me a better volleyball player, lose the weight I wanted to, and be in great shape since I had so much endurance. I was wrong! While I did develop a lot of endurance, I still struggled to be as fast as I wanted during volleyball matches, reacted a little slower than I hoped, and had trouble staying at the weight I wanted. In other words, I was in good health and decent shape but the results I was after stayed just out of my reach.

It wasn’t until I learned to apply the simple tips I’m about to describe that I finally the results I wanted. In order to get the most benefit from cardio training, I recommend making continual adjustments and tweaks to three variables:

* Duration: Length of time spent for each individual cardio session
* Intensity: Level of difficulty achieved during each cardio session
* Variance: Varying the type of cardio performed each session

Remember, the purpose of each training session is to stimulate the systems of the body with a certain type of load (weights, cardio, etc.) elicit an adaptive response from each session. A cardio training plan that continually adjusts each of the three variables places a new stimulus on your muscles, tissues and cardiovascular system and challenges the body differently each time you workout.

A simple example is that of marathon training. A standard training schedule for beginners starts with 3-5 miles or so at week one and gradually increase distance runs (load) each week. The body adapts to each distance you run and each week you have the ability to sustain more.

Adaptive response to exercise:
The bodies response to the demand placed upon it during an exercise session

Duration
Obviously the length of your cardio training sessions has an impact on total calories burned, cardiovascular endurance, and cardiovascular health. While basic recommendations from ACSM and AHA are to do moderately intense cardio 30 minutes a day, five days a week or do vigorously intense cardio 20 minutes a day, 3 days a week, for healthy adults under the age of 65, it’s also important that your cardio training correlates with your personal fitness goals whether they be weight control, fat loss, or performance oriented.

For example, if your goal is weight loss you may want to increase your cardio from 20 minutes 3 times a week to 30 minutes 5 times a week, this would allow you to burn more total calories each week. Or, if your goal is to become a better basketball player, you may want to train for speed 2 times per week and train for endurance 2 times per week.

As I said before, you should also consider intensity and variance when designing an effective cardio training plan. In my next post, I will detail three different types of intensity training that you can incorporate into your plan, I’ll describe what I mean by the word variance and how you can use it to get better and more individualized fitness results, and I will give you an example of how I helped one client go from struggling to walk uphill three minutes on a treadmill to finishing her first marathon.

The points I’ve listed here are the basic principles I use when designing training programs for my clients. By using the combined information from this and next weeks post not only will you get better results, your routine will become more fun and interesting.

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