Welcome to the third and final instalment of our cardiovascular series. In part one you learnt why cardio training is important irrespective of why you do it, its importance stretches far beyond merely getting lean.
Throughout part two we discussed the two most common types- HIIT and LISS.
Now its time for the grand finale- let’s piece it all together. Let’s start in the beginning- you are looking to lose a little body fat and make a drastic improvement to overall health and performance. Your body is under stress and needs a little self-love and preparation before we get stuck in to the hard work.
Understandably, like most people you have probably been perched on the fence thinking about getting stuck into some training but haven’t quite got to it yet. Fortunately now is as good a time as ever to start and that is step one. Getting moving.
The focus when we finally get started should be on shifting from a sympathetic state (fight or flight) to a parasympathetic state (rest and digest). One of the ways we measure this is to work on simple markers such as resting heart rate and heart rate variability.
Breathing drills, meditation and yoga are all fine examples of ways to improve this- surprise surprise however, adding some conditioning into the mix is a sure-fire way to start seeing some healthy changes in these numbers.
Choose your form of exercise- your start point should dictate this as much as what you enjoy. If you are looking to drop quite a substantial amount of fat then perhaps starting with a low load bearing activity such as swimming or cycling may be a good start until your body is prepared to do the higher impact exercise of running.
Our friends at Muscle Nerds make a great point when it comes to how to structure your conditioning work. Initially they suggest front end loading it- meaning get stuck into it in the beginning. Do a lot to get the initial adaptations and then back it down to a more manageable amount.
Starting out you want to be keeping the heart rate around the 120-140/50 beats per minute mark. Once you go over that back it off a little until it drops back into the lower end of that range and then try and find the pace where you maintain your heart rate in that range.
Doing this two, three, four or five times a week for 45 all the way up to 90 mins per session (yes it sounds a lot- but remember we are not looking to turn you to a marathon runner, rather looking to get the cardiovascular adaptations quick smart).
It won’t take long and what was once a fast walk to get the heart rate close to 150, will now become a jog, or a fast jog even just to get to the 120bpm. As resting heart rate drops, so too will your recovery time. Meaning now to go from the higher end to the lower end won’t take long at all.
Keeping in mind this kind of work is very much steady state cardio (yeah I know- Booooo! Just think of the mad gains to come when your body is well prepared to work hard in the gym and recover).
Yay for you. Resting heart rate has dropped down, your HRV is climbing each week. The adaptations are finally happening.
Now it’s time to mix the intensity up a little bit as you start to increase the work you’re doing inside the gym too.
In terms of conditioning work you could now move to a more intense type of work but you can afford to drop the sessions back to maybe two a week depending on what other forms of training you are doing.
We recommend an aerobic power set which may be on the bike for example and (unfortunately) is a hard out twenty minutes of fast cycling. The heart rate can get a little higher on this one. Prepare to sweat.
Another option is some interval work, perhaps a little different from what you would expect. Using jogging for example you may do some sets where we time it on work:rest, initially working on 1:1.5 and build up to 1:1. If it takes you 3 minutes to run a 400m lap of the oval, take 4.5 minutes and eventually build to 3 minutes. Once you do an interval where you have a large drop (for example 3:00 mins, 3:10, 3:15, 3:30, 3:33, 4:15) that’s your time to back it off.
Your sessions are now becoming shorter but as a result a little more intense.
The final step here is to now start to up the intensity in the gym. Yes this means your HIIT training and metabolic conditioning work.
However I would strongly suggest if your training goal is overall health, that you don’t treat cardiovascular training merely as medicine. Taking it while you need it but once you don’t, stopping.
Of course back it off, but keep it in your program. The health adaptations and endorphin release alone are well worth the work.
Now it's time to let the real results roll in.
Until next time,
The Hybrid Team