In my last post, I talked about the different factors that should go into a well planned and progressive cardio training plan. By manipulating things such as duration, intensity, and variance (cardio type) you can develop a plan that is not only effective but also mentally stimulating and motivating.
In this post, I would like to demonstrate how I took my client Stacia (an athletic girl in her 20’s) from having difficulty walking up hill for three minutes on the treadmill to completing her first marathon. Before getting started with what I have to say, I asked Stacia to write a few words detailing her experience training with me over the last year and a half:
“Ten years ago, I bought Jeff Galloway’s book Marathon: You Can Do It, and for ten years that book followed me from Corvallis to Portland to Baltimore to Ann Arbor. And despite it’s well read and worn appearance, I had not made one serious attempt at a marathon. Cause I wasn’t a runner. I quit basketball because I hated to run. Cause I ran two miles, and felt like I might die. I had lots of reasons why I couldn’t do it, but for whatever masochistic reason I really wanted to do it, and it wasn’t until I started working with Jes that I finally believed it was possible.
Jes is tough. She pushes you hard. You think you’re at your max and then she kicks it up a few more notches, but I love it, because you finish and you realize you can do more than you ever thought you could. That’s her greatest gift. She will move you past your mental walls. The proof, on December 4th, 2010, I finished my first marathon. Whooop! Thank you, Jes!”
What exactly did it take for Stacia to achieve her goal?
Faith in Herself
A Personalized Training Plan
Both Stacia and both I had a part to play in her achievements. My role was to be her source of expertise, encouragement, and coaching. Her role was to the discipline to do the work necessary for progress and to be open to the new possibilities of what she was able to achieve.
I started Stacia’s program by first giving her an initial evaluation to assess cardiovascular ability. Next I used the principles I discussed in my last post to design a progressive and reasonable plan that she could sustain over the course of time. Finally, as Stacia began to make progress, we discussed reasonable and effective methods for emphasizing fitness in her lifestyle which includes a career with occasional 12-14 hour days and a moderate amount of travel.
As time went on, we increased the duration of cardiovascular exercise Stacia could maintain, manipulated the intensity, and added variety such as step-mill, elliptical, and jump rope. As she was able to sustain more we started setting mini-goals such as 4 and 5 mile runs, 5K races and even a ½ marathon was thrown in (for fun I guess?).
While the methods described may seem simple, trust me, we had many stops and starts along the way. There were numerous sessions that Stacia was almost sick, we had to learn to work around the challenges of her schedule since her body responds differently when she had worked the previous night, and we had to find a good place for her to re-start upon her return from extended travel. All this was achieved by working together and being committed to a long-term, health based and goal oriented coaching plan. And while Stacia went through many difficult moments she has achieved a new level of faith and belief in her ability, one that she will carry with her throughout life.
Effective cardiovascular training is a crucial factor in reaching almost any type of fitness goal. In order to effectively lose weight, be healthy, or achieve an athletic goal having an understanding of cardio training will help you 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), that I would be a better volleyball player, lose the weight I wanted to, and be in great shape since I had so much endurance. I was wrong! 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.). For example, when training for a marathon, you start by running 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.
When it comes to cardio training for goals other than a specific sport or race, you can continually adjusting each of the three variables, place a new stimulus on your muscles and cardiovascular system and therefore elicit an adaptive response from each session.
Adaptive response to exercise: the bodies response to the demand placed upon it during an exercise session
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.
You can use different levels of intensity during cardio training sessions to add variety, make it more fun, and get different results. Here are a few different types of cardio training workouts that you can incorporate into your routine.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)
HIIT has become a very popular fat burning method. HIIT uses intervals of time and assigns them a personal intensity level. Normally you’ll “max out” and then recover during the next interval. HIIT is great for breaking personal records and gives you a personal challenge during every workout. Not only that, research suggests that HIIT causes the body to burn more energy for a longer period of time AFTER the workout is complete (fat burning while doing nothing!). The main drawback to HIIT is for beginners in fitness. This type of workout can be intimidating and if done incorrectly it could be overly exhausting to the point of becoming nauseating. Whenever performing HIIT, it should ALWAYS be based on personal intensity index. It is important to understand how hard YOU can work.
Steady State Training (SST)
SST is a constant, steady effort throughout the entire cardio session. You’ll keep your personal intensity from 7-9 the entire session. This type of cardio session will also cause the body to demand more energy when your workout is complete, although not as much as HIIT.
Low Intensity Cardio
Low intensity cardio is great for active lifestyle activities, beginners in fitness, those recovering from injury, and the elderly. While you do burn mostly fat while doing cardio at a lower intensity level, you will not get the benefits of post-workout energy demand. Because of this, LILT is an inefficient method for burning fat. You can achieve more benefits in a shorter period of time by using the various other methods suggested here.
One commonly overlooked component of cardio training is variance. By variance I mean using different methods of cardio each time you train in order to elicit an adaptive response. Variance is especially important if your goals include weight loss, fat loss or general fitness. By using different types of cardio such as running, jump rope, step mill, biking, elliptical, etc…your body attempts to become efficient at each activity (as opposed to becoming efficient at just one activity). Continually changing type of cardio you do will not only improve overall fitness level, but also will increase your total calories burned.
The points I’ve listed here are the basic principles I use when designing training programs for my clients. You can use these principles to manipulate the duration, intensity, and type of cardio activities you perform each week and line them up with your personal fitness goals. When you include these principles, you will get better results and have more fun with your fitness routine. In my next cardio training post, I will show you how I used these principles to help one of my clients go from having difficulty walking up hill for three minutes on the treadmill to completing her first marathon.
Whether new to fitness and athletics or a seasoned veteran, the use of heart rate monitor watches can bring a new element of understanding and intensity to your routine. These digital monitors measure your pulse continually as you exercise and helps you stay within a predetermined heart rate range called the ‘target training zone’.
Although monitors have been in existence for some time, their value often goes unrecognized by fitness professionals and participants alike. This happens because there is a lack of guidance on how to use the feedback watches provide to achieve a specific goal.
But, with just a basic understanding of Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax) and target training zones you can measure fitness levels, monitor progress, increase exercise intensity, and athletic performance.
Determine Your Training Zone
In order to determine your training zone, you must first calculate your maximum heart rate (HRmax). HRmax is estimated by taking 220 and subtracting your age (220-age). Next, find the HR training zone that correlates with your fitness goals. The training zone or ‘target training zone’ is a high and low range based on a percentage of your HRmax.
Remember that working at a specific intensity will yield corresponding results. If you are new to exercise, start at with the low intensity training zone. Low intensity training zone will improve your cardiovascular function and build endurance, but to ultimately achieve your goals, you may need to jump up to the moderate or high intensity training zones.
Key Target Training Zones (% of max HR)
60-70%: Low intensity exercise.
70-80%: Medium intensity exercise.
80% +: High intensity exercise
The American Heart Association, whose guidelines are created for those with a goal of general health, recommends staying within 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. In contrast, ACSM Guidelines recommend intensities between 55% and 65% all the way up to 90% of HRmax. These recommendations are created for a range of people, from un-fit to extremely athletic. ACSM also suggests that de-conditioned individuals may experience improvements at exercise intensities of only 55% to 64% HRmax.
Remember, a well rounded exercise program includes both aerobic exercise and strength training, but not necessarily in the same session. Your monitor will provide useful feedback for both types of exercise and allow you to create a program that motivates you to exercise regularly.
1. ACSM’s Guidelines for Exercise Testing and Prescription
Over the years I’ve helped many people overcome the roadblocks they encounter on the journey to reaching their fitness goals. One of the main obstacles people face is consistently doing their cardio training. Most people seem to either hate cardio all together or they just get bored with doing the same routine all the time.
Since I’m a fitness maniac, I’ve created about 10 million different cardio routines to help me stay motivated, improve my performance, and provide appropriate training for my cardiovascular system. I’ve included a brief description of one of the cardio programs I use for my fitness program and I want you to try it (indoors or outdoors) and let me know what you think.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) Over the last decade or so, HIIT has become a very popular method of cardio. Most forms of HIIT uses time intervals with assigned levels of difficulty. HIIT is a great mechanism for breaking personal records and increasing your level of challenge during cardio training. Not only that, SOME research suggests that HIIT causes the body to burn more energy for a longer period of time after the workout is complete and may be overall a more effective method of cardio training than steady state training.
Since the current research (that I am aware of) is inconclusive as to which type of cardio training is the most effective, I recommend using HITT as a part of your overall workout routine while also including other types of cardio as well.
REMEMBER: This type of workout, when done correctly can be exhausting. Whenever performing HIIT, it should ALWAYS be based on your personal intensity index. It is important to understand how hard YOU can work, and your own capabilities before including HIIT in your cardio training plan.
1. Warm up the first min.
2. Min. 2-4 start @ 8, go to 9, back to 8
3. Min. 5 = recover
4. Min. 6-8 start @ 7, go to “Max”, back to 7
5. Min. 9 = recover
6. Min. 10-12 start @ 8, go to 9, back to 8
7. Min. 13 = recover
8. Min. 14-16 start @ 7, go to “Max”, back to 7
9. Min. 17 = recover
10. Min. 18-19 start @ 8, go to 9, back to 8
11. Cool down on your own
If you tend to get bored with your cardio training, you might want to take a look at Cardio Coach. Cardio Coach™ is a downloadable audio workout program for your iPod / MP3 player and is designed for any type of cardio machine (bikes, treadmill, cross trainer, elliptical, stair stepper, rower etc.) & features a patented levels & zone system for any fitness level, from beginner to advanced.
Cardio Coach basically gives you some entertainment and variety and keeps you motivated for cardio every day. Try it and let me know what you think!
In the first two gym tips I discussed, we addressed the first two of three crucial components to health, fitness, or athletic success: mental preparation and nutrition. Our next tip is focused on the third component, which is exercise. In order to achieve fitness goals, especially those related to athletic performance, you should incorporate a progressive resistance exercise program into your plan.
A simple explanation of progressive resistance is that of Milo of Croton and his ability to carry an adult bull on his shoulders, which obviously requires amazing strength.
Milo (Greek: ?????) of Croton was a 6th century BC wrestler from the Greek city of Croton in southern Italy who enjoyed a brilliant wrestling career and won many victories in the most important athletic festivals of ancient Greece. In addition to his athletic victories, Milo is credited by the ancient commentator Diodorus Siculus with leading his fellow citizens to military triumph over neighboring Sybaris in 510 BC.
Milo was said to be an associate of Pythagoras. One story tells of the wrestler saving the philosopher’s life when a roof was about to collapse upon him, and another that Milo may have married the philosopher’s daughter Myia. Like other successful athletes of ancient Greece, Milo was the subject of fantastic tales of strength and power, some, perhaps, based upon misinterpretations of his statues. Among other tales, he was said to have carried a bull on his shoulders, and to have burst a band about his brow by simply inflating the veins of his temples.
…Legends say he carried his own bronze statue to its place at Olympia, and once carried a four-year-old bull on his shoulders before slaughtering, roasting, and devouring it in one day. He was said to have achieved the feat of lifting the bull by starting with a newborn ox, and carrying it everyday.
The take-away from this story is that each day Milo lifted just a little more than the day before until he achieved an amazing goal. This is the definition and purpose of progressive resistance exercise.
A well designed fitness plan recognizes that exercise is a systematic method of applying stress to the body. Your body responds to that stress during the recovery process by adapting, and adaptation prepares you for the next workout. In order to achieve a goal, you should plan to increase or change the type of stress applied to the body during workouts (progressive resistance exercise). By changing number of reps, increasing amount of weight, limiting rest periods, or changing the type cardio you do, you’ll be incorporating progressive resistance into your plan.
Remember, the body adapts during the recovery period, not during stress. If you neglect to include recovery time in your workout plan, it may inhibit your ability to progress and improve at the rate you desire (psst…one of the crucial gym tips).
Including progressive exercise in your plan and evaluating yourself from a weekly, monthly, and yearly perspective will prevent you from becoming discouraged about poor performance such as a bad game or a disappointing workout. As you use this theory you’ll begin to appreciate the times when you’re at your best and encourage yourself through times when your motivation is low or the china business of life takes time away from your training schedule.
Progressive resistance is one of my favorite gym tips, and one which I use to determine the type of workouts I do each day. It’s also an excellent concept to remember when recovering from injury or any type of surgical procedure.
Your marathon training schedule should be based on your current conditioning level, your chosen marathon pace, and the time you’ve allotted for training. I found this web address from Runners World to assist you in making your marathon as enjoyable as possible (not possible!).
This page has everything you need to train for a marathon including expert advice, training workouts, and training schedules based on your level of conditioning. Let me know if you have any questions.