Cardio Training

Cardiovascular endurance is the maximum amount of work muscles can perform in repeated contractions, and is basically divided into two types: aerobic and anaerobic. For example, marathon running and cross-country skiing are 95% aerobic, whereas a 50 metre swimming sprint, or a 100m track and field sprint are 98% anaerobic.

The cardiovascular system consists of the heart, blood (plasma, platelets, red corpuscles, white corpuscles, haemoglobin etc), blood vessels, and the lymphatic system.

Cardiovascular endurance training should start at 60%HR max for beginners (HR max = (220-age in years) x 60%) to build their aerobic fitness during the “general preparatory phase” of the clients periodised training plan. Anaerobic training is gradually introduced up to 85% hr max, at which point the athlete is optimally training the central oxygen transport system.


1. Increasing lung volume

2. Increasing joint stability and strength

3. Increasing bone mineral density

4. Increasing metabolic rate

5. Increasing energy expenditure

6. Controlling obesity

7. Improving body shape

8. Improving posture

9. Improving glucose metabolism

10. Replacing muscle tissue

11. Reducing resting heart rate

12. Reducing blood pressure

13. Enhancing sports performance

14. Enhancing self esteem

15. Elevating mood

16. Decreasing risk of cardiovascular disease

17. Decreasing risk of injury

18. Decreasing blood cholesterol, and increasing high-density lipoprotein

19. More efficient transport and usage of oxygen


In keeping with the K.I.S.( keep it simple ) principle, there are basically 2 approaches. Firstly, continuous, longer, lower intensity aerobic activity performed at a pace where oxygen intake and consumption are pretty even. The idea is to remain mobile for the allotted training period, be it 20 minutes, or an all-day triathlon. The aerobic system is primarily utilized while the muscles learn to adapt to the stresses of continuous exercise. The oxygen uptake and utilization systems will make great improvements–clients can see results in the way they feel from week to week, volume and duration of activity become noticeably easier, allowing greater speed and reduced time to complete task quotas, all of which provide a tremendous boost to the clients motivation and self esteem. Beginner’s should use a pace at which they can converse comfortably with a friend, while training their cardiovascular endurance.


1. Ideal for less fit people

2. Easier to follow prescribed exercise intensity

3. Low to moderate intensity ( 60-80% HR max )provides low risk and less strain–therefore easier for a beginner to maintain motivation

4. Greatly reduced drop-out rates compared with high intensity interval programs

5. Great “off-season” training method during the maintenance phase

6. Great “in-season” “easy” day training method

7. Less taxing physiologically and psychologically

8. Reduced injury risk

9. Allows increased training frequency–you train consecutive days, but still use “hard/easy” principle

10. Sedentary clients can make good gains starting at 60% HR max

The second approach to cardiovascular endurance is INTERVAL TRAINING. Keeping it simple, once again, there are 3 kinds:

A. “repeats” where we exert 80-100% intensity, then allow full recovery before the next effort. Duration of “effort” can vary up or down, as necessary.

B. “repeats” with rest periods between efforts that don’t allow a full recovery. The recovery period may increase due to fatigue as the sets accumulate, or you may choose a constant rest period.

C. SPEED-PLAY: continuous exercise with intervals of sprinting, such as 10-60 seconds at 80-100% intensity, immediately followed by a return to 60% effort–you don’t stop moving, just return to a comfortable pace while your body recovers for the next sprint. This is an excellent means of attaining cardiovascular fitness. Treadmills are fun, as you can increase/decrease intensity by adjusting the “level” by pushing a button. Level’s 1-20 or more. I find them very motivating. However, one caution: don’t run exclusively on a treadmill, as they don’t really reflect the feel of a track. Anyone contemplating training for a competition needs to run on appropriate ground. Furthermore, there is a risk of overtraining on treadmills, causing ankle area injuries that won’t occur so easily on firmer ground. Use the treadmill sparingly, and back-off at the first sign of over-use (unusual tenderness in the foot/ankle area)

Using intervals or speed-play can significantly increase the lactate threshold, which is the point whereupon blood lactate starts to accumulate. Expressed as a percentage of VO2 max, with the untrained person averaging 55-60%, to the elite athlete over 85% VO2 max. You will become able to train at a higher intensity, and for a longer duration—more anaerobically fitter, and much fitter in general. Beyond that, each time you push yourself out of your comfort zone and into the discomfort zone (commonly called the pain zone) you are training your mind to withstand greater levels of discomfort, building that all important mental toughness that we all need as our goals for peak fitness become more ambitious.

Variable training factors are length and/or intensity of effort, length of recovery time, type of recovery (active/passive–if active, what activity?), number of sets and/or reps, and weekly frequency.


No, I’m not talking about the yearly training plan, not yet, anyway. But, on a weekly basis, you must divide your sessions into a “hard” day, “moderate” day, and an “easy” day. Never follow a hard day with another hard day. Always have the easy day following the hard day. Now initially, beginners are encouraged to train 3 times weekly, minimum, and preferably not on consecutive days, so there’s your moderate, hard, and easy sessions. But many beginners will need to be coaxed into training harder, as any kind of effort will be strenuous, and so the focus will be on gradually building VOLLUME, as the body adapts to the stress of exercise. This wont take long, and before you know it , you will be able to go full bore into the periodization principle. The purpose of an “easy” day following a “hard” day is basically to minimize the risk of injury from over-use, and to maintain motivation. The easy session loosens up the muscles that would otherwise become too tight and sore from the previous effort, and prepares them for another full-on strenuous session two days later. Remember, the harder you can train-the more calories you burn, and the fitter you will become. Are you beginning to understand the wisdom of the “hard/easy” principle?


Circuit training is very beneficial for endurance athletes because it targets type 1 muscle fibre, and can develop VO2 max and lactate threshold, and to a lesser extent it increases strength, using 50-60% 1RM. It usually involves a series of exercises performed without rest, or just as long as it takes to go from one station to the next. Rest periods may be employed for less fit clients, or if the whole session is to be one big circuit, such as 45-60 minutes. A good rest period would be 15-30 seconds. A popular concept is upper body x lower body, alternating from one to the other for the whole session. Another concept is agonist x antagonist, such as bicep/ tricep, quadricep/hamstring, pectoral/rhomboid teres group ( preferably in a similar plane of motion. This is extremely important in order to promote muscle balance, with another benefit being to minimize soreness between sessions. For example, bench press for pectorals is a horizontal plane action. An appropriate “pulling” activity is bent-over rowing because it is also a horizontal plane motion. The key here is to use similar width grips on both exercises for proper muscle balance, AND keep the repetitions reasonably equal. This means if you do 10 reps for bench press, per set, then do 10 reps per set on pulling. An example of an inappropriate activity to counter the bench press is chinning, because that is a vertical plane motion which emphasizes some different muscles. Circuit format could be based on time, such as 60 seconds activity before moving on to the next exercise, or on repetitions, such as 15-20 reps before changing exercises. Be creative. No matter what exercise or workout you intend performing, you must have a clear understanding of what it is you are trying to achieve.

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Shane  Shiels

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