Cardio should be hardio (sometimes)

When you are managing your own training, it can be easy to into the habit of ‘going through the motions’ or ‘ticking a box’ when it comes to cardiovascular exercise.

In the gym, the weight used tends to be the primary variable that is manipulated between training sessions.

If your program indicates x amount of sets, reps and rest, you can repeat each session over and over, while progressively increasing the weight.

Since we have to pick the weight up or load the bar for each exercise, we are more aware of the loads that we are currently using and seeking to increase them.

This promotes progressive overload, which ensures there is continually a new stimulus for the body to adapt to as the loads are altered.

When it comes to cardiovascular exercise such as running, walking, riding or swimming, there are less variables to manipulate.

The time we can allocate to the workout is often dictated by our schedule and the speed is controlled by current fitness.

This means that total output, distance, tends to be fairly consistent at a given level of fitness.

To get fitter, we need to increase the speed to increase the distance, assuming the time stays the same.

But often we don’t do that - we might like the current course because we walk to a certain landmark and back, or the path suits our target distance.

If the distance, speed and duration all remain the same, there is no stimulus that requires the body to adapt by increasing cardiovascular capacity (ie. fitness).

While the exercise still burns energy and can be part of a successful weight loss protocol, the lack of progression can make exercise less-rewarding than it otherwise could be, which can impact long-term adherence.

This week, we are going to address the three variables of cardiovascular training that you can manipulate to help you progress your current regime.

Tom Fitzgerald