3. Go to the beat
It wouldn’t be a “cardio article” without mentioning heart rate. Your heart rate responds to the intensity of exercise and has been shown to be related to your subjective perception of how intense or “hard” an exercise bout is. The higher your perception of difficulty, the higher your heart rate. Duh!
Many professional athletes use heart rate monitoring in specific workouts to focus on different physiological acclimations - what’s referred to as Energy System Development. Just like how the intensity of sets of 5 has a different effect on the body compared to sets of 12, running at 90% max heart rate (MHR) has different physiological effects compared to running at 65% MHR.
Let me break this up into 3 categories:
1) 60-70% MHR – Cardio workouts in this category focus on improving your aerobic capacity and build the foundation for faster workouts. At this intensity, you should be able to carry a conversation. This is the intensity most trainees use when they step onto a treadmill.
2) 70-80% MHR – Workouts in this category focus on improving your body’s ability to manage high concentrations of lactate and other metabolic by-products. The body produces high levels of lactate at this intensity but learns how to utilize and remove it from the muscles, allowing them to sustain a high power output for a greater duration.
3) 80-90% MHR – Workouts at this intensity focus on improving your VO2-Max, basically, how much oxygen you body can utilize for a given activity (running, cycling, ellipticling, etc.) based on your body weight, age and sex.
The Workout: Choose category 2 or 3 and put on your heart rate monitor. Use the 220 minus your age equation to get a rough estimate of your MHR. Perform a 10-minute warm-up at 60% MHR and bang out 5 x 3-minutes intervals with 2-minutes recovery. Keep the recovery active by jogging/cycling at 50% MHR – this will help get the metabolites out of your legs and prepare you for the next interval. Follow up with a 5-10-minute cool down at 60% MHR.
4. Run unstructured
Fartlek (färtlik) is a Swedish term that translates to speedplay or unstructured interval training. This is a common method of training for elite runners and triathletes. Essentially, this type of training incorporates fast and slow efforts, similar to interval training, but differs in that its unstructured and there is no stopping until you’ve completed the total running time.
The Workout: Chose a trail and a time period to run, say 30 total minutes. Choose landmarks to sprint to and landmarks to jog to. Change the distance between landmarks and go by feel, but don’t cut yourself short and jog most of the way. Make it challenging and put in a good effort. Don’t worry about time and make sure not to stop until the 30 minutes is up.
5. Climb a hill
Hill repeats are crazy cardio-boosters that can improve strength and explosive power. The high-knee lift, pumping arms and powerful toe-off can spark new levels of aerobic power and some crazy fat loss. Hills are a bit easier on the body compared to sprinting on a flat surface. They force a forefoot landing and require a constant fight.
The Workout: Find a semi-steep hill, gravel preferably, and sprint up! It’s that easy. Sprint for roughly 15-seconds. Stop. Find your breath and walk down. Walking down will be easier on your legs compared to running because of the reduced eccentric stress. Repeat 8-12 times and call it a day.