Sunday, September 21, 2008

Cardio Conundrum

By Jamie Filer....thought this was a great article.

We're almost at the 12 week "Countdown to Summer" mark, and everyone knows what that means; Cut, cut, cut. Lean midsections, toned arms, shapely and curvy legs/glutes for women, and shredded to the bone legs/glutes for me.

The beach is something you can't escape during the summer (unless you live in the artic) and thus, I wanted to write an article that helped explain the different types of cardio you can do to help you get that "Beach Worthy" body. We all know that cardio is essential for fat loss, right? Right? Hello? Anyone out there?

There are many different types of cardio you can do, and many different ways/venues to do them. So pick one that's convenient, safe and affordable for you.

Different Types of Cardio

Steady State Training:

Any form of aerobic/cardiovascular training where some reasonably steady intensity is maintained for an extended period. It is essentially a type of training where you can maintain 60-80% of your max heart rate. So for someone 25 years old, this would be about 120 - 160. This would be maintained anywhere from 20 - 60 minutes.

The Advantages To This Protocol Are:

It's great for beginners, depending on the intensity, it burns more calories during the exercise bout than interval training (because it's generally done for a longer period of time), and it can be done daily without taxing the body too much.

The Downsides To This Type Of Training Are:

It can be boring if done in long durations (and you don't have a TV or an iPod in front of you), you can develop an overuse injury if you always run the same course or use the same machine, and lastly, the one most aesthetic athletes should be concerned with, if you do too much endurance activities, you could cause muscle loss (unless you fuel/rest properly after, or sip on a BCAA supplement like Xtend during your workout).

Interval Training:

This is often referred to as high intensity interval training (HIIT). It involves any form of activity that alternates higher intensity (such as 30-60 seconds all out) with periods of lower intensity. The rest interval can be passive (not moving, resting) or active ("recovery pace"). You can do interval training on a bike, treadmill, or even sprints outside.

A typical set-up might be a 5 minute warm-up followed by 15 repeats of 15 seconds near maximum intensity alternated with 45 seconds low intensity activity, followed by a 5 minute cool-down. This is not ideal for beginners.

The Advantages To This Protocol Are:

It leads to greater fat loss over the long run because of the Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption and it is very time efficient.

The Disadvantages Of This Type Of Training Are:

This type of training is very taxing, so if you do it on the same day as resistance training, either your workout or your cardio will suffer. Secondly, this protocol is inappropriate for beginners or people with low cardiovascular capacity.

Lastly, if you're going longer than 15 seconds, you'll develop lactic acid in the working muscles, and chances are, you'll get Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness the next day.

Aerobic Interval Training:

This is a hybrid of the two previous form of training. It's mostly used with beginners who have trouble performing 20 minutes of continuous activity (as outlines by "Aerobic Training").

Aerobic Interval Training is done by performing 5-10 minutes of low intensity aerobic work, then taking a short break, then doing another 5 minutes of low intensity aerobic training, until the participant is fatigued. Each time it's done, try to increase the amount of time you run/bike/elliptical before you take a break, e.g. Week 1 = 5 minutes segments, Week 2 = 7 minute segments, etc.

The Benefits Of This Protocol Are:

It's excellent for untrained/beginner individuals and it helps build aerobic capacity.

The Disadvantages Of This Type Of Training Are:

The disadvantages of this type of training are almost the same as the ones for aerobic training: It can get boring, you can develop overuse injuries, and sometimes endurance activities cause muscle loss.

Unique Forms of Cardio

Sand Running:

It's exactly what it sounds like; running in the sand. Sand, mud, dirt, grass and trails are excellent training surfaces. There are so many benefits to running in this type of terrain: They force you to run slower for the same heart rate, lower risk of injury (because high running intensity is the second best predictor of injury), and your back and shoulders get a workout because you have to maintain balance.

The closer you run to the water (if the sand is near water), the more firm it is, so this is where beginners should start. As you've mastered that part, slowly start to move away from the water to the more shifty, less stable sand.

The downside of this is that it's possible to get skin problems on your feet such as blisters developed by friction with sand. There are possibilities to have some skin cuts and bruises from small stones hidden in sand as well.

Bleacher Running:

Extremely simple; run up and down bleachers/stairs. It's basically a resistance training program for your legs. The fight against gravity as you power up a steep incline translates in both speed and confidence size.

There are two different types of bleacher runs. The first would be to find a set of bleachers, power up the stairs, then take your time coming back down. This is similar to interval training. Really fast up, recovery pace down.

Another form of a bleacher workout is to run "repeats". Find a set of bleachers, and just take the time to jog easily up and down them for 5-10 minutes so that you are adequately warmed up. Once you have jogged at your warm-up speed, try and build your speed/power and run at a hard but sustainable pace to the top of the hill, turn and jog or walk back down. Repeat this 3-5 times or a many as you can, then cool down with a 10 minute jog.

Cardio Cocktails:

A term I heard floating around the internet to refer to steady state aerobic training using different machines in the gym. You could do 15 minutes on the rowing machine as a warm-up, then jump on the bike for another 15-20 minutes, then finish it off with a jog/walk on the treadmill. You could use any combination of 3-4 different machines for anywhere from 10-20 minutes.

Plyometric Training:

Plyometrics are usually sport specific, but I can't see why you can't incorporate them into your cardio routine a few days a week in order to speed up the fat loss.

Plyometrics focus on speed and power movements. A sample routine could include:

5-10 minute warm-up with a skipping rope
5 minutes of stretching (to make sure your muscles, tendons and joints are loose)
Jump squats - 3 sets of 10
Medicine ball throws - 3 sets of 10
"Plyometric Push-ups" - 3 sets of 10

There are some things to consider though before starting a plyometric routine:

Age (low-intensity and low-volume only for athletes under the age of 13 or for athletes who squat less than 1.5 times their bodyweight)

Surface (some degree of softness is needed. Hard surfaces such as concrete should never be used)

Footwear (must have adequate cushioning and be well fitting)

Bodyweight (athletes who are over 240 pounds (109 kg) should be very careful and low-intensity plyometric exercises should be selected)

Technique (a participant must be instructed on proper technique before commencing any plyometric exercise)


So as you can see, there are many different ways to do cardio, and you can use nature and the warm weather to your advantage in order to make your routine more interesting. Hopefully, you'll use incorporate some of my ideas into your "Get cut for summer" routine, and maybe I'll see you looking ripped on the beach. Good luck!

No comments: