Cardiovascular fitness can be defined simply as the body's ability to get oxygen and blood to the muscles. The shortened term used when referring to cardiovascular exercise is "Cardio", but the slang term "wind" is also frequently used when referencing endurance. Physical activity becomes cardio work when the pulse quickens and breathing becomes deeper causing the cardiovascular and respiratory systems to work harder. One can improve the efficiency of both systems through regular training. However, too much of this activity can be counter-productive as it forces the body to catabolize muscle tissue.
TIPS ON TRAINING
Exercise should be pre-meditated, deliberate, and methodical with limited distress. You should set aside designated times for structured exercise at least 4 times a week and not overlap this designated time with work, chores or family.
As with dieting, competitors adjust their workout routines depending on where their body is at a certain time, and where they need to be by competition time. As expressed earlier, the cleaner the diet the less time spent in cardio sessions, thus most average about 3-5 days of cardio work a week in conjunction with weight training. This number and duration will increase as contest time nears, but not by much. Here's one competitor's quote on the subject, "I have found that if I train smarter, more intense, then I can spend less time in the gym. It makes my life more efficient and that is so important when managing my time."
Due to differences in genetics, not all workouts will have the same impact for everyone. The one constant that is repeated throughout the websites of female competitors regarding the key to training, is to continually vary both weight and cardio training.
Weight bearing cardio work, those exercises for which standing is required, are superior to non-weight bearing ones by virtue of having to support one's own bodyweight throughout the activity. This means that walking or running SHOULD be preferred over cycling or rowing, however one should not forget to account for intensity. That is to say, a moderate walking session, may not be as productive as a fast cycling or spinning one.
How Much Cardio is Necessary?
There are a few simple guidelines to follow when determining how much cardio work should be done. But as with every other aspect of training, it all comes down to goal orientation.
To gain weight one will find reducing cardio of value, but there is still a need for it in order to maintain health. Everyone regardless of whether they are training or not, should be getting a minimum of three 20-minute cardio sessions simply because the body requires exercise to maintain proper functioning.
When seeking to lose fat cardio activity is recommended four to six times per week at 40+ minutes per session at a solid intensity. However, as discussed earlier, the amount of cardio required for serious training is directly related to the soundness of the dietary & weight training programs, as well as your particular goals.
For improving cardiovascular fitness in general training three or four times per week for 30 to 45 minutes per session (depending on current level of fitness) will yield good results.
What Type of Cardio Should Be Done?
Cardiovascular training, no matter what the exercise, is categorized based on duration and intensity. When choosing what type of cardio to do keep the ultimate goal in mind.
If the goal is fat loss but the body is poorly conditioned, begin with low intensity, long duration work such as walking. For the same goal with reasonably good cardiovascular conditioning, you should work out at the level which burns the most calories, i.e. high intensity training (explained in detail below).
If the goal is to improve general cardiovascular fitness, then moderate intensity work is more appropriate. This is where deep breathing begins, and conversation is labored but possible.
Maximum Heart Rate
The heart rate is the guide for cardiovascular exercise intensity.
The maximum heart rate (HR max) is the theoretical number of beats per minute that your heart is capable of producing.
This is found by subtracting your age from 220, e.g. if you're 40 years old, 220 - 40 = 180 HR max. But this is simply an estimation, not an absolute upper limit.
To measure aerobic exercise intensity, percentage of HR max (%HR max) is often used. If you want to exercise at 60% of your HR max, your heart rate should be (using the example above) around 108 beats per minute.
Target Heart Rate
Your Target Heart Rate is the range of heart beats per minute at which you should work in order to best achieve aerobic fitness. This range is typically between 60% and 80% of your HR max. The bottom end of the scale is best for low intensity training while the top end is for high intensity training.
ADDRESSING THE LOW INTENSITY = FAT LOSS MYTH
Most of the people who are familiar with and subscribers to the theory that low intensity training is superior to high intensities with regard to fat loss, are probably shaking there heads right now. As with most myths, there is a thread of supportive truth propagates this philosophy, however further analysis clearly reveals a breakdown in the mathematical logic. The reasoning behind high intensity superiority is simple. More fat is burned for fuel as a percentage of the total calories burned, and high intensity work burns more calories. Now scratching their heads, some readers may be thinking, "What did I just hear?" Okay it's time to pull out the pictures. Let's view this from an indisputable statistical vantage point.
Low Intensity (L.I. for short) burns about 50% fat for fuel while High Intensity (H.I.) burns about 40%, this what I meant by some truth to the myth.
But say, for example, one burns 100 calories in 20 minutes of L.I. work, compared to 160 calories in 10 minutes of HI work. Performing HI actually burns more total fat, and does so in only half the time as illustrated below.
Low Intensity 100 calories x 50% = 50 calories High Intensity 160 calories x 40% = 64 calories
In addition, HI training will also boost the metabolism for a longer amount of time AFTER the workout is done. This post-workout fat burning effect only minutely accompanies training. Even though HI training is a powerful fat loss tool, it should only be used by those who have already attained a good level of cardiovascular fitness.
The basic idea when trying to lose fat is to create a caloric deficit which prompts the body to release stored energy, a.k.a. fat. The type of training does not matter nearly as much as creating this deficit, bringing us back to the paramount importance of diet and muscle building, but as illustrated above HI training aids in creating this deficit more efficiently than LI training.
The human body is a marvelous machine and as such it responds best to a variety of stimuli. To derive optimal value one's cardio training should be varied. Here are some examples of ways to diversify this training component.
Equipment - treadmill, stationary bike, stair stepper and elliptical machine. Rather than doing the same old steady-state fixed pace, alternate between fast-blast intervals and recovery paces. A fast-blast interval can last from 30 seconds to several minutes and should be done at an intensity that leaves you barely able to hold out for even a few moments longer. The recovery interval should have the effort level of a casual-paced walk/pedal, and is done for one to two minutes to catch your breath.
Classes. A major component among fitness competitors is their extensive use of instructed classes (often taught by them). These groups serve multiple purposes including help with cardio motivation, increased flexibility and core strength, and as great stress relievers. A two group class per week minimum is recommended, and general course selections included various Step, Boot Camp, Kickboxing, Core, Yoga, Pilates and Spinning.
The track. Run or walk one lap at a rigorous speed, then walk the next lap moderately. Alternate for at least 20 minutes.
The climb. Climbing gyms are easy to find, and wall-climbing offers an exciting alternative to more traditional exercise while working the entire body. For those who dislike stretching, climbing stretches the body while providing excitement to the exerciser, and there are different routes for all levels of participants.
The rope. Still one of the single best cardio activities known to (wo)man, the jump rope is simple, inexpensive, convenient and extremely efficient. The best way to improve and monitor your jumping is by timing it. Begin by simply jumping for as long as you can, then take a one minute break and repeat for a total of four repetitions. On successive outings increase the jumping time of each repetition by a very minor amount such as 5 seconds, until you become a world class skipper.
The great outdoors. Outdoor exercise is an option which helps break up some the monotony of gym workouts. Several of the competitors reviewed used this option in conjunction with the gym. That is to say they'd: warm-up with outside walking, jogging or inline skating before lifting; burn additional calories this way after lifting, as well as; utilize the outdoors for independent cardio sessions.