Why improve your cardiorespiratory endurance?
We know that heart disease is the number one killer of men in the US1)https://www.cdc.gov/men/lcod/2014/index.htm.
This fact cuts across all ages and races of men.
Especially for a man over the age of 45, heart disease is the leading cause of death.
Now, here is why you want to improve your cardiorespiratory endurance:
People with higher levels of cardiorespiratory fitness have a lower risk of all-cause death and coronary heart disease2)https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090519172153.htm.
The lack of physical activity is a major risk factor for heart disease.
The minimum of physical activity that you need is 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise five times a week3)http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp#.WMLRYhIrJBw.
If you are like many people in the US, you are not getting much physical activity.
Less than 5% of adults participate in 30 minutes of physical activity each day; only one in three adults receive the recommended amount of physical activity each week4)https://www.fitness.gov/resource-center/facts-and-statistics/.
Is there a correlation between lack of physical activity and heart disease?
Absolutely, and this is great news, because, physical activity is something you can control.
You cannot control your age, nor your family genetics.
But, you can get up off the lazy boy and start walking.
There is irrefutable evidence that regular physical activity prevents heart disease.
And, not only heart disease, but even diabetes, cancer, hypertension, obesity, depression, osteoporosis and premature death.
A high fitness level reduces your risk of premature death from any cause, including cardiovascular disease.
This is particularly true for men and women who show no symptoms of heart disease.
People who have the highest levels of physical activity and fitness are at lowest risk of premature death5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1402378/.
Clearly, exercise is medicine.
Achieving a higher fitness level than where you are now is not impossible.
There are five major components of fitness:
- Body composition
- Muscular strength
- Muscular endurance
- Cardiovascular fitness
Today, we will focus on cardiovascular fitness.
Even if you are a weightlifter, you might discover that your cardio fitness is not optimal for your age.
Let’s cover some of the main components necessary to design an effective cardiovascular fitness program.
7 Training Principles to Increase Cardiorespiratory Endurance
The Overload Principle
The overload principle says that in order to increase your cardiovascular fitness, you must challenge yourself.
We know that few adults get 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day.
If this is true for you, all you have to do then, is start walking at least 30 minutes a day.
Challenge yourself to get fitter.
Give your heart the exercise that it needs.
Your heart is there for you every single second of your lifetime.
Pumping about 5 quarts of blood through your body every minute.
Make your heart stronger, starting today.
Your body will change, get fitter, when you increase the load.
So, if you are a couch potato, start walking.
If you walk the treadmill slowly, start jogging and/or running.
Be specific with the type of exercise that you want to improve.
If you want to be a better runner, run.
To be a better walker, walk.
If you want to swim better, swim.
The more you participate in your activity of choice, the better you will get.
Your body will adapt to the specific load that you impose.
This is known as S.A.I.D or Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand.
You can improve your cardiorespiratory endurance much faster than you think.
Even after the age of 50.
Just because you hit 50, or even 60, don’t think that you cannot improve your fitness.
You can never stop improving.
Whatever your fitness level is now, your body will stay there.
If you are a couch potato, so will you remain.
Unfortunately, your fitness will not improve by sitting.
If you can run 4.5 miles an hour for 20 minutes, so you will remain.
Unless you push yourself to run faster.
Accommodation is the principle of progression.
You must build progression into your training regimen.
Use it or lose it.
If you train today, you do not keep the benefits permanently.
Unless you train again.
To maintain your cardiorespiratory endurance, the rule of thumb is 48 hours.
This means that your cardiorespiratory benefits will last about 48 hours.
After a couple of days, your fitness level can begin to taper off.
After decades, well, just look at people who have not worked out for decades.
But, do not be discouraged.
If you have ignored training for decades, you can still get into great shape.
You will be surprised at how fast your body will respond.
In fact, just after 12 weeks, you can make spectacular improvements.
We are all different, including our muscle and skeletal structure.
This means that you cannot expect the same results as an olympic athlete.
Do not compare yourself to others.
First, take the cardiorespiratory endurance assessments and find your baseline.
Then, get fitter in comparison to your own baseline.
This is how to improve your health and fitness, to the best level possible, for you.
You have to rest, your body needs sleep.
During sleep, your body will rest, repair and build tissue.
Therefore, you must shoot for 8 hours of sleep every night.
If you are over the age of 20, you need at least 7 hours of sleep.
Even 9 or 10 hours of sleep is appropriate for an adult.
So, how can you increase your cardio respiratory endurance?
The answer is to design a cardiorespiratory endurance program that follows all the above principles.
Let’s now look at how to create a cardiovascular training program.
Cardiovascular Training and FITTE
To create a program that increases your cardio fitness, use the following template:
First, determine the mode of your training, meaning, what type of cardio?
Do you want to walk, run, bike, swim, hike?
Second, determine the frequency, how often, how many times a week?
Third, figure out the duration of the training session.
Will you train for 10 minutes or an hour?
Fourth, you must know the training intensity.
How much effort will you put into the exercise?
The acronymn FITTE is a template for these rules:
F – frequency of training.
I – Intensity of the training.
T stands for the type of training, long distance, fartlek, pace/tempo, short or long intervals.
T – Training duration.
E – Enjoyment, which cardio exercise do you want to do?
Choice of Exercise Mode
The choice of exercise mode depends on your preferences.
As well as any injuries that you might have.
If you have a rotator cuff injury, you have limited mobility.
The choice of mode also depends on your cardiovascular goals.
As well as your balance, physical activity and current fitness level.
Last, your choice of exercise should reflect the type of movement that you do daily.
If you walk for a living, then choose walking, not swimming, for your exercise mode.
The American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for cardio frequency are:
3 – 5 times a week.
The exercise frequency is dependent on your goals, activities/sports and your needs.
How do you measure exercise intensity?
Exercise intensity is measured by:
The Talk Test – your ability to talk during exercise lessens as the exercise intensity increases.
The RPE – a scale developed by Dr. Borg.
RPE stands for the rate of perceived exertion.
This scale is accurate in identifying the exercise intensity.
In order to discover the rate of perceived exertion, just ask yourself or your client the following:
On a scale of 1 – 10, what is your current level of effort/difficulty?
If the answer is a 1, the exercise is too easy.
If a 10, the exercise is much too difficult.
Target Heart Rate – another method of measuring intensity is your heart rate.
If you are a 60 year old man, a 60% intensity target heart rate is approximately 130 beats per minute.
Pace – the speed of the activity.
For example, if you are running 4.5 mph, increase the intensity by running 5 miles an hour.
Types of Cardiovascular Endurance Training
Long slow distance
Benefits of Long Slow Distance Training
The benefits of long slow distance training are:
- Improving your cardiovascular function
- Enhanced thermoregulatory function, which means better temperature control of your body.
- Increased utilization of fat
- Sparing of glycogen reserves in your muscles
- Increased endurance of all involved muscles
Recommendations for Long Slow Distance training:
1 – 2 x a week for a duration of 30 minutes to 2 hours.
And perform your LSD training at an intensity of 55 – 70% of your target heart rate.
Find your target heart rate here.
Or, measure intensity by using an RPE of 5 – 7 on a scale of 1 – 10 as explained above.
Fartlek – I did not make that up!
You never heard of fartlek?
You think I am making up silly words?
I admit to doing that sometimes, but not with Fartlek.
Fartlek is a Swedish word which means – fart for speed and lek is play.
Therefore, fartlek means speed play.
After you build up some cardiovascular fitness, you are going to play around with your speed.
So, while you were doing long slow distance training at an RPE of 5 – 7, you are going to have some speed bursts up to level 8.
For example, run at 4.5 mph for 5 minutes and then run 5.0 mph for 30 seconds.
Every 5 minutes, you can speed up to 5.0 or 5.5 mph or more, for 30 seconds to a minute or more.
Everything depends on your level of fitness.
The concept though of fartlek is to help you build up your cardiorespiratory endurance.
And, you do this by challenging yourself to run, walk, swim, cycle or row faster.
The recommendation is to do Fartlek 1 – 2 x a week for a duration of 20 to 60 minutes.
Fartlek is long slow distance with bursts of speed wherever you want them.
What are the Benefits of Fartlek?
You will increase your VO2 max.
VO2 max is a measure of the maximum volume of oxygen that you can use.
The better your VO2 max, the greater is your cardiorespiratory endurance.
You will improve your lactate threshold which means that you will not fatigue as fast.
Your fuel utilization of fatty acids, oxygen and glycogen will all improve.
Whichever activity you choose for cardiorespiratory endurance, your technique will improve.
Fartlek is the next progression after Long Slow Distance.
Once you feel comfortable with Fartlek, which is an RPE of 8, a level 8 intensity, then you can move up to:
Pace-tempo is doing cardiorespiratory endurance exercise at a level 8 intensity.
This type of cardiovascular fitness training will be ‘comfortably uncomfortable.’
An RPE (rate of perceived exertion as explained above) of 8 is equivalent to a target heart rate of 70 – 85%.
Perform pace-tempo once or twice a week for a duration of 20 to 30 minutes max.
Do not do more than 30 minutes of pace-tempo or you will risk overtraining.
Pace-tempo will improve your cardio fitness beyond where LSD and Fartlek can take you.
This applies especially to your lactate threshold adaptation, which means that you will fatigue much less.
The functional application of all these cardiorespiratory endurance exercises is to your real life.
You will move easier throughout the day, climb those subway stairs with greater ease.
Besides walking and running for the bus when you need to or playing touch football.
You will be fitter for your kids and/or grandkids, nephews or neices.
Give LSD, Fartlek and Pace-Tempo a shot, and then try out the last 2 cardiorespiratory endurance type exercises.
After you have progressed up the cardio fitness ladder of LSD, Fartlek and Pace-Tempo, now you are ready for long intervals.
Long intervals will improve your anaerobic capacity and yes, long intervals are uncomfortable.
Because they are above the lactate threshold, so long intervals will feel uncomfortable.
The recommendation for long intervals is 1 – 2 times a week for a duration of 3 to 5 minutes.
The reason that long intervals are uncomfortable is because the intensity level is a 9.
This means that the target heart rate is 90 – 95% of your heart rate max.
Long intervals are very close to your VO2 max.
As a result, you will increase your VO2 max, speed and anaerobic adaptation.
Anaerobic adaptation means that your cells will become better at producing energy without oxygen.
How is that for a magic trick?
You can do sets of long intervals, for a maximum of 30 minutes total.
Do one set for 3 to 5 minutes at level 9, then rest for at least the time of the set.
Therefore, in a 30 minute workout, you can do 2 to 5 sets of 3 minute intervals with at least 3 minutes of rest between sets.
By the way, whenever you see a range in this cardiorespiratory endurance guide, always start with the lower number.
So, if you have never done long intervals, start with once a week and build up to twice.
Short intervals is the last stage of progression.
As opposed to 3 – 5 minutes for long intervals, short intervals are for 30 – 90 seconds.
This means that beginners should start with 30 seconds.
The rest ratio for short intervals is 1 to 3 or 1 to 5.
This means that if you do a short interval of 30 seconds, then rest at least 3 x 30 seconds or 1.5 minutes.
You can even rest 5 x 30 seconds or 2.5 minutes between intervals.
You need a longer rest time between short intervals, because the intensity is all out.
This means that you will be going at a level 10, an RPE of 10, the maximum effort that you can do.
The benefits of short intervals are:
Improve your speed, your technique, and your anaerobic metabolism, the ability to produce energy without oxygen.
Summary of Cardiorespiratory Endurance Type Progressions
Remember the Overload principle, as well as the 6 other training principles.
Progress in intensity by changing your type of workout.
For example, you can do the following training program, once you are capable:
- Sunday – Long Slow Distance
- Tuesday – Fartlek
- Wednesday – Pace-Tempo
- Thursday – Long Intervals
- Friday – Short Intervals
If you wonder why I chose Sunday for long slow distance, it is because you usually have the day off.
That is the perfect time to go out for a long walk, run, bike, swim or row.
Then, you will progress within each type of cardiovascular fitness exercise:
Increase the duration of time for LSD, Fartlek and Pace-Tempo(or P/T for short).
Number of intervals increases.
This means that if you did one long and/or short interval last week, you will increase to two, when you are ready.
As we mentioned before, 20 to 30 minutes max, including rest time, is enough time for long or short intervals.
Cardiovascular Fitness Programming
Determine your current cardiovascular fitness level.
Choose a sport and/or activity in which you want to train.
Set a goal, for example, to improve your aerobic fitness for your age.
Cardiorespiratory Endurance Training Template
Map out a 12 week cardiorespiratory endurance training template.
You can use a sheet of paper or excel.
Make sure to include all the FITTE components for each session.
This means that you will choose the cardiovascular mode that you want to train in.
Whether it is walking, running, swimming or biking.
Choose what you enjoy to do.
Select a duration, always start off small.
The last thing you want to do is injure yourself.
That will kill your motivation.
Your body will respond fast to your imposed demands, so gradual improvement is a perfect pace.
Now choose the type of cardiorespiratory endurance exercise, LSD, Fartlek, P/T, Long or Short Intervals.
And finally, know the intensity level, RPE or target heart rate at which you will train.
CV Mode is Treadmill, 30 minutes duration, LSD @ RPE of 5 – 7.
This means that you chose to walk or run on the treadmill, for a duration of 30 minutes at an RPE of 5 to 7, which is Long Slow Distance.
By the way, whenever you train on the treadmill, for walking or running, you should set the incline to 1 degree.
The reason you want to set the incline to 1 percent is that this best simulates walking or running outdoors.
Research has shown that when you set the treadmill at a 1-2% incline, it will simulate the “intensity” of outdoor running (make up for the lack of wind resistance in outdoor running).
You’ll often hear recommendations to run at a 2% incline if you run faster6)http://www.runnersworld.com/ask-coach-jenny/what-incline-should-i-use-on-my-treadmill.
A Cardiovascular Training Session
Each of your cardio training sessions should include:
A warm up phase, which means 5 to 10 minutes at a low to moderate intensity.
If you are a beginner and walking is intense, then just walk.
Improve gradually and your body will thank you.
The purpose of the warm up is to prepare your body for exercise.
You can do a general warm up, which means movements/modes/exercises that are different than the actual exercise.
For example, warm up on the bike and then train on the treadmill.
Or, you can do a specific warm up which is the same as the exercise.
For example, walk on the treadmill and train by running on the treadmill.
The National Academy of Sports Medicine aka NASM recommends using a foam roller and other stretching exercises prior to your CV training session.
After your warm up, then go to the conditioning phase, which is the actual performance of your cardio training session.
Last, do a cool down of 5 to 10 minutes to help return you to a resting state.
Don’t Forget to Cool Down!
Why cool down?
The cool down allows your cardiovascular system to adjust back down to a resting start in a slow fashion.
This aids in the removal of metabolic waste products which are created during exercise.
In addition, a cool down prevent blood-pooling in your lower extremities, which can cause dizziness or fainting.
Last, research has shown that there are psychological benefits to incorporating a cool down to your cardio training session.
Cool down prevents pooling of blood and sluggish circulation.
Removes metabolic waste products (lactic acid) – therefore prevents muscle soreness.
Body acidity returns to a balance.
Attains emotional balance.
Gradually reduces heart rate, stroke volume, blood pressure preventing dizziness.
Smooth readaptation of body temperature.
Reduces risk of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).
Boosts rate of recovery7)https://fit4dance.files.wordpress.com/2009/10/warm-up-cool-down2.pdf
“Cool-down is as critical for training and long-term fitness as a warm-up. Just as a warm-up is a step between rest and successful training, whatever your sport is, cool-down is a critical step from training to recovery” (Koutedakis & Sharp, 1999)
Finally, adding some flexibility and/or corrective stretching is a great way to end your training session.
Putting it all together, means to see where you are right now.
Then incorporate the 5 types of cardiorespiratory endurance exercises into your training.
While adhering to the 4 principles of cardiovascular training.
So, if you are a man over 50 who does not do much training, what would your program look like?
Homework for You
To answer the above question, I need to know a few things.
I need you to walk a mile, as fast as you can.
This is best done on a treadmill at a 1 percent incline.
When you complete the mile, pause the treadmill and get the time and your heart rate.
If your treadmill does not give you the heart rate, you have to either wear a heart rate monitor or have a friend take your heart rate.
You need to give me the beats per minute of your heart after walking a mile as fast as possible.
Do not forget to get the time it took you to walk the mile.
No time, no results.
Then, you need to give me the following:
Time to complete the mile
Heart Rate after completing the mile
After you give me this information, I will calculate your VO2 Max and let you know what category you are in for your age.
Then, I will provide you with a custom cardiorespiratory endurance 12 week workout courtesy of the Hashi Mashi Fitness Blog.
Please sign up with your email address and send me the information here.
Of course, only engage in physical activity if you are cleared by your doctor.
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