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How to Improve Cardio Part 1 – Aerobic Endurance

March 14th, 2021

Have you been struggling trying to figure out how to improve cardio through your workouts? For some, it comes easy, but for the majority of us doing cardio is a laboring chore which is not looked forward to (putting it nicely). However, there IS light at the end of the tunnel. I also never liked doing cardio until I learned how to do it CORRECTLY. This post will cover how to get started in the cardio universe even if you are just getting off the couch. Many of us have tried the famous “Couch to 5K” programs only to burn out as they followed a distance or repetition style format that does not suit everyone. What I will share with you today is quite literally universally for everyone. If you have ever tried to do your 45-minutes of cardio going for a run quickly to find out 5-10 minutes later your legs and lungs are not quite on the same page as you, you are going to love what I have to tell you today!

Before you continue, you will need to know the following information about heart rate monitors! You need to know your maximum heart rate first. To get this number, subtract your age from 220. In my case, since I am 25 years old, this would be 220 – 25 = 195. My maximum heart rate (MHR) is 195 beats per minute (BPM). In this article, we will be discussing aerobic heart rate, which is trained at 75% of your MHR. For me, this would be 195 *.75 = 146BPM. The value.75 is simply representative of 75%.

Let’s kick this off! Aerobic endurance is the backbone of all cardiovascular training. If you have been wondering how to improve cardio the fastest, this is your bread and butter. Aerobic simply means “with oxygen”. That means the work is light enough that your body has time to take in, process, and utilize oxygen in order to generate and burn energy for your working muscles. Activity that takes several minutes (and exceeds several minutes) is primarily working your Oxidative Energy System (aerobic cardio!)

To train in your Oxidative Energy System, you must train in a heart rate range of 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. I tend to hover around 75% of my maximum heart rate for these types of workouts. This allows a little leeway to rise and fall without much effect on the workout. The good news is, this is a very easy heart rate to train at! For beginners, this will likely be a brisk walking pace. That’s right! You don’t even need to run yet! Training for 45-minutes at 75% is the only thing you HAVE to do. Whether that is walking or running is neither here nor there. After several weeks of walking, you will find that walking might only raise your heart rate to 60% of your maximum heart rate, and you will need to alternate jogging and walking to keep it at 75%. After several more weeks, you will need to jog the entire time to keep it at 75%. See the trend?

This is why most “Couch to 5K” programs fail people. Your new program (found below) will be perfectly suited for you. It may not get you doing a 5K in 8-weeks or whatever ridiculous time frame promise they give in those programs, but it WILL get you to a 5K if you stick with it. If you can already do a 5K, it will no doubt improve your time significantly.

So why is training in this range important? Training in this range targets specifically your aerobic endurance. Improving your aerobic endurance has several benefits including:

Lower resting heart rate (you will sleep a lot better!)
Faster recovery time between activity (i.e. between weight lifting sets or sprints)
Faster recovery time between workouts (you might only need 1 day off to heal instead of 2-3 days)
Regulated blood pressure
Improved heart function
The big fitness craze at the moment is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). While it has it’s benefits, it is NOT A COMPLETE REPLACEMENT FOR AEROBIC ENDURANCE TRAINING. Proper HIIT implementation into a program will be discussed in our next post, but for now just keep in mind that it is NOT for beginners. A proper aerobic foundation must be built before you can effectively move on to HIIT. Jumping into HIIT too soon can lead to over-training and injury faster than it will lead to cardio improvement or fat loss; please keep this in mind before jumping on any magazine or talk show band wagon!

Enough listening to me nerd-out about aerobic endurance, let’s get to the exercise recommendation. Using your heart rate monitor, you should follow this protocol to begin improving your cardio:

3-4 sessions of 75% maximum heart rate for 45-minutes per week
OR 5-6 sessions of 75% maximum heart rate for 30-minutes per week
No matter what, aim for a minimum of 3-hours of 75% maximum heart rate training per week
Beginners should not exceed 5-hours of 75% maximum heart rate training per week
Give this new protocol a shot to start building up your aerobic foundation. This will prepare you to move on to the more advanced style HIIT format without injuring or over-training yourself. Please post any comments or questions you have and I would be glad to answer them! The next post will cover HIIT in-depth and give you a new training protocol to follow once you have been doing this protocol for 6-8 weeks!

In Good Health,