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Cardio exercise is one of the most important parts of your workout

Cardio exercise is one of the most important parts of your workout

When most people start an exercise routine, they tend to go right to the treadmill or bike without really knowing what to do or having any method/plan to their training. Cardiovascular training is not only a great way to look and feel your best, but it will keep your heart and lungs healthy, too! Here is some advice on cardiovascular training to help you make the most of your time, have a little more fun and most importantly, see real results and make permanent lifestyle changes.


Do

Do complete at least 100 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week

Tracking the number of minutes you exercise per week is a great way to break down your physical activity. Some days are busier than others and you might only be able to squeeze in 20 or 25 minutes. Other days, you might have more time, so you may decide to put in 45 minutes (but don’t exceed that). If you achieve 45 minutes of cardio and you feel like you could keep going, instead of increasing the duration, you should focus on increasing your intensity. You want to keep the intensity high enough to where you are counting down the final few minutes until you are done because you are exhausted from working that hard!

Do try new and different exercises

Cardiovascular training is defined as any type of exercise that works the heart and lungs, which includes jogging, biking and swimming. If you find yourself doing the same cardio exercises every day and you are starting to get bored, then start exploring new ways to do cardio. You can try climbing the stairs at your local high school stadium or signing up for a Zumba or spinning class. There are so many ways to get your cardio in; you should never do anything that feels boring or monotonous. If you do, exercise starts to become punishment, not enjoyment.

Do interval training

Interval training is a cardio routine in which you complete short periods of high intensity exercise, followed by short periods of low intensity exercise. It could be walking and running on the treadmill, doing high and then low resistance on the elliptical or jogging up and down a big hill. Interval training is anything that gets your heart pumping at a high rate and then a short recovery period and then back at it again. It’s a great way to make gains in your cardiovascular fitness and it’s an excellent calorie burner.

Do wear a heart rate monitor

For both interval training and steady state cardio, you should always monitor your intensity. Many people are guilty of going too easy and not burning the calories and making the fitness gains that they should. However, it is also possible to go too hard. A very general recommendation is to keep your heart rate between 65% and 80% of your max. Your exact intensity depends on several different factors, including your body weight, fitness goals and total duration of the exercise. To determine what intensity is right for you, you should speak with a fitness professional.

Do sign up for a race

It doesn’t matter if it’s your very first 5k or your 10th marathon; there is always a sense of accomplishment when you cross the finish line. We always encourage our clients of all ages and fitness levels to do our annual 5k because when they sign up, it motivates them to train more consistently in order to feel prepared for race day. Don’t worry about being the slowest person or getting last place. And even if you are in last place, I promise you that you will still be glad you did it and you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment with no regrets!


Don't

Do not over-train

Over-training can not only be counter-productive to your fitness and weight loss results, but it can also drastically increase your risk of injury. And when you are injured, you can’t exercise. Be sure that with any training program, you progress at a steady and realistic rate. Don’t try to do too much too soon or you risk injuring yourself.

Do not get stuck in the same routine

I see it all the time at the gyms: People do the same speed and minutes on the treadmill, the same level of resistance on the elliptical or the same interval circuit on the spin bike. So many of us are guilty of getting stuck in a routine. The problem is if you do the same exact workout every single time, your body will adapt to that routine and you will no longer be making any fitness gains. Not to mention, when your body adapts to a routine it becomes very efficient at that particular workout and won’t need to expend as much energy, ultimately burning less and less calories while doing the same exercise.

Do not cardio as your only form of exercise

Cardiovascular training is an awesome way to burn calories and keep your heart and lungs healthy. However, cardio does not build lean muscle mass and strong bone and joint health. Only resistance training, such as dumbbells and cable machines, will do that. For optimal fitness, you should include both resistance training and cardio in your exercise routine. If you are only focusing on cardiovascular exercises you might lose weight from burning calories. But you run the risk of breaking down bones and muscles rather than keeping them strong.

Do not forget the importance of nutrition

You can’t outrun a cheeseburger! Too often people will work out hard and then “reward” themselves with bad food. I use the term “reward” sarcastically because if you really want to reward your body, you should give yourself nutrients needed to replenish and repair it. There is nothing wrong with treating yourself to unhealthy foods every once in a while; but separate your nutrition and your exercise in your mind. Don’t exercise just so you can eat badly. Nutrition is extremely important for not only seeing physical results, but feeling your best during and between workouts.

Do not neglect your shoes

Wearing the proper shoes for cardio training is very important! Not only should you be fit for the proper shoes by a professional, but be cautious of not putting too many miles on any one pair of shoes. Without the right support, the wrong shoes can cause all sorts of problems, including shin splints, pain in your knees or hips and painful blisters. There are several athletic shoe stores that now employ people who can analyze your walk, properly measure several aspects of your foot and make professional recommendations. It’s worth your time to check them out.


Summary
Jumping cartoon

Before starting any cardiovascular training, it is important to consult a doctor to make sure you are clear to start working out. Remember that exercising to see real results comes down to exertion. You have to not only put in the time; you have to push yourself beyond your comfort zone. At first, it’s tough to do. But it gets easier and you eventually learn to love the feeling of pushing yourself past your limits. Make it a priority to try new and different cardio exercises and find what you enjoy so that it becomes a lifestyle and not a chore.


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Photo Credits: + Spinning by Flickr: Juan Pablo Olmo; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas - Fotolia.com

Erin MellingerOwner of Fitness Together

I am a certified personal trainer and I have been a business owner for over four years. I opened my first Fitness Together in July of 2008 and my second location in April of 2012. I have found such success because I am tenacious about changing l...

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