Creating a Training Plan to Increase Cardiovascular Fitness

Creating a Training Plan to Increase Cardiovascular Fitness

Just as with strength training, cardio training requires proper progression, variation, specificity, and overload for beneficial adaptations to occur.  When looking at how to design an effective cardio training program, consider the following variables:

  1. Mode: The following activities can be used for cardio training: swimming, rope skipping, jogging, cycling, cross country skiing, stair climbing, elliptical trainer, dancing, rowing, and many other activities. When choosing your activity, consider the activities you enjoy, your skill level, and your joint health.
  2. Frequency: Frequency is the number of cardio training sessions performed per day or per week. This will be dependent on training status and intensity. 2 to 5 sessions per week will suffice.  Weekly accumulation of 150 minutes for general fitness, and 250-300 minutes for weight loss.
  3. Duration:  Duration is the length of the cardio training session. This is directly related to the exercise intensity. Strive for 15 to 60 minutes of continuous cardio training.  Most of the 50/50 Fitness and Nutrition classes are 45 minutes in length.
  4. Intensity:  Intensity of the cardio training can be monitored via heart rate response. The most practical method is measuring heart rate using a heart rate monitor or a simple pulse count. To attain optimal cardiovascular fitness, exercise between 60-90% of maximal heart rate -or- 50-85% of heart rate reserve.

Remember that heart rate increases in a linear fashion as workload increases during cardio training. The maximal level that can be attained is dependent on fitness level, age, climate, gender, medications, etc.  Below is a good method for finding the Maximum Heart Rate, the Karvonen Method:

220 – age = Maximum Heart Rate

Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate = Heart Rate Reserve

(Heart Rate Reserve x Training %) + Resting Heart Rate

A few thoughts to keep in mind as you develop a weekly workout plan based on your fitness goals.

Cardiovascular exercise is vital to our health and increasing our overall performance. With regular cardio training, one can expect numerous metabolic changes and positive health benefits.  Cardio training can be helpful for achieving optimal body composition because of the high caloric expenditures. It does help to lower the overall percentage of body fat, but has little effect on increasing muscle mass.  In some cases, intense cardio training could elicit a greater cortisol response than traditional strength training. Higher levels of cortisol is associated with protein loss from muscle, which could lead to a reduction in muscle mass and strength. If you’re training for increase strength, consider keeping your cardio sessions relatively brief and less frequent.

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