Cardi-NO: Guidelines for Cardio Training

Fight or FITTE? 

FITTE stands for frequency, intensity, type, time, and enjoyment and it is an easy peasy way to figure out exactly where to begin with cardio training.

Frequency is the number of training sessions in a given period of time. For general health, cardio should be done everyday in small quantities. If you want to improve your fitness levels cardio should be done 3-5 times a week at a higher intensity.

Intensity is the level of demand placed on the body. It can be measured by calculating your heart rate, output, Vo2Max, or Vo2R… If you’re like me and hate math, stick with a basic heart rate measurement.

Time is the length in minutes of each training session. The general guidelines for adults are 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio per week OR 1 hour and 15 minutes of vigorous intensity cardio per week.

Type is the mode or specific exercise. The exercise should be rhythmic, use large muscle groups, and be continuous. This could be running, jogging, walking, swimming, cycling, or using any form of cardio equipment.

Enjoyment is how much fun you are having! Because at the end of the day, if you’re miserable then whets the point? Exercise adherence drops like crazy if you’re not interested in what you’re doing, so find something fun and challenging that you enjoy!

When it comes to cardio don’t fight it, FITTE it!

Once you get comfortable with your routine you will need to progress your training. Your body will adapt to the level of stress placed on it and will require a change in routine to produce a higher level of adaptation in the future. I hate to break it to you but you can’t wake up and run a marathon tomorrow. You have to progress systematically to prevent injury and overtraining.

Stage 1 is where many begin. You will start slow and work your way up to 30-60 minutes of exercise. When you can do this 2-3 times per week then you are ready for stage 2.

Stage 2 focuses on altering the speed, incline, or level to increase the workload. Stage 2 is also the introduction to interval training, where speed and intensity is varied throughout the workout. This might look like 1minute of high intensity followed by 3 minutes of recovery. Work to rest ratios should continue to decrease in order to progress to stage 3. During stage 2, you should incorporate stage 1 type training on some days to allow proper recovery time and keep workouts balanced.

Stage 3 is also focused on altering the speed, incline, or level to increase workload as seen in stage 2. The main difference here, is that the intervals are shorter (30-60 seconds) and work to rest ratios continues to decrease, allowing for more high intensity and less rest.

As with any cardio training it is important to remember the warm up and cool down periods.

Warm ups can be general movements to get the blood flowing or specific movements that mirror the exercise you’re about to do. Warm ups should only take about 5-10 minutes. You want your heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature to increase, so your body is ready for training. This is also a great time to get psyched up about your workout! Start off by using self-myofascial release (foam rolling), followed by static stretching, and finally jumping on cardio of your choice (treadmill, bike, stair climber, rower, elliptical, etc.)

Cool downs are important too because they reduce your heart rate, breathing rate, and temperature, and return muscles to their previous state. Cooling down helps prevent pooling of blood in the lower body, which may cause dizziness or fainting. As with the warm up, cool downs should only take about 5-10 minutes. Finish up with 5-10 minutes at the end of your cardio of choice, followed by self-myofascial release, and static stretching.

At the end of the day, cardio is hard and being unhealthy is hard… choose your hard!


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