I hope you’re well on your way to a healthier you. I know tracking your food tends to be a little more time consuming at first but once you get used to what everything is worth, it’s actually pretty easy. Like I said last week, calorie counting is not completely necessary as there are great foods that are higher in calories and a food tracker really can’t take that into consideration. Your ultimate job is to become comfortable to the actual value of food and go from there. Have fun with your food. Try new recipes and don’t allow yourself to get stuck in a rut with the same old foods everyday.
But enough about that, let’s tackle the next topic at hand: the wonderful world of cardio. I must say for me, boxing and kickboxing is by far the greatest interval cardio I’ve come to love and hate. I only hate it at times because it hurts so good and it’s always a challenge. I am tired after a burst of punching and kicking no matter what, then I have a minute to rest and it’s back at it again. It’s been almost four years since I started and I still find benefit it in. Plus, it’s a great stress reliever. I bring up boxing because I think interval training is one of the most effective ways to get your cardio done in a timely manner on top of increasing your cardiovascular endurance with each burst of speed.
I guess my point with all of this is you have to find what works for you. I know some people do better in a class setting. There are many gyms nowadays that include a lot of free group exercise classes in their membership fees. They have cardio, step, boxing, dancing, spin and many other options to get your heart rate up. The nice thing about classes is you don’t have to think, just do what the instructor says and they are typically 45 minutes to an hour which to me is a good length of time on average to spend at the gym (I would say 90 minutes is a good goal, and that means the time you walk in and change to the time you walk out.)
If you aren’t comfortable working out with others and would rather do your own thing, then cardio machines it is. First, you have to find what works best for you. I always tell my clients, if you are able to run, run. Walking isn’t going to do you any good unless it is all you are capable of doing for one reason or another. I would say my go to cardio machines are the treadmill, stair climber and every once in a great while, the row machine. When it gets nicer, I will hit the pavement again and start running outside. There will be some 5ks and possibly a duathalon (run, bike, run) in my future.
So now let’s get down to some ideas as far as what you can do once you find your cardio of choice. Going back to those intervals I was talking about earlier, I would start wherever you are somewhat comfortable. Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) is a good tool to use when gearing up for your cardio sessions. RPE is a scale from 1-10 (1 being you’re laying on the couch watching tv and 10 being on the verge of passing out from exhaustion). When you complete your session, a good place to be on the scale is around a 7 or 8. You should be tired once you are done. If you aren’t, something needs to change the next time you get moving.
Interval Challenge #1
Sprint 1 min, Jog 30 seconds… Repeat 10 times through. You can play with the speed and figure out what works for you and how you feel according to your RPE. You can also scale it back and jog/walk if that works better for you to start out. I try to bump my speed up a little bit for each sprint. The important thing is getting your heart rate up and giving it enough time to almost recover only to bring it back up again. The quicker your recovery, the more you are able to endure.
Interval Challenge #2
These will be longer intervals, so your faster interval can be a bit of a quicker pace since your recovery time is longer. Think 1 min sprint, 3 min recovery… I would try to jog the whole recovery time if possible. You can do anywhere from 5-10 sets of these intervals.
The last challenge would be to use some kind of program to help you prepare for a race of your choosing. I think it’s a great idea to sign up for goals because you then have something to work towards and also something to hold you accountable. I ran a 10k this past fall that I completely prepared for by using a program. I used halhigdon.com and found a program that worked for me and my schedule. This way I had structure to my runs and also a goal to work towards. I found it very helpful and it definitely kept me on track. There are a lot of “couch to 5k” programs out there, you just have to find one that complements your schedule and routine. These programs will include different kinds of runs. Some will be tempo runs, some will be longer endurance runs where you find a steady pace and hold it for the duration and you’ll also incorporate some cross training as well.
Remember, these workouts (except if you’re training for an actual run) don’t necessarily have to be on the treadmill. I’ve done stair climber and row intervals and really felt the fatigue throughout the workout. It’s a great idea to change it up to keep things fresh and keep your body guessing. You are also less susceptible to overuse injury.
So have fun, try these different ideas out and see what you think. Take it from me, cardio is not always fun but you just have to get yourself started and you’ll feel great once you’re done. I always feel accomplished when I go for a run and have a good pace time or do a sprint interval session where I was able to increase my speed each time without fail. Just gotta get after it and push yourself out of your comfort zone. There is no point of doing any type of cardio if you feel the same way ending your workout as you did at the beginning. You should be sweaty, you should be tired, and you should feel the burn in those lungs that will get better over time when you are able to build some endurance. Consistency, like anything in the fitness and weight loss world, is the key to your success.
Nutrition jump start tips…check.
Basic cardio interval ideas…check.
Next up… one of my favorite topics: resistance training. In the next couple weeks I will get you comfortable in the weight room. I know it’s probably the most intimidating place, and the area where people need the most help (which is a big reason Personal Trainers have job security), and that’s where I come to the rescue 🙂 I will keep it simple and give you all the tools to get yourself comfortable with a weight training program. Have a week full of positive attitudes and new cardio workouts!