There are so many ways to increase cardio capacity - running is just one of them. Our Fitness Expert, Libby Babet, provides her expert tips and workout ideas to help you boost your cardio fitness.
Some people LOVE cardio, but equally as many seem to think it’s a dirty word.
The thing is, cardiovascular endurance is potentially the most important aspect of fitness, because it’s a measure of how strong your heart is and can add years to your life.
Most people automatically associate cardio fitness with running, but even if you really don’t care for pounding the pavement, that doesn’t mean you can’t skyrocket your cardio fitness and enjoy every second of it.
There are so many ways to increase cardio capacity and running is just one of them.
First up, here are the most important things to keep in mind when you start a cardio training routine.
1. Consistency is key. There’s no use running 5km every day for one week, then doing nothing for a month. Planning is key and doing an activity that gets your heart rate up at least three times a week is important.
2. Build up slowly. Going from performing minimal activity to running long distances, or hitting the gym for an hour plus is not a good plan of attack! Your heart is a muscle and it needs time to adjust and respond to training. Build up slowly and remember to schedule rest days into your training plan.
3. Think outside the box – it’s not all about running, cycling and swimming! Circuit sessions, high repetition weights or bodyweight workouts, skipping intervals, boxing, dancing, explosive drills like squat jumps or burpees, and even some forms of yoga or pilates can all boost your cardio fitness.
4. Varying your degrees of intensity is one of the best ways to skyrocket cardio fitness. The simplest way to incorporate this is to mix sprint intervals with periods of slower movement, like walking. Hill runs, stair walks, skipping sets, or circuit stations followed by rest periods are all other ways to get it done.
5. Don’t feel like you need to do your cardio all in one go. Tacking a small cardio burst, anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes, on to the end of your weights workouts, or yoga/pilates sessions is a great way to boost results!
Now here are some workout ideas to mix up your cardio options and skyrocket that fitness!
#1 – Sprint Intervals (run, cycle, swim, or row)
• Sprint as hard as you can for 30s, then slow your pace right down for 60s
• Repeat 10-12 times
• As you progress, increase your sprint time and decrease your rest, for example, you might increase your sprint time to 45s and decrease your rest time to 45s
#2 – Circuit Session
• Do as many repetitions of each of the exercises listed as you possibly can within 45s
• Rest for 15s between each exercise
• When you reach the end of the list, recover for 30-60s, then repeat the whole lot a further 1-3 times through, depending on your fitness level
• Your list (no weights, just move fast!): squats, push-ups, lunge jumps, plank hold, high knee runs, compound crunches, burpees
#3 – Skip to Success
• Get yourself a skipping rope – it’s the cheapest cardio tool around!
• Complete 150 skips as fast as you can, then rest for a slow count of 15 when you get to the end
• Now complete 140 skips as fast as you can, resting for a slow count of 14 afterwards
• Continue to drop 10 skips and 1 count off the end, until you get all the way down to 10 skips
• Easy to do anywhere and an AWESOME little cardio workout!
#4 – Plyo Power
Explosive, or plyometric exercises are one of the quickest ways to get your heart rate up. This mini workout is a great little cardio boost you can do anywhere, or add to the end of your weights sessions for a butt-kicking finisher.
• Choose two explosive moves – my favourites are squat jumps, lunge jumps, burpees, plank jacks, lateral jumps, forward bounding jumps, starjumps, or high knees (double count!)
• Now do 10 repetitions of the first exercise you chose, quickly followed with 10 reps of the second exercise you chose
• Next, do 9 reps of each, then 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, and final 1 rep of each
• And… you’re done!
#5 – The Treadmill Mixer
This is a 10-minute treadmill interval workout that’s a great cardio lift. Complete one round as a finisher on the end of a longer/different workout, or do 2-3 rounds for a full-on, cardio cranking session! If you’re a more advanced runner, pick the speeds up by 2-3 levels for each section.
• 2 minutes, at incline 5, running at 8km per hour
• 1-minute, at incline 2, running at 10km per hour
• 2 minutes, at incline 2, running at 12km per hour
• 1-minute, at incline 2, running at 14km per hour
• 2 minutes, at incline 10, running at 8km per hour
• 1-minute, at incline 2, running at your MAX sprint pace!
• 1-minute, at incline 2, walking to cool down/recover