Get the most out of your Cardio workouts
by Lindsay Seamans
Cardio, cardio, cardio…my specialty!
A lot of people misunderstand cardio: how to do it, why it’s important, and what target heart rate is best.
Cardio is important for a few reasons. One, it helps keep your heart, lungs, and cardiovascular system strong. Without a strong cardiovascular system, the risk of heart related illnesses grows. Not only does it help health-wise, but it is also great when it comes to improving how you look by lowering body fat and increasing muscle definition. Without doing cardio, you’ll never see the muscle you’re developing. So you can lift and lift, but until you start burning the fat off, you’ll never get that toned or muscular look.
Your big cardio days should be separate from your big lifting days. Yes, we always have some cardio in the Boot Camp classes, but it’s not nearly as much as we have in either the Redline Interval or the Cardio Kickboxing classes. this is because until you build up your muscle, you can’t the fat away, so we have beginners start in Boot Camp to build up their muscles and give them a little cardio and then we let them advance to Boot Camp for three days and taking Redline or Kickboxing two or three days for intense cardio sessions. So if you focus on weights one day, and then cardio the next, they will complement each other perfectly. This is why we have the Cardio Kickboxing and Redline Interval classes on the “off” days of the popular Boot Camp classes.
As important as cardio is, it’s important to understand your heart rate zones. The only way to measure this is with a heart rate monitor, preferably one with a chest strap, and it must be programmed so you don’t pick up someone else’s monitor. A heart rate monitor will help you know your heart rate from rest all the way through maximum intensity (generally you find your resting heart rate, then use a formula based on resting heart rate, body mass and age to figure out your target zones). Your resting heart rate is obviously when you’re at rest. Low intensity is 50-70% of your maximum, which should be reached during your warm-up. Moderate intensity is 70-80% of your max HR, and this is where you burn the most calories (lose weight!), and also improves your body’s ability to transport oxygen. High intensity is 80-90%. During high intensity, you’re out of your comfort zone (which happens often in my class!), but you are increasing your VO2 max (max Volume of Oxygen or max oxygen uptake), so your lungs will be able to hold more oxygen and use it more efficiently. However, at this stage you are also doing anaerobic cardio, so you are not burning as many calories. Maximum intensity is anything over 90%, and is when you’re doing something as hard as you can (sprints, air dyne, etc.). Figuring out your max heart rate will also help you know where you need to be in order to either gain muscle or lose fat. This will also help you see how fast you can recover and get your rate down. The easier it is to lower it from a higher intensity, the better your cardio is.
Even though I’m the Cardio Kickboxing and Redline HIIT instructor, I HATE doing cardio. I do. It’s true. It’s miserable, and hard, but I know the aftermath will give me what I want – more definition, explosiveness, and endurance. I think that in general, people feel the same way. That’s why I try to keep everyone on their toes in my classes and never make you do anything that I don’t do. I also believe that if you enjoy doing cardio, and I don’t mean like how I do because it gives you good results, but you actually LIKE doing sprints, double unders, mountain climbers or what have you, you’re either A) a real sicko, or B) you’re not doing your cardio correctly and you need to come and see me and do one of my classes (you’re not working hard enough).
Most importantly, CARDIO IS NOT JUST RUNNING! There is a HUGE difference between steady state cardio (running at the same pace for extended periods of time) and Interval Training (working your ass off and going hard for a short period of time and then resting for a few seconds and then repeating). Unless you’re doing Interval Training, you’re just not going to be able to get your heart rate up high enough to burn the fat off. Spaced out intervals with work and rest periods, plyometrics (box jumps, jump squats, jumping lunges, etc.) will get that heart rate up, and help you shed those pounds that just lifting weights can’t help come off!
Work hard, don’t give up, and try something new! My classes are hard, but not so hard that you can’t do them!