Spring is finally here and with it comes the promise of warmer weather. It's the perfect time to take your workout outside so you get some fresh air and sunshine.
Here are three cardio conditioning strategies that can be performed in the great outdoors.
They're a great way to slim down and get healthier while you get to enjoy the beauty of spring!
If you've read my previous newsletter features, you'll know I'm a huge fan of interval training. Simply stated, interval training involves interspersing bouts of high intensity cardio with lower intensity bouts.
Studies repeatedly show that this type of training is superior to traditional steady state cardio in almost every facet of health and fitness. It is especially effective for those looking to burn body fat. This is achieved both by increasing the amount of fat burned during the activity itself, as well as increasing energy expenditure after the workout is over.
Fat burning following exercise is due to a phenomenon called excess post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC) or the "afterburn." It simply means your metabolism remains elevated for several hours once you finish training. Research has found that interval training results in a much greater EPOC than aerobic exercise performed in the so-called "fat burning zone." Depending on the intensity and duration of training, this can result in over 100 additional calories burned!
Pretty cool, huh?
Although people tend to associate interval training with treadmill exercise, you can easily apply the concept to outdoor activities such as running or cycling. Beginners should start with a 4:1 ratio of low intensity to high intensity exercise. Thus, you could jog for four minutes then run for a minute, then jog for four minutes, run for a minute, etc.
As you progress to increasing levels of fitness, gradually reduce the intervals until you are training at a 1:1 ratio for the majority of the session. High intensity intervals should be performed at a point where you are really pushing yourself to exertion, but not so hard where you're going all out. During low intensity intervals you should be able to carry out a conversation without huffing and puffing.
Repetition (REP) training is basically a more advanced form of interval training. The same principles apply: You intersperse high-intensity training with low intensity training. The major difference is that you train at maximal levels of exertion on the high intensity intervals.
In other words, on a scale of 1 to 10, your high intensity intervals will be performed at a 10. This supercharges your workout so that you burn an even greater number of calories both during and after training, while simultaneously heightening your cardiovascular fitness.
Given that the high intensity intervals during REP training are significantly more taxing than in interval training, you will need to stretch out the time spent on low intensity intervals. A general recommendation is to adhere to a 5:1 ratio of low intensity to high intensity exercise. Thus, if you sprint for 30 seconds, you should jog for the next two-and-a-half minutes. Keep repeating this scheme for the duration of the workout.
A word of caution: Don't attempt REP training until you've developed a solid base of cardiovascular fitness. If you are a beginner-intermediate trainee, I'd suggest starting with interval training and then progress to REP training only when you feel ready.
The name may sound a bit strange, but Fartlek training can be a terrific form of aerobic conditioning as well as fun way to exercise.
Invented by Swedish athletic coach Gosta Holmer, Fartlek training is an unstructured form of exercise that varies training intensity over the course of a workout.
For example, you might walk for a brief period of time, then speed walk, then jog, then run, then reverse the order... or any combination in between. The general prescription is to maintain a heart rate between 60-85% of your age-related maximum (i.e. 220 minus your age) but this is just a guideline. How you decide to carry out the session ultimately is up to you. Go by how you feel.
Incorporate hills into the mix. Use landmarks to designate end points (i.e. run to that big elm tree, sprint to the statue, etc). Get creative and spice up the workout any and every which way you can. This will keep things interesting and help to maintain long-term adherence.
Now spring into action and enjoy the great outdoors!