Firstly, lets get scientific. We must understand the principle of adaptation. This is our body’s ability to adjust itself to increased or decreased physical demands. When you do something repeatedly, your body becomes comfortable performing under these conditions. It becomes easier because you use less energy to do the same movements.
I always say “I want better cardio”… What I really mean is that I want to improve my conditioning. I want to be able to increase my max work capacity, you know, run (or insert your activity here) faster for longer periods of time, and have an easier time doing it.
So if you sprint often, it will become easier for you to breath while you do it, or regain yourself faster each time. That’s why interval training, or HIIT (high intensity interval training) is the way to get the job done. It’s become super popular and it will help you run faster, longer and make you a lean machine. It absolutely burns more calories than a steady intensity workout, and is proven to get your metabolism roaring even long after the workout is over.
Let’s look at some options for HIIT and in this case running. You can also use a stationary bike, swim, sled pulls, etc…
HIIT is alternate periods of work and rest. How much work and how much rest is to be decided and the intensity based on your fitness level. So far I only use the time based option. (You can use a heart rate method but that requires a heart rate monitor and some calculations.)
Tabata – 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. 8 rounds for a total of 4 minutes. (Gruesome)
Get on the treadmill , stepping on the side rails off of the tread. Crank up the treadmill. You will perform 20 seconds of all out work and hop off for 10 seconds. Repeat for 8 rounds. There are so many Tabata aps that you can download for simplicity. If you are in good shape aim for 6-7mph at 15% incline. It’s gonna hurt!
Or you can also try
30-45 seconds of work at a run speed (maybe 7 or 8mph test it out) and 10% incline, 1 minute off. This you can repeat 5 times. Yuk!
If you are feeling like you really want to punish yourself… try this awesome ‘finisher’!
20 air squats, 20 lunges each leg, 20 jump squats, 20 split jumps each leg, 6 burpees. Finish all these exercises with no breaks. Rest for 2 minutes and repeat. (you won’t feel rested)
Perform a Tabata circuit on the tread mill if your fitness level allows. You’ll be done! But feeling great! That ‘great’ part might take a minute to appear!
Obviously be careful and use your own judgment when it comes to these things. You are ultimately responsable for your safety so test it out, speeds, movements, on/off treadmill, before diving right in. And don’t forget to stretch, stretch, stretch. You could aim to do intervals twice a week, and you will see in no time what a big difference it makes on your conditioning.
Let me know how it goes!
Resources: Mike Boyle, Precision Nutrition