If there is nothing else I have learned from my years of training (myself, as well as others), it is that the best advancements in strength and stamina occurred once I became comfortable being uncomfortable!
Cardiovascular training is important for a number of reasons, first and foremost being that the heart is the most important muscle in the body!
But working outside of what feels “normal” or comfortable is hard, and takes heart of a different kind. Here, I highlight two methods of cardiovascular training and the benefits of both.
Heart Rate Training
Monitoring heart rate during exercise helps my clients pinpoint a precise number where an easy effort becomes moderate, or where a moderate effort becomes hard. This kind of training is valuable to both everyday and professional athletes who wish to better understand their workout zones:
Joe Friel (M.S. Exercise Science) Run Zones
Zone 1 < 85% of LTHR Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR
Zone 2 85% to 89% of LTHR Zone 5a 100% to 102% of LTHR
Zone 3 90% to 94% of LTHR Zone 5b 103% to 106% of LTHR
Zone 4 95% to 99% of LTHR Zone 5c More than 106% of LTHR
Looks complicated, huh?
Here, LTHR stands for Lactate Threshold Heart Rate, which for most people is the hardest “hard” effort they can maintain for 30 minutes. To understand one’s unique LTHR, a trainer or exercise physiologist will look at the average heart rate from the last 20 minutes of the run. This eliminates a falsely high reading if someone goes out too hard in the first 10 minutes. This is better than the old “220-age” maximum heart rate calculation because efforts are measured against a pace that can actually be maintained.
Why is this important?
For the person dedicated to their cardiovascular training, using this formula paired with assigned workouts will help them know they are pushing hard enough during key workouts, and going easy enough on recovery days. Most weekend warrior type athletes push a little too hard, a little too often for most workouts. Having a specific number to adhere to, calculated based on that individual’s current abilities, ensures consistency and appropriate workout intensity. This is why I am proudly coached by Andy Jones-Wilkins from Carmichael Training Systems.
Rate of Perceived Exertion
😄 😏 😐 😩 😢
This is the easiest way to gauge effort for most individuals interested in working out, because its unit of measure is very simple: How a person feels.
When training is less sport-specific and more about improving overall fitness, being able to identify how hard an effort should be by feel is a valuable tool in assessing where someone can push harder or when it is time to back off.
Why is this important?
When someone is starting a new fitness routine, everything may feel hard, which can be frustrating, often stopping the routine before it even has a chance of becoming habit. RPE helps people understand the relationship between how they feel and how hard the workout is, and provide a guide for how hard they should expect a workout to be. When told ahead of time, “This effort is going to be hard today. I want you at an 8 out of 10 and it’s OK if it feels very difficult,” people spend less time analyzing why it is so tough, and instead learn to embrace it. Conversely, when a typically easy effort feels unusually challenging, they will know it’s time to analyze whether other areas of wellness - sleep, hydration, stress, diet - are affecting their workouts. When paired with % LTHR, we get a clear picture of what might be going on with someone’s training that day. Here are some personal examples, from the feedback I have given to my coach using the Training Peaks platform:
Putting It All Together
Ultimately, I wish to train everyone to move by feel. If a client hits a plateau, we can look to heart rate monitoring to see where they can begin to experiment with increasing the intensity and duration of their workouts. Conversely, if their heart rate becomes more elevated even after rest, we will look at taking a prolonged recovery cycle. Initially, I want clients to establish a simple baseline upon which we can gauge easy, moderate, and hard efforts. From there, when I start hearing things like “That felt hard, but good!” I know we can start utilizing heart rate zones as another training tool.
Cardiovascular training geared toward my clients’ specific abilities and goals is just one of the many ways I guide them in finding their definition of Fit, Healthy and Happy.
I welcome questions any time, and am happy to provide free email consultations as well has a complimentary 30-minute assessment!