Cardio – a word that triggers intense feelings of both love and hate in people. While it is touted for decades as the easiest way to lose weight and torch fat, aerobic work tends to be at its most effective when the intensity of the activity is scaled to the individual, instead of just blindly following some cookie-cutter routine or pounding away mindlessly on the treadmill.
Ideally, endurance training should be complemented with other training modalities. Finding a good balance by incorporating other elements such as strength training, resistance training and flexibility is crucial regardless of your fitness level. This can be achieved through yoga or even High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) classes. Utilised properly, energy systems work helps to increase your resting metabolic state, lower blood pressure levels and even decrease baseline cortisol. Switching up your workout can also be very helpful, so be sure to vary your training every now and then to keep the adaptations coming.
Everyone has their own unique heart health profile based on their lifestyle markers and genetics. As such, our ability to handle increased workload demands in a non-maladaptive manner differs. Some are able to increase their heart chambers’ pressure easily, whereas others may find it difficult to increase wall stiffness. In layman terms, progression in cardiovascular training will vary. Some may be more efficient at improving the total amount of distance they can cover, while others may have an easier time sustaining effort near the top of their VO2 max.
Distinguishing good discomfort from the bad pains is also important. If you feel too much chest-tightening sensations or experience an excessive shortness of breath, you may need to decrease your workout intensity. Be aware of your fitness level and keep yourself in check at all times. When you are at the beginning of your fitness journey, it is common to focus more on cardiovascular work and lightweight resistance training. Over time, with increased stamina, skill and strength, higher-intensity workouts can be considered.
In addition, do not be too hard on yourself if you miss a day of training. If missing a day triggers a bout of negative self-talk or worse – self-punishment – remind yourself that it’s not that big a deal in the grand scheme of things. At the end of the day, overall consistency is key. Even a walk around the neighbourhood is better than nothing at all!