**This started as the post to help you fill in your plan - workouts, food, etc. It became LONG so we're breaking it into three parts - 3.1 - cardio, 3.2 - resistance and 3.3 - nutrition.**
Are you ready to add the details to your plan? Go grab your resolution list and your general plan for January. You should know which days you'll do your cardio and resistance workouts and be ready to fill in your meal plan.
First, cardiovascular workouts. Regardless of what kind of cardio exercise you're doing (running, swimming, etc), there are some types of workouts (what training element is being focused on) that can be applied to any exercise. We'll talk about the type of training then give workouts for different kinds of exercise within each training type.
First - steady state. This is a comfortable pace you could maintain for awhile. Yes, you're breathing and heart rate are elevated but not into the anaerobic, or high effort level zone. This is where most cardio workouts happen.
Second - speed work. This is short bursts of high intensity exercise designed to increase your cardiovascular strength. Speed work involves working at a high intensity for a short amount of time then allowing your heart rate to recover and repeating the process for a prescribed amount of time. Typically these workouts are shorter in duration - 15, 20 for Rookies and Middlemen or 30 minutes if you're a veteran. Speed work can be structured in two ways - set high/low durations or random. For a set high/low workout, you will choose time increments. For example, you may sprint (I use this to describe any burst of high intensity cardio) for 30 seconds then recover (walk, slow down, reduce the incline, etc) for 1 minute. You would repeat that pattern for the duration of the workout. A random speed workout allows you to work at your own pace. You sprint for as long as you can then recover as long as is needed. I play a game when I do this kind of workout. I pick a point to sprint to then recover. Pick another point, sprint then recover and so on and so forth. Or, my personal favorite version of torture - I sprint until I see spots then recover. Speed work rapidly increases your heart and lungs' capacity to process oxygen; therefore, increasing your overall fitness level.
Third - endurance work. This is similar to steady state cardio but you are exercising longer durations. This is when you are training your body to expend effort for longer and longer times. For instance, if your goal is to run a marathon, obviously you don't immediately try to run 26.2 miles. You have to work up to the distance. At first, you may only train for the time; your goal being to workout for 45 minutes, then an hour, then an hour and fifteen minutes, so on and so forth. At some point, your endurance training would switch to training for a certain distance within that longer time frame.
Now, some specific workouts -
Steady State workouts - this is the easiest. Pick a cardio activity (running, swimming, hiking, biking, cardio machine, etc) and do a 30 minute workout where you can maintain a comfortable pace, checking for effort level periodically by making sure you can say the sentence "Hello, my name is_____" before needing to breathe. This is also where many cardio exercise videos and classes strive to keep you. Exercise videos and classes are sort of a brainless way to get in your cardio. You just have to follow along.
Speed Work - I actually really like speed work. It's efficient and I love anything that saves me a little time.
Running - begin by warming up for 5 minutes. Then sprint (all out effort) for 30 seconds. Recover (fast walk or slow jog) for 1 minute. Repeat this pattern for 20 minutes then cool down with 5 minutes of walking. Remember, you can also pick random points to sprint to or sprint as long as you can then recover.
Swimming - I am not a swimmer (I sink) so I'm going to give a general speed workout. Instead of time (who is watching the time while in the pool??), you will 'play'. Sprint (swim as fast as you can with good form) as long as you can then slowly swim or tread water until you catch your breath. Repeat for 20 minutes. **Any swimmers out there who have better sprint workouts? Chime in and let us know!**
Biking - you have some options here - speed or resistance and time or distance. Decide whether you want to focus on how fast you can go (remember, if your gear is too low, speed is pointless) or how fast you can peddle at a high (difficult) gear. Then either go for time or distance. You would sprint for 30 seconds and recover for 1 minute or sprint a mile then recover a mile. Cycling speed work not only works on your cardiovascular strength but your leg strength too!
Hiking - to do speed work with hiking, you will need either a relatively flat trail or be mobile enough to run the trail steps. Please, use common sense and don't run an incline trail with a full pack, muddy or wet terrain or in the dark. Again, pick either time or distance. Sprint for 30 seconds and recover for 1 minute or pick a point and sprint to it then recover as long as necessary. Repeat these patterns for 20 minutes.
Cardio machine - any of the above recommendations work on cardio machines as well. It's actually easier because you are in a controlled environment.
Endurance - this one is easy too. Just go longer than normal, regardless what cardio you choose! Remember, your pace may be slightly slower and that is OK. You are training for time or distance, not speed. Your speed will naturally increase as you continue to train. If you are doing 3 thirty minute workouts during the week, add in a 45 minute long workout over the weekend. Gradually increase that time to match your goals.
Let's talk about cardio pace. We talked about determining effort rate by using the talk test. Your can easily determine your target cardio pace the same way.
For steady state and endurance cardio work, your goal would be to stay in the mid-range of effort level. You should be able to say the sentence "Hi, my name is _____" or state your complete address (this is longer and good for endurance effort testing) without needing to take a breath. During your speed work, you shouldn't be able to say much when you are at the highest rate of effort (the speed part) and should recover to the point of being able to speak the address sentence, at least.
The cardio aspect of your fitness is generally the simplest to tackle. There are so many options out there (I run up and down my stairs if nothing else is available. I don't even need shoes!); you just need to pick one and get moving!!
If all of this has you completely confused, message me and we'll chat.
Your next piece of the puzzle is resistance workouts. The discussion on resistance workouts can be very long, very involved, very complex. For our purposes, we will keep it as simple as possible. I'll discuss resistance workouts in Part 3.2!