Adding progression to cardio in order to prevent boredom

December 29th, 2017 by

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Yesterday, I talked about preventing cardio boredom and presented a “ladder” type workout which allows one to play with some of the variables throughout the workout to keep the mind occupied. Today, I want to continue with that theme-preventing cardio boredom-and discuss another method to keep things interesting.

Adding an element or progression, quantification, and competition is a great way to stay consistent with cardio. Most of us do this with strength training…but why not cardio? My answer is “I don’t know”. LOL. Most cardio is just “hop on a machine for some arbitrary amount of time”. We treat it like a “workout” and not necessarily training. Being able to track and gauge improvement and adaptation…having more of a performance-based mentality…is great for way to make cardio “work” for you.

I’ve been using this type of cardio routine-I just call it “The Traditional”- both personally and with my clients for years. “The Traditional” template is comprised of the following:

* 5:00 progressive warm-up period
* 20:00 work period
* 5:00 regressive cool down period

The most important thing with this workout is to choose an appropriate (“doable”) yet challenging intensity for the work period. You should choose the work period intensity first, and this will allow you to structure the warm-up and cool down periods. Here is an example using a treadmill (incline walking) with the work period being performed at 3.8 mph on a 5% incline:

* 1:00 @ 3.5 mph with no incline; 2:00 at 3.7 mph 2% incline; 2:00 at 3.8 mph 3% incline (this comprises the warm-up period)
* 20:00 work period at 3.8 mph 5% incline
* 2:00 @ 3.8 mph 3% incline; 2:00 3.7 mph 2% incline; 1:00 3.5 mph no incline (this comprises the cool down period and is essentially just a reverse of the warm-up)

Again, the above is just purely an example for reference. When you first start, getting the work period intensity correct will be trial and error. It may take you 2 or 3 workouts to find the correct intensity for the work period. Again, the work period intensity should be challenging, yet not miserable. If you are going above 80-85% of your age predicted maximum heart rate during the work period it is probably too hard (at least until your fitness level improves).

As with all forms of training, it is important that you be progressive. In the example above, if you were to complete a 20 minute work period at 3.8 mph on a 5% incline your first workout, you might try bumping the speed up to 3.9 mph for your 2nd or 3rd workout while leaving the incline at 5%. This makes things just a little harder and asks more of your body without having to add time to the workout (you will burn slightly more calories but in the same amount of time). From here, you could go up to 4.0 mph or increase the elevation to a 6-7% incline and continuing working your way up slowly.

You do NOT need to try to progress every workout or even every week, but, there should be a trend towards progression over the course of several weeks or months. If you are progressive, you may reach a point where the workouts are becoming too hard (the work period of this specific workout). If you feel you are getting to this point, stay at the specific work period intensity until you feel your fitness has improved and your perceived effort is not as bad. At this point, you can try to progress again. I would HIGHLY recommend wearing a heart rate monitor: It’s kind of cool to actually see the heart adaptation over time. For example, you might see your heart rate during the work period go from 150 in the first couple workouts down to the low 140’s in a few weeks. This is what you want and also is a good indicator for you to bump things up a bit.

“The Traditional” cardio workout, like any other, can be performed on any piece of cardio equipment…it does not matter. The key is just to find the correct work period intensity…the modality does not matter.