Last week I was doing some farm work and found myself to be extremely winded. The task I was doing was difficult but I thought my conditioning was a bit better than what was on display. Due to this unfortunate feedback (aka sucking wind while working), I decided to start implementing a change in my cardiovascular training. Enter the 4x4 Interval Program.
My favorite types of programs are the ones that practically have the directions in the name. The 4x4 program requires you to perform four-four minute intervals. It is simple in theory, but hard in practice. The benefits of this style of training is pretty remarkable. There are multiple studies that found that following this exact protocol will improve your VO2max which is your bodies ability to utilize oxygen while training. By doing this, not only will you improve sport performance but you will also increase the likelihood of living longer as there is a positive correlation between longevity and VO2max. Sounds like a win win to me!
Here is how we do it...
I begin each session with walking for about 10 minutes in an effort to warmup. Once the 10 minutes is complete, you begin to run the first of your four intervals. The pace for this is pretty fast as you want to be moving anywhere between 80-95% of your maximum heart rate (MHR). To find MHR, take 220 and deduct your age from that number. For a 40 year old, the equation would look like this 220-40 (age) = 180 (MHR). Your pace would be between 80-95% of 180 (MHR) which is 144 bpm and 171 bpm. This is a fast pace, one in which you cannot carry a conversation at. Once the four minutes is up, you then walk or slow jog for three minutes to allow your heart rate to return to about 70% MHR (126 bpm). Repeat this for four total reps and then cooldown. Give yourself about 45 minutes to complete.
Keep in mind, it is not about what you choose to do for the interval but rather the intensity at which you work. The heart and lungs don't care if you use a bike, stair-climber or elliptical. All they know is that they are being stressed with physical activity and that is exactly what we are looking for.
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