The world of strength and conditioning is filled with opinions, quick fixes, and ego-centrism. When one sets out to find information regarding the optimal way to train, they are often left with more confusion than clarity. As a result, they become a victim of "paralysis by analysis" and give up. With the health of our nation declining at an alarming rate, it is my hope that this article can provide a little clarity on the importance of training the cardiovascular system and how to implement it into our daily lives.
It has been known for decades that improving lung capacity and maximizing one's ability to utilize oxygen can literally add years onto your life. To put this in perspective, think about how every hospital monitors your pulse ox on the monitors. If your oxygen levels decrease, the potential for negative health effects increase. The inverse of this is also true. As the heart and lungs get more efficient, heart rate decreases, circulation improves, stress goes away, blood pressure is reduced, and disease seems to be held at bay.
There are a variety of ways to train the body and I may upset a few meatheads here but jacking steel in the weight room is not enough. We must do things like go for walks, increase your step count, spend more time sleeping, eat better, and lastly, if we want to do all we can to live a long healthy life, we must train the cardiovascular system!
You may be asking, how does one best do this? I will outline the types of training below and then describe how to best utilize them with your current training program. There are three distinct ways that we can train the cardiovascular system:
Choose one of the three outlined above and really focus on it for 6-12 weeks. During week one, each workout should feel fairly easy. At the conclusion of the session, you should feel closer to energized than depleted. Each week, add a little distance, push a bit harder, and finish a little sooner. Slow, incremental improvements are our primary focus. Continue to follow this approach for up to 12 weeks.
At this point, your body will be pretty adapted to that style of training and results will begin to diminish. When this occurs, it becomes the perfect time to change methods. In addition to the physical benefits of variation, the mental benefits are also apparent. Keeping things fresh mentally allows you to look forward to each session and prevent your training from getting stale. Keep cycling through these methods for an entire year and you will become a new person come December!
The great Bill Pearl once wrote that "The human heart doesn't care how it gets elevated, just as long as it gets elevated". What you choose to do is not the important part. The important part is that you do it, and you keep doing it for the rest of your life!