How I work out (part II): cardio

03 maart 2016
Those who read my part I: ‘strength training’, know I used to be all about cardio. Even though I can’t run for days in a row anymore, I still incorporate cardio in my workout routine. A good condition comes in handy with any kind of workout. I also simply love running. The feeling after a good run is indescribable.

I enjoy running outside. Running on a treadmill is not only boring, your movement is also monotonous which can lead to partial development of muscles. A treadmill does the work for you. Of course, you’re still working out but I’ve experienced it myself: running outside is much harder. The weather affects your run, but this is a good thing. It will make you stronger, it will give you a better condition. By running inside, your immune system can get bored and you’re missing the cooling effect of open air. You’ll feel more rewarded for your hard work when you run outside. It’s also so much more fun! Yes, I know running in the rain or when it’s cold is not as nice as running in the sun. Just put on an extra sweater or a raincoat. Try not to let the weather conditions be an excuse for skipping your cardio workout.

Once a week, I try to do a long distance run of about 10km at the same pace. If I have a few good weeks of training, I’m able to run further. When I have more work for school or just have less time, I run a shorter distance. For me, cardio is continuously building up and exploring what my body is capable of. A condition is something you should work on and not force. You have to start at the bottom to give your body the opportunity to grow, to become stronger. If you go for a run for the first time, don’t aim for 10km. Don’t even aim for 5km. Start with 1 or 2 km for example, whatever you feel comfortable with. If that was easy, try 3km the next time. Building up is key! Why long cardio sessions? It’s good for your blood pressure, improves your cardiac function, reduces stress and burns fat.  

Another great way to burn fat is interval training. It’s a workout where you alternate between a period of high intensity and a period of low intensity. I run for 1 minute at a high pace (not sprinting, just running fast) and 2 minutes at a low pace (jogging). This counts as 1 set, I run 10-12 sets. It’s is intensive and will improve your condition faster than long distance runs. Before you start your intervals, make sure you’re really well warmed up. You risk getting hurt when you start without a warm up. It can be tricky when you’re new to interval training: the 1 minute of fast running seems to last forever and you will need the full 2 other minutes to recover. But after a while, you’ll notice you need less time to recover from the period of high intensity. Then you can start to make things more interesting: 1 minute fast and 1 minute slow, 2 minutes fast and 3 minutes slow etc. And again, building up is key! Start with 5 sets for example.

The last one is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training): a sort of cardiovascular exercise which stimulates fat burning and increases the metabolism. Usual HIIT-workouts are 15-20 minutes. They are short but intense. Again, you  alternate between a period of high intensity and a period of low intensity but now you sprint for 30 seconds and walk or rest for 30 seconds. Repeat this 10-15 times. A good warm up is even more important with HIIT. If you’re new to cardio or fitness in general, I don’t recommend HIIT. It’s a big load for your muscles and it requires a lot of energy.

Make sure you cool down after every cardio session. Stretch your muscles so they can recover from all the hard work. The first thing you have to do when you want to start running, is buying good running shoes. I can’t stress this enough. Go to a professional shop where they can help you find the right shoes. It’s more expensive but it’s worth it. Bad shoes can and will cause injuries. My final conclusion: you need strength to run good and you need a good condition to improve your strength. That’s why my training consists of strength and cardio training.