Most of the time you can use the K.I.S.S. method. The Keep It Simple Stupid technique is exactly that, simplifying whatever you are doing. Too often we make or workouts extremely complicated with the end result being our head spinning and loss of motivation.
Cardio is CUMULATIVE, meaning that if you walk for 20 minutes 3 times a day with getting your heart rate into your target zone, you have done 60 minutes of cardio for the day. This example is for general health more than for conditioning, or even for weight loss. You are doing Long Duration Cardio to burn calories. The more you move throughout the day, the more calories you burn.
Weight loss is accomplished simply through consuming less calories than you burn. Monitoring your calories and comparing the what you’ve consumed to your fluctuation in weight. This will determine if you need to consume more or less calories to achieve your weight loss goal.
Back to talking about cardio. To keep things simple I am going to generalize the types of cardio into two categories; Long Duration Cardio and High Intensity Interval Training.
Your maximum heart rate can be roughly calculated by taking the following formula: 220 minus Your age. In order to constantly take your heart rate without interrupting your workouts, you should be using a heart rate monitor that has a current heart rate function. Polar heart rate monitor is the brand I personally use.
Long Duration Cardio is basically any form of cardio that your average heart rate for the training session is between 55%-75% of your maximum heart rate. Beginners should start with doing this type of cardio at least 3 times a week for 30-60 minutes. Intermediates can add an incline or other form of resistance and for a range of 45-90 minutes. Fitness Junkies can use this form of cardio also for Lactic Threshold Training by adding short sprints bringing your heart rate into the 80% range for a sprint then slow down and continue in the 55%-75% range. Endurance athletes can hold this intensity for hours on end. This type of cardio can help you build your tolerance for longer and longer workouts.
High Intensity Interval Training would be to perform cardio in bouts/sprints/intervals. I recommend warming up in the 55% range for 5-10 minutes, increase your intensity to the 65%-75% zone. This intensity (65%-75%) will be your rest intervals. The sprints should be between 80%-85% heart rate zone. **I do not recommend this type of cardio for beginners or people with Cardiac or Respiratory ailments.** This type of cardio definitely requires a heart rate monitor, that is the only way you will be able to know when you have reached your rest or sprint intervals. When done properly, this type of cardio can typically be performed for only 30-60 minutes. Also this type of cardio has a greater metabolic boost for a longer period of time, up to 16 hours after you workout (compared to steady state cardio). Another benefit to this style of training is that it practices getting your heart rate up, and back down. Meaning that over time you will be better conditioned to become fatigued slower and recover faster from exercise.
For beginners: Perform the Long Duration Cardio 3 x’s/week for at least a month or until you can handle 60 minutes @ 75% HR before you add High Intensity Interval Training into your routine. I recommend starting at 5 minute 65% HR rest intervals with a one minute 80% sprint. As these intervals become easy to perform, cut your rest intervals time down by 30 seconds- 1 minute per interval. You can also lengthen the duration of your sprint by 30 seconds to a minute. Perform for a total of 20-40 minutes. Once a week is all this should be performed by beginners, twice at most. This is to avoid injury or overtraining.
For Intermediates: Do a sprint and monitor how long you can maintain 85% of your max HR for. Depending on the total duration of your cardio session and the total number of sprints. Make your sprint intervals 30 seconds shorter than your max sprint time. Double the sprint intervals and you have your rest interval times. 30-50 minutes should be the total duration of your cardio session. Intermediates should perform this 2-3 times per week.
For Advanced trainees: Do a sprint and monitor how long you can maintain 85-90% max HR for. This time will be your sprint intervals. Match your sprint intervals with your rest interval. For example sprint for 1 minute- rest for 1 min- sprint for 1 min- rest for 1 min…etc. This should be performed by Advanced trainees up to 4 times per week.
In conclusion, cardio is something that should be performed by all. The body all works together and if you don’t keep up on your cardio system, it will just hold you back in other systems of your body. Think of it like this- your heart pumps fuel to your muscles. If your muscles are demanding more fuel than your heart is able to pump, then YOUR PERFORMANCE WILL LACK. Your heart is not only essential to life, but is a major component in progress all across the board. So take the time to do your cardio, and do your body a favor. Don’t be allergic to Cardio!!!