Chapter 9 - Cardiovascular Training
Role of cardiovascular training
The role of cardiovascular training within the context of the HWP™ is to increase and maintain the circulatory system’s health (heart and lungs), balance energy input / output, and to favorable hormones, neurotransmitters, and enzymes. Remember, when it comes to the body composition game, cardiovascular training is like taking a car out for a drive: the longer and harder the drive, the more energy or fuel is used. Right now, I want to take a minute to address two debates about when you should do your cardio and how hard you should do it.
Cardio in the “Fat Burning Zone”?
There has been a lot of debate the past few years regarding the level of intensity that one should employ to burn maximum fat during exercise. The proponents of the low intensity side state, correctly, that doing cardiovascular exercises at a lower intensity allows for more fat to be burned during the time of exercise. Since oxygen is needed in the metabolism of fat, exercising at a lower intensity allows for more fat to be used as fuel. Say, for example, you walked for 30 minutes at a heart rate around 55% of your max. You burned 200 calories, with 65% of them being from fat and 35% being from glycogen stores. So 130 calories are from fat and 70 are from glycogen stores. Now, instead of walking for 30 minutes, you jogged and ran, with your heart rate around 75% of your max. Since not as much oxygen is available at this time, a smaller percentage of fat is used as fuel; however, more overall calories are used. In your 30 minute jog/run, you used 450 calories. For this example, let’s say that only 35% came from fat and the other 65% came from glycogen stores. In this example, then, you would have used 292 calories from your glycogen stores and 158 from your fat stores!! Not only would you have burned more calories from fat, but you would have burned more overall calories and done more to condition your cardiovascular system.
There are those who will argue against the validity of these numbers and state that the % or calories used are wrong. I will concede that possibility. The purpose of this illustration is to show that the greater the workload, the more energy gets used. Since from a body composition standpoint we are in an energy crisis, using as much fuel as we can is the main concern. Who cares if we use glycogen stores as an energy source? By using our glycogen stores for exercise, we give our bodies a reason to store the carbohydrates we eat later as glycogen in our muscles and not fat. Is there a place for lower intensity cardiovascular training? Yes!!!!
If you are just starting an exercise program, your body will not be able to handle the workload or intensity of running and jogging 3-4 days a week for 30 minutes. You might be able to jog/run for 10 minutes. Your total calories then might be 150, 50 fewer calories than if you had walked for 30 minutes and much harder on your body. Starting off at this intensity is also a sure way to get your joints and tendons upset with you. So lower intensity work is great in that it allows you to add to your workload total (burn more calories) without placing a great demand on your body, and all those little things add up.
Take a look at how low intensity activities can add up for you:
If the goal of your cardiovascular activities is to keep your cardiovascular system healthy, then you need to build up to a minimum of 3-4 20 minute sessions per week at the “Broken Sentence” level of intensity, roughly 60-75% of your maximum heart rate. If your goal is to aid the regulating of your energy in/out balance, you can do this with any activity and at a lower intensity.
The cardiovascular calculator on the companion CD-ROM will give you a personalized 6 week program that progressively increase your workload, based on your current level of fitness and goals.