Let's face it, there's a good chance you hate doing cardio. There was a time when I did too, until I had my light bulb moment which I am going to share with you now. After making this simple change to my cardio programs, not only did I start to enjoy doing my cardio, but I also improved by leaps and bounds (hah) in both speed and endurance. So what is this magic method that I discovered?
I started wearing a heart rate monitor. If you're scratching your head wondering what it is, wait no longer! A heart rate monitor is a small strap that you put around your chest which has mini sensors that press against your ribs. These sensors pick up on your heart beats and report them via signal to a wrist watch which tells you how many beats per minute your heart is putting out.
You need to know your maximum heart rate (MHR) first. This is simply the number 220 minus your age. Then, the aerobic heart rate zone is between 70% and 80% of your MHR. I personally stick with 75% and try to keep it within a few beats + or - from that number. By finding 75% of your MHR, you have found the HR you need to maintain for the full 45-minute cardio workout. For me, this equation is 220 - 25 = 195. Then 195 *.75 = 146 beats per minute. This is the number of beats of minute I want to stay at for 45-minutes of aerobic endurance training.
Here is where the good news really starts to kick in. Training in this zone, whether you are a complete beginner to cardio or a complete cardio rockstar, is the most efficient way of improving your aerobic endurance. When I first started, I was walking at a moderate pace and my heart rate was hitting 146BPM pretty easily without the pesky burning legs and lungs. Does that mean someone my age who is full-on-running at 146BPM is getting a better aerobic endurance workout than me? NOPE! We are getting the exact same workout, as we are both operating at 75% of our maximum heart rates, and they are having just as easy of a time running as I am while walking! The only difference is they are burning more calories since they are moving at a faster speed. However, the quality of our workout in terms of improving our aerobic endurance is exactly the same.
Over time, I found myself needing to jog intermittently to keep my heart rate around 146BPM, as walking was no longer cutting it. I would jog until it hit around 150BPM, then walk until it fell to around 140BPM. Again, after a couple weeks, I found myself in a full jog for the entire 45-minutes while my heart rate hovered at 146BPM. Before I knew it I was running faster and faster, keeping my heart rate at 146BPM. My heart was becoming more efficient, and that intense burning sensation in my legs and chest was nowhere to be found. I started to not hate cardio anymore. Woo!
If you have been struggling with improving your endurance, I highly recommend you get a heart rate monitor. Try to spend no less than $60, but no more than $80 on a heart rate monitor. Less than $60 and it is going to break or give you inaccurate numbers, and if it's more than $80 it is going to have lots of features that you quite frankly do not need there is no need to pay that much. Doing your cardio without a heart rate monitor is like lifting weights in a pitch black room. How do you know if you are doing too little or too much weight if you can't see it? That same applies with cardio! You HAVE to see your beats per minute to get the most out of your cardio workout.