How to Improve Your Cardiovascular Fitness

This week, AFNA took a field trip to the Rose Bowl for a chance to test our cardiovascular fitness. The Rose Bowl provides us with ample space to be safe outdoors as we go over lessons on cueing and spotting exercise, as well as providing us with an opportunity for a safely distanced group workout. Our class was led by fitness coach Kyle Payne (IG: @therealkylepayne) who led us through a 10 minute warm up to prepare us for the run.

Cardiovascular Fitness

Cardiovascular fitness, or sometimes known as functional capacity, is a measurement of the body’s ability to adapt to a change in homeostasis. In other words, it is a measurement of how good the body is at at adapting to exercise, both long term and short term. I’m sure many of you would agree that running is neither easy nor fun (although this can be debated by running enthusiasts). However, what I’m going to share is a series of exercises that can actually make running easier for you, which might also make it more fun (or at least more tolerable!)

First, a Quick Rundown of Exercise Physiology

Ok, so let’s say you’re not quite used to running. This is completely OK, there’s been a lot of things going on this year and running might not be on your radar right now. I’m right there with you! This means that our body is currently used to little energy exertion, because we don’t need much energy to sit at home or in the office. But as soon as you make that nearly impossible decision to start running, your body goes through a shocking surprise. All of a sudden, it’s being asked to produce A LOT of energy.

This energy comes from an organic molecule called ATP. It’s basically the equivalent of metabolic money because our body uses this in exchange for muscle contractions. When we start running, our body needs a lot of ATP because our leg muscles are contracting constantly. Remember how I said our bodies are used to using very little energy? Well this means that we currently don’t have very good methods of producing more ATP. Not only that, but our bodies also aren’t used to getting rid of the toxins that happen during exercise.

As we’re running, and our body is desperately trying to provide us with energy, we also start to consume more oxygen. Our muscles also need oxygen along with ATP to continue producing muscle contractions, so you feel your lungs expand and contract more and more. Precious oxygen is hard to come by, especially in California.

Finally, as we are continuing our run, our heart starts pumping much harder. The only way our muscles can get the ATP and oxygen they need is from the heart pumping blood throughout our body. And boy does it start pumping.

At this point you’re probably feeling a soreness in your legs, your breathing has dramatically increased, and you can feel your heart pounding. The agonizing pain continues, and you check your watch to see how far you’ve run.

6:21 minutes … 0.83 miles …

Just barely past the halfway point…And you start to wonder, how the hell do people enjoy this?!

Conditioning Takes a Little Bit of Time, And a Whole Lot of Consistency

The first time you ask your body of any significant change, such as traveling across the world, beginning a new diet, starting a workout plan, or picking up running, you’re going to be in for a shock. This is normal, and also the biggest hurdle to overcome. It’s going to be painful for a week. It’s going to suck for two weeks. You’ll want to quit many times within the first three weeks. But then, all of a sudden, you realize it’s not really as bad as you remembered.

And that’s the beauty of conditioning.

The first run is going to be the worst. There’s nothing you can do about it. But if you go out again a few days later, and then again after that, you’ll find that it starts to get easier. Remember how I mentioned our body needs ATP for the muscles to contract? Well, lucky for us, our body recognizes the increase in energy demand, so it becomes better at making new ATP.

Not only that, but our lungs get better at breathing air. Who would’ve thought we could suck at breathing in air!? As we run more frequently, our lungs get better at extracting the oxygen out of the lungs and into the blood. With more oxygen in the blood, our muscles can work harder and longer before they begin to burn.

And finally, with more ATP available and more oxygen flowing through our body, our heart doesn’t need to work so hard. It becomes more efficient at pumping blood, and that will reduce the heart rate to something a bit more tolerable.

All of a sudden you’ll find yourself waking up on a Sunday morning planning your pre-sunrise run. You’ve got your new running shoes, a fitness tracker, and an armband for your phone. As you head out the door you steal a quick glance in the mirror, and you think to yourself, “who the hell is this person?”

All of a sudden, you’ve become one of the people who enjoys running.

It’s enjoyable because it’s tolerable. It’s never going to be a pleasant stroll through the park, but now it’s no longer an agonizing burn that requires every ounce of will power. In fact, it’s quite enjoyable to find new challenges, such as reaching further distances or reducing your mile time.

So, if you’re like me and would like to get better at running, try following the workout template below. It’s designed to be a gradually progressive difficulty so our body can adapt to a new challenge, without being too sore to continue training. The best way to get results is consistency.

Note: The following workout plan is merely a guideline and is not intended to replace your currently workout. Please consult your doctor or physician before starting a new workout plan.

 MonTueWedThurFriSatSun
 Base RunActive RecoveryRestBase RunActive RecoveryLong RunRest
Week 11 Mile 

 

30 Seconds Run

60 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preferenceRest1 Mile

 

30 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preference1.5 Miles

 

30 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Rest
Week 22 Miles 

 

60 Seconds Run

60 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preferenceRest2 Miles

 

60 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preference3 Miles

 

60 Seconds Run

60 Seconds Walk

Rest
Week 32 Miles

 

90 Seconds Run

60 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preferenceRest2 Miles

 

90 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preference3 Miles

 

90 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Rest
Week 43 Miles

 

90 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preferenceRest3 Miles

 

120 Seconds Run

60 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preference2 Miles

 

Continuous Run

Rest
Week 53 Miles

 

120 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preferenceRest3 Miles

 

120 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preference4 Miles

 

120 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Rest
Week 63 Miles

 

150 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preferenceRest4 Miles

 

150 Seconds Run

30 Seconds Walk

Cross train of your preference4 Miles

 

Continuous Run

Rest