New Science of Cardio

What is your maximum heart rate, when do you change from aerobic to anaerobic energy metabolism, what is your recovery heart rate zone, how long should you stay in one particular heart rate zone? But do we really understand why and how the body works and metabolizes fuels during exercise to achieve this?

Everyone knows the benefits of cardiovascular training. The surgeon general recommends three times a week for at least twenty minutes, for each workout, in order to maintain good cardiovascular fitness.

Energy Systems Development is a scientific approach to cardiovascular training. A great example is a baseball pitcher. The classic cardio prescription has been long runs to improve endurance. But when you think about the energy requirements, a pitcher does one repetition as hard as they can but for multiple times (i.e. 50-70 pitches per game). So a better approach to a conditioning program would be multiple sets of maximal effort, explosive movements to mimic the energy usage for that sport (i.e. 5-yd sprint for multiple reps., broad jumps, medicine ball throws, pool workouts, push presses, vertical jumps). These types of workouts are called Energy System Development (ESD) workouts and they should be total body movements as used in pitching, energy demand specific (maximal effort), and they should be non-impact to reduce stress on the body. When does a pitcher ever run in the actual movement of delivering the ball?

"ESD" or Energy Systems Development is a non-impact way to exercise without putting un-needed stress on the joints. "ESD" uses heart rate zone training as means of determining intensity or workload. The graph above is an example of an ESD interval workout. Notice the times and heart rate zones are all individualized to the person and their are specific durations based off of how the body utilizes energy or fuels. Each energy system requires different fuels thus your body changes energy systems depending in the intensity of work.

Heart rate is the only way to quantify how hard someones cardiovascular intensity is. The heart never lies and your body is a scientific machine. It breathes harder when it needs oxygen, the heart pumps faster to supply more oxygen to the organs. Their is a direct correlation of heart rate, oxygen intake, and work intensity. If you don't believe me, go run or bike as hard as you can for one to two minutes. I guarantee that you breathing and heart rate increase.

In strength training we use poundage or kilograms as a way to measure strength and also improvement. In the conditioning field the traditional way to determine cardiovascular intensity is by distance, speed, or time. These are very subjective forms of intensity. A two mile run or sixty minute bike ride is different for everyone. For one person it may be easy and for others it might seem impossible. We need to think outside of the box and change the way we do cardiovascular exercise. A heart rate monitor gives you instant feedback aka biofeedback on your workout intensity based off of your individual body. This is a much more accurate form of collecting data for intensity. Without a heart rate monitor you are guessing on how hard you are working. If you are guessing on intensity then how do you know if you are on the right track to reach your goal?

Energy System Development (ESD) a way to "train smarter and not harder". As a former strength coach, working with Professional Athletes, program design is the key to a successful exercise program and the most efficient way to get results. Pro's don't train with marathon workouts but they have a balanced program that maximizes their time in the most efficient way. Think about Finacial planning, when you plan for retirement or to save up for a down payment on a house or want to purchase a car, you look at your income, expenses, and come up with a game plan. The hard part is execution. Heart rate zone training is the same way. You need to know when to work hard, when to rest, and/or when to recover. Heart rate zones put specificity on your cardiovascular exercise program so if you don't know these, you are shooting in the dark on reaching your goal. You need to know what to reach for in order to obtain success.

So some good questions that people always ask me are: "what intensity should I train at?", or "what are the appropriate heart rate zones for me as an individual?" or " how do I compare to everyone my age?" and I always reply; no one knows their specifics about at what heart rate (bpm) your body goes from oxidative (aerobic energy system) to anaerobic (without oxygen aka creatine-phosphate), this is know as ventilation threshold or anaerobic threshold. I encourage people to get a VO2 Test done to find out what your heart rate zones should be. Maximum heart, ventilation threshold, heart rate zones are all individualized and change depending on: age, gender, current conditioning level, genetics, and even ethnicity. So I am challenging you: what is your maximum heart rate, when do you change from aerobic to anaerobic energy metabolism, what is your recovery heart rate zone, how long should you stay in one particular heart rate zone?

So as a professional in the fitness industry, I recommend switching from a traditional out-dated cardiovascular exercise modality to a new age, modern, smarter, safer way to get in shape. Heart rate is the same on a bike, TRX, slide board, swimming pool as it is as running. Safe your joints, be smart, STOP RUNNING and start training scientifically with non-impact exercises and heart rate zone training. It is time we break the mold and start practicing what we preach.

For any questions please feel free to contact me about ESD or VO2 Testing.

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