Effective cardiovascular training (such as running!) is all about organization…also known as prioritization in the competitive training world. It’s a term used for following a specific, 4-cycle training plan for a set period of time followed up with another 4-cycle training plan with a different focus. The approach is bio mechanically and physiologically sound and has been proven to be the best way to progress in your cardiovascular (running) fitness.
A training routine following the periodization principle follows this path:
I. Conditioning Phase: This is all about building endurance. Aim for a target heart rate that is 65-75% of your max heart rate during longer cardio sessions three-five times per week.
II. Efficiency Phase: Focus on speed with short bursts (30-90 seconds) of acceleration twice per week during cardio training. Add incline and/or resistance for a challenge.
III. Stamina Phase: Here we work towards improved V02 max by replacing speed sessions with interval training (3-5:00 intervals with rest periods of 90-120 seconds) mixed with tempo training (lactate threshold sessions of 5:00-10:00 intervals or 30:00-45:00 steady state efforts with 1-2 minutes of rest). The duration of the rest intervals is crucial!
IV. Performance Phase: Mix it all up at a high intensity by introducing training from the different phases (i.e.: speed intervals in the middle of a long run) followed by a resting interval for a high quality workout.
Here is the bonus tip: When you’re done with this cycle, it’s time to reset. You will have a faster, more efficient “aerobic engine” and can use the same principles to work it harder and better during your next cycle.
Finally, don’t forget to change up your mode of cardio. Try switching from your daily run to swimming laps, using an indoor cycle or rowing machine or an elliptical, etc. a day or two each week to keep your muscles guessing and to add in additional aerobic fitness without the pounding.