A recent trip to the doctors left me feeling very smug about my health because my doctor was so impressed with my resting pulse rate; she thought I was a professional athlete. I may have a resting pulse rate that falls into the same category as the elite’s but I am not a professional athlete. I am just serious about my health.

Cardio shouldn’t be seen as a torture method to lose weight, but more as a huge stepping stone towards achieving a healthier body. And one of the ways to get the best out of your cardio training is through wearing a heart rate monitor and watch.

I have been wearing a Polar watch and heart rate monitor for a few years and because of this, I am mindful of how my body is performing during exercise. If I’m doing high intensity training, my Polar A300 watch tells me if I’m working in the anaerobic/maximal zones and ultimately if I’m actually working hard…or if I am just being lazy.

Training with a heart rate monitor will help you to track the progress that can’t see. Your scales may tell you that you’ve lost weight, but they won’t tell you if your heart has become fitter and stronger.

There are a few different types of cardio that you can do, but I am going to focus on the ones that I am the most experienced with: high intensity interval training, high intensity cardio and low intensity cardio. I do a mixture of the three because I believe they go hand in hand, although I do some more than others due to personal preference and goals.

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT)

This is my favourite type of cardio, but it is also the hardest and the most strenuous so I do no more than three HIIT sessions a week. HIIT cardio is when you perform short intervals at 100% effort , followed by periods of rest. When I perform HIIT, my heart rate will be in the maximal zones (working at over 90% of it’s capacity). HIIT is great for fat burning; increasing cardiovascular fitness and making you feel like a super hero! I usually do HIIT cardio in the form of Barry’s Bootcamp because I enjoy doing sprint intervals and it’s a great way to train my fast twitch muscles. Boxing is another form of HIIT that I like to incorporate in my training but you can do HIIT on pretty much any cardio machine.

High Intensity Cardio (HIC)

HIC  usually lasts for less than 30 minutes because of the intensity, and my 5km runs fall into this category. I’m not working quite as hard as I do during HIIT, but I can’t hold a conversation and my heart rate is in the anaerobic and sometimes maximal zones. Performing this kind of cardio regularly will help to improve your  over all fitness and endurance. If you are trying to improve your stamina, add a few HIC sessions to your workout routine and over time you will be able to work at at a faster speed for longer.

Low Intensity Steady State Cardio (LISS)

Believe it or now, brisk walks and walking on an incline could actually help you to lose weight and burn more fat than running! LISS cardio see’s my heart working in the fat zone zone, which is around 50-60% of its maximum capacity. LISS cardio is great for anyone who has knee injuries or in my case, for when my legs feel unexpectedly tired from running. The downside is that it can be boring and it can develop slow twitch muscles which will make sprinting feel like an impossible task.

Which Cardio should you do?

There is no wrong or right method of cardio training but if you are training to achieve a specific goal, your cardio must compliment your goals. I have recently decided that I want to become a 400m runner which means that 5km runs will no longer feature in my training plan, and instead my HIC will be shorter, but faster runs. Cardio doesn’t have to be in the form of running either. Swimming, rowing, dancing and doing circuits are all great ways to improve your fitness levels.

Healthy heart, happy life.

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