Of the five components of basic fitness (nutrition, proper rest, resistance training, cardio and flexibility) cardiorespiratory training(CRT) is the "poster child" of fitness. It is the one that seems to get the most press because of its many benefits. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) has ascribed more than twenty such health benefits to CR fitness. These include a reduction in coronary heart disease risk factors, improvement in cardiovascular and respiratory function and many other helps that lead to an increased quality of life overall.(AFAA, Personal Fitness Trainer: Theory & Practice, p. 114, 2010).
There are several methods of CRT systems to choose from. One may fit your energy level better than another while one may be exciting and remove monotony from your work out routine. See which one(s) stimulate your appetite for exercise and perhaps even try out something new the next time you hit the road for a ride or run.
30-60 minutes with no rest
A ratio of low or medium exertion to high; for example: 3 mins. medium effort to 1 minute hard effort
Fartlek ("speed play")
Less structured method of intervals; allow your body to tell you when to push hard and when to ease up
Super Circuit Training
Done in conjunction with resistance training in a ratio such as 3 minute cardio to 1 minute weights
A variety of modes of CV training; cycle one day, run the next, etc. or prescribed ratios of different modes: 10 minutes on treadmill, 10 minutes on stair climber, 10 on elliptical, etc.)
(AFAA, Personal Fitness Trainer: Theory & Practice, p. 123-4, 2010)
Personally, depending on my work out goals for the week I have found it to be enjoyable to oscillate between each of the various CRT methods. Each has a specific benefit: continuous burns fat; intervals increase cardiac output and stroke volume; fartleks are just plain fun for an intense, more mindless work out; super circuit training is reserved for inclement weather days or just to shake up the routine; cross training is a regular part of my work outs as it gives my cycling muscles a break and keeps things fresh.
In order to achieve balance in your fitness level, you should have 3-5 days a week of a minimum of 30 minutes of CRT. It has been said in cycling circles that "if the ride is less than 25 miles it doesn't count." Bull hockey! What is wrong with a 30-45 minute fartlek session? Absolutely nothing. Pick and choose from the menu above and craft your work outs with purpose. Your heart, lungs and mind will thank you!
Which is your favorite form of CRT and why?