Cardiovascular exercise involves raising the heart rate through strenuous activity to burn fat and strengthen the muscles and joints. Regular cardio is essential to exercise the heart and lungs, strengthening these muscles as well and improving endurance and stamina.
But let's be honest, cardio is tough and progression is mandatory for continued and sustained results. If you need to step up your cardio game, there are some things to keep in mind.
Proper preparation for a workout will help you feel strong and reach your potential safely while training. Remember to do these things before hopping on the bike or heading to the track:
- Eat a balanced meal with plenty of protein up to one hour before beginning your workout. We like shakes with whey protein because they're easy for the body to digest.
- Drink a cup of coffee -- just a standard cup of about 8 fl oz -- for a dose of caffeine to get you moving.
- If you're looking for something stronger, step up to a pre-workout supplement containing stimulants like taurine and green tea as well as amino acids. Make sure to speak with your doctor first, especially if you have a medical condition. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding shouldn't take these products.
- Do 10 minutes of dynamic stretches -- these are large movements to open up the muscles without causing unnecessary strain. Don't hold the stretch, move through it.
- Hydrate with plenty of water.
Once you start moving, it can be easy to zone out in the music coming through your headphones or what's on the TV in front of you. But you have to pay attention to your body to make sure you don't push yourself over the limit. Keep these tips in mind while you're working out:
- Keep plenty of water handy and take breaks when needed to prevent dehydration.
- Pay attention to your breath -- if you're able to speak in long sentences, you need to crank it up, but if you can't talk at all or are wheezing, you need to dial it back.
- Carry a refueling gel with you, especially for endurance workouts like long runs to provide the body with rapidly absorbed carbohydrates to prevent a crash.
- Switch up your routine to include high intensity interval training (HIIT). HIIT workouts involve intervals of a set amount of time of both cardio and strength training and have been shown to be highly effective for fat loss and building muscle.
- If you're using equipment such as a stationary bike or treadmill, don't be afraid of resistance for a greater burn.
- Try not to rely on railings or handles on cardio equipment to push your body to the max.
- Monitor your heart rate to determine for how far and how long to extend your cardio workout.
Once your cardio workout is done, make sure to devote the time to recovery so you don't sideline yourself or sabotage your progress. Here are our guidelines for success:
- Drink water and a rehydrating beverage like coconut water, which is rich in electrolytes to replace moisture lost through perspiration.
- Eat a balanced meal within one hour of finishing your workout to assist in muscle recovery.
- Do 10 to 15 minutes of static stretching -- hold a stretch for up to 30 seconds. Don't bounce.
- Use a foam roller to work out any tension in the muscles.
- If you're looking to increase intensity over time, make some notes about your performance so you can make gradual tweaks at each workout.
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