Effective cardio training is all about organization, also known as periodization in the competitive training world. It’s a fancy term 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 biomechanically and physiologically sound and the best way to progress in your cardiovascular fitness.

A training routine following the periodization principle follows this path:

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.

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.

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!

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.

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.

Don’t forget to change up your mode of cardio. Try switching from the treadmill to an indoor cycle or rowing machine to keep your muscles guessing.


Sonja Friend-Uhl is one of Core Health & Fitness’s Lead Master Instructors. She can be contacted at [email protected].

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