Most people hate running, but runners everywhere claim to everyone that it provides one of the best feelings in the world. The author of a guide on making running a habit shares the same sentiment. “ For a long time, I hated running. In fact, I’m not even sure if I even like running now or if I’m just addicted to it. Maybe I still hate it, but that’s besides the point–it makes me feel awesome” (Eliason). I feel that those people are completely wrong, but for the good of everyone’s health, I push myself through the torture of cardio training four days a week to show the effects of making it a habit.
During the past two weeks, I varied the training I did after each workout in order to keep it from becoming stale. I also wanted to test to see which training had the best effects on me. I went between high intensity interval training (HIIT) and steady state cardio at high and low intensities on different machines. “Low-volume HIIT typically consists of several bouts of high-intensity exercise lasting between 1 and 4 min, which elicit ∼85–95% of HRmax and/or V̇o2max, interspersed with bouts of rest or active recovery” (Gaesser). Using this as my HIIT guideline worked the best. I kept my heart rate at around 85%, doing sprints on the treadmill intermittently with jogging, as well as using the bike to do intervals with speed and resistance. Over this time I checked how I felt as well as any noticeable changes in my lung capacity or body composition.
Going a bit deeper into the science behind it, the heart is one of the most vital, yet neglected, organ in the human body. The heart pumps blood through your body, bringing both oxygen and nutrients to the surrounding tissues whether that be muscles, tissues, and organs. The heart has to work hard to distribute the blood throughout the human body. However, many people in America ignore basic training for it. A small percent of people in the world actually run, jog, and walk in order to improve their cardiovascular capabilities. The issue only gets worse when you take into account the foods that get eaten in high quantities are malnutritious, leading to plaque buildup in arteries and even possibly heart disease or heart failure.
Cardiovascular training has to be done to guarantee a healthier heart in the future. “Cardiovascular endurance divides into two categories: aerobic and anaerobic” (“Improving Cardiovascular Endurance.”). Aerobic exercise is defined as the action of the heart bringing oxygen into the body in order to prepare the body for exercise. This occurs approximately a minute and a half into a single exercise, such as running, biking, or lengthy sets of a lift (15+ reps). This is the long term endurance that most people work on when they decide to begin cardio training, usually by jogging on a treadmill for twenty minutes. Anaerobic exercise is defined as the lack of oxygen that is provided by the heart. With anaerobic exercise, the oxygen is not carried fast enough from the heart into the bloodstream. This is trained through sprints under one minute, followed by sets of jogs that provide your heart with both forms of endurance. As a result, this makes HIIT one if the best ways to train your heart.
Monday started as expected. I went to the gym feeling excited to begin my workout. However, I felt as if I was going to die afterwards. The feeling of blood rushing through my body, as well as the feeling of my lungs burning as i struggled to breathe felt horrible. It left me with a huge headache and a burning sensation in my sinuses. This was just with 10 minutes of steady state cardio on a bicycle. Making this my baseline for the next 2 weeks, I knew there was a lot of room for improvement. Ending my day with a good night sleep after exhausting myself was a small improvement from my usual sleepless nights so I counted it as a small success.
Tuesday I dragged myself through the day, my body aching from the workout I pushed through the day before. I encouraged myself to push through my leg workouts, as well as a half mile jog to end my day at the gym. Unfortunately, I did not realize soon enough, is that trying to run with any sort of speed after squats and romanian deadlifts is near impossible. Basically, I ran the half mile cooldown at the slowest speed in my entire life. I felt as if I was limping through it. This was an importatnt message that my body sent me. To improve my cardio training, I stopped smoking after this. Having only been a light, social smoker, it was a huge step to success.
Wednesday was extremely tough. The first part of my workout included heavy deadlifts, which put a heavy strain on my heart. Motivating myself to work on my back and biceps, I ended my workout with another run on the treadmill, doing HIIT for around 10 minutes. Once again, my lungs felt like they had been set on fire, and my heart raced rapidly with every step I took. This is what runners refer to as “runner’s high”; I call it self-torture.
On Thursday, I became sick and needed to skip my daily cardio workout. I could not help but wonder where this sickness came from. It was possible that I overexerted myself the day before. I told myself that I needed to make up for today by waiting until I recovered before training again.
On Friday, I rewarded myself for cardio training three days that week by attending a concert in Washington, DC. I danced and celebrated for five hours. After the concert, I realized the cardio I’ve been training on already had positive effects on my body. All of the pain and hard work I went through this week allowed me to dance and move around without being come sore.
I quickly recovered over the weekend and began to workout again on Monday. Unfortunately, it was once again a terrible start to the week. I slept from three o’clock in the morning on Sunday until four o’clock in the afternoon on Monday. After waking up, I had a small breakfast and took a quick jog around the neighborhood to get my blood flowing. My body definitely felt better when I ran, and i discovered that I performed better outside rather than in a gym because the scenery was able to distract me from the pain. I repeated this workout over the next three days, only changing the speed I ran at each day. By using HIIT for twenty minutes one day, and a light jog the next day, I started to breathe much better as time went on.
My cardio training plan was not as easily done as it could have been. I never really had set punishments or rewards for my training other than the reward of better health. This made it harder to want to do cardio training, however I still managed to push through most days. If I could do this different, I would have set a system of rewards and punishments to ensure the completion of my cardio training. For example, for a full week of completing cardio training, I could reward myself with a small treat of a milkshake from Deets. However, if I were to miss a day pf cardio training, I could discipline myself by forcing myself to add on to the next day of training, as well as taking away Netflix and other streaming services until I finished my cardio. I also did not have a set time to do the cardio training, other than before I go to bed. I believe this added some difficulty to the habit, by making it seem like I could get around to it whenever would lead to missed days from putting it off. However, this also allowed the freedom to fit in any work or activities I had to finish, without scheduling my day around my workouts. While failure to complete my cardio training only happened once due to illness, I never made up the time or had any punishment to keep me from skipping again.
Working on cardio training over the course of two weeks helped me to learn that it truly does leave positive effects on the human body. I personally changed my body composition slightly in terms of fat distribution. My lungs felt much better than they did when I started, and my running endurance had improved greatly. I found that using HIIT worked best for me. “HIIT has also been reported to be more effective than continuous, steady-state exercise training for inducing fat loss in men and women, despite considerably less total energy expenditure required during training sessions” (Gaesser). While both myself and the subjects in this research had better results through HIIT, it should be known that the best cardio routine is the one that you follow and improve with.
Eliason, Nathaniel. “Start a Running Habit in 5 Steps-Even If You Hate Cardio — 52 Weeks of Habits.” 52 Weeks of Habits. N.p., 04 Oct. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
Gaesser, Glenn A., and Siddhartha S. Angadi. “High-intensity Interval Training for Health and Fitness: Can Less Be More?” ARTICLES. Journal of Applied Physiology, 1 Dec. 2011. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.
“Improving Cardiovascular Endurance.” RDLFITNESS. N.p., 01 Apr. 2013. Web. 24 Feb. 2016.