It’s not uncommon for regular cardio exercisers to find themselves plateauing from time to time, where their results tend to be a little flat and uninspiring – perhaps even non-existent.
This is a frustrating problem which is almost inherent in prolonged low-intensity cardio workouts, because of the consistent and monotonous nature of this type of training.
The main reason behind this is that your body tends to quickly adapt to anything that’s consistent.
So if you get into the habit of working out at the same, moderate level of intensity all the time, once your body gets accustomed to the routine, it’s no longer challenged by your workouts and it therefore ceases to improve any further.
It’s possible to help avoid this problem to some extent by varying your workouts as much as possible. After all, there are countless types of cardio exercises available out there. Some examples are jogging/running, skipping, cycling, swimming, exercise bike, elliptical cycle, rowing, dancing, shadow boxing, punching bag, aerobic classes, aqua aerobics, step aerobics, Tae Bo, Zumba, and so on.
While mixing up your exercise types goes some way to creating variety in your workout, at the end of the day an aerobic workout is still an aerobic workout, and the level of intensity your body is subjected to is fairly similar either way.
Whether your goal is to increase your cardiovascular fitness or to lose weight, it’s a well-established fact that the greatest gains are achieved through high-intensity cardio exercise. By pushing your cardio workouts beyond the so-called “Fat Burning Zone” and “Cardio Zone”, you activate your anaerobic energy systems as well as your aerobic energy system, taking your fitness to another level. You also allow your body to burn calories so much more efficiently.
The problem is of course, high-intensity cardio workouts are not for the faint-hearted. High Intensity Interval Training, or HIIT, is an extremely effective and efficient exercise protocol because it allows you to train at maximum intensity, but it’s also very challenging.
Many women would have trouble switching from their regular, low-intensity cardio workouts to full-blown HIIT. But there is a perfect transitioning exercise protocol however, to enable this progression to happen – Fartlek Training.
What’s Fartlek Training?
Basically, Fartlek Training is a hybrid form of interval training that, like HIIT, works both your anaerobic and aerobic energy pathways.
With Fartlek Training the intensity, or speed, of your exercise varies from low- to high-intensity. But unlike HIIT, it’s totally unstructured, which means that the exercise intensity and/or speed can be varied whenever you wish, as you’re exercising.
A Fartlek Training session starts out with the regular warm-up, followed by the exercise session itself, at a low-intensity – equivalent to that of a normal cardio workout. You then sporadically insert bursts of high-intensity work into the session at random, as you feel like doing so. If you were jogging for example, you would break into a fast sprint for some period of time, at various points throughout your session.
The intensity and duration of these bursts are totally variable and should ideally be mixed up as much as possible. For example, they can range from a semi-sprint for one to two minutes, to a flat-out maximum speed sprint to 10 or 15 seconds.
Remember, variety is the key, and it’s all improvised – on the run, so to speak.
The beauty of Fartlek Training is that you can tailor its level of difficulty exactly to your level of fitness. When you’re starting out, you’ll naturally only be able to include a handful of high-intensity bursts. But as your fitness grows, you’ll be able to take on more and more.
Unlike normal, low-intensity cardio exercise which is difficult and slow to build on because of its consistent nature, Fartlek Training is very effective in building your level of fitness. Its periodic excursions beyond your fitness’ comfort zone allow you to progress to new levels very rapidly by comparison.
So for your next cardio session, why not give Fartlek Training a go? It might be just the thing to get your cardio workouts firing on all cylinders again.