Now that we’re both supple and strong, we want more endurance.  Or cardio.  Or conditioning.  Or whatever you want to call it.  You want to be able to do whatever you want in life without becoming fatigued.

Awesome.  I’m here for you, my good friend.

Here’s what you need to know:  you have energy stores in your body- sugar and fat. These two stores are kind of like crude oil though-they’re filled with energy, but you can’t go dumping them right into your cars gas tank- they have to be converted first into usable fuel.  This usable fuel for our muscles is called ATP.

Sugar and Fat= Crude Oil

ATP= Gasoline

Ya with me?

So being able to move longer with less fatigue comes down to how efficiently you are able to convert Sugar and Fat into ATP.

With that being said, Sugar and Fat are broken down in different ways:

Fat is burned during longer duration, lower intensity movements.  This is called the aerobic process, and it requires oxygen.  So if you can talk during exercise, you’re using your aerobic system to produce energy.

Sugar is burned during moderate to intense efforts lasting up to 2 minutes.  This is considered anaerobic (no oxygen).  So if you’re breathing so heavy that you can’t get enough air to fuel the aerobic process, your body is using the anaerobic process to fuel your efforts.

I know that all of that was boring, so here’s what that looks like in training:

Interval Repeats: moderate to intense efforts, lasting 15 seconds to 2 minutes, resting to a near full recovery and repeating.  Think of pushing the sled for a minute, resting for a minute and repeating.  Or ropes for 15/45, or Kettlebell ballistics, etc.

Tempo work:  This is on the higher side of moderate, the sets last longer than 2 minutes, and there are fewer or no repeats.  If intervals are our short burst efforts, Tempo work is our midrange efforts.  Rather than pushing the sled for 2 minutes and repeating, think of pushing it for 5-7 consecutive round trips and then being done.

Aerobic work:  this is our longer duration work.  Within our gym, this usually won’t be more than 30 minutes or so, working in a heart rate zone of 120-140.  To really develop your aerobic capacity, you’ll probably want to hit at least one long session on your own.  By long I mean 45 minutes, working your way up to 90 minutes.  This could be incline walking on a treadmill, a jog, a bike ride, elliptical, anything that keeps you in that zone for the duration of the workout.  There are some really cool benefits to aerobic zone work:  you can catch up with friends since the exercise intensity demands that you be able to carry on a conversation.  You can listen to podcasts or audio books to get smarter.  You can spend some time in nature, which reduces your stress.  Or you can bring your dog with you.

Another really cool benefit of aerobic exercise is that it often aids in our recovery and lowers our stress.  So if you were really on a mission to lose weight and wanted to get some extra movement in your life- pick one of the above activities listed in Aerobic Work and go for it- it won’t interfere with the rest of your exercise program.

As you can see, there are a couple of different types of“Cardio” that we can do to build some well-rounded endurance. 

By now you’re probably wondering- how does this all fit together?