Dedication Has No Limitation

Cardiovascular exercise

Cardiovascular exercise is an area of fitness that many of us neglect for a multitude of reasons - some people find it too intense, some fear they will reverse the results of their hard work in the weights room. But the fact is CV exercise is not just about burning calories and if utilized correctly can play a pivotal role in optimizing your health.


When talking about CV exercise most people refer to running, cycling, swimming or rowing as a few examples but really it is any exercise that lifts your heart rate by demanding more of your heart, lungs and respiratory apparatus! So to give you an example of CV exercise in an environment you might not deem it present the popular Crossfit movement certainly involves a certain type of CV exercise. In the case of Crossfit it really focuses on threshold CV fitness - it's not steady state endurance CV exercise but likewise it is not top end, VO2 crushing CV exercise like sub maximal sprints (e.g. the 400m and 800m on the track).


Cardiovascular exercise is of course a fantastic way of building your general fitness and a great tool for losing body fat, but individuals who have a history of cardiovascular exercise also see lower rates of the big three – obesity, heart disease (atherosclerosis, hypertension, angina) and type 2 diabetes mellitus. So really whether or not you are exercise for aesthetic reasons if you are in an at risk group for these conditions such as there being a family history, over the age of 40 or with a history of processed foods in your diet you should be integrating CV exercise in some shape or form.


When designing an exercise program for overall fitness it's important to feature elements of all of these examples so that you build a strong aerobic base, increase your ability to excrete lactic acid at sub maximal intensities whilst also shocking your body with top end intensities such as sprinting. Here are three workouts I use to cover all bases.


Aerobic Base Fitness


Discipline: Swimming


When deciding the structure for this pyramid set you need to do a test by seeing how many meters you swim during a general swim workout and what length of itinerary you swim for. To use an easy example lets say you swim for an hour and cover approximately 2.5km, because this intensity is far less, well - intense, a thorough warm up is less important so providing your muscles and joints are loose you can warm up your CV system as you go.


100m – 30 seconds rest

200m – 30 seconds rest

300m – 30 seconds rest

400m – 30 seconds rest

400m – 30 seconds rest

300m – 30 seconds rest

200m – 30 seconds rest

100m – 30 seconds rest


Threshold Fitness


Discipline: Cycling


This is perhaps the intensity that people find the toughest because you have to hurt the most for the longest period of time - but it's also the toughest workout of the three I am giving you should you do it correctly. For this intensity a thorough warm up is needed to avoid injury and give you the best chance of completing all oft he sets - here is the main set.



3 x 4 minutes at 75-80% of your maximum heart rate – 2 mins rest

2 x 6 minutes at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate – 2 mins rest



3 x 8 minutes at 75-85% of your maximum heart rate - 2 mins rest

2 x 10 minutes at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate - 2 mins rest


V02Max fitness


Discipline: rowing


This is the fitness at which most of you will burn the most calories assuming you are more used to steady state CV exercise. If you remember I dedicated a whole article on this topic last month so for the ins and outs please do go back to it - but here is a fresh new HIIT workout specifically for those of you who like the buzz from rowing. Make sure you are well warmed up and have no niggling injuries as is is also the biggest stress on your muscles. Here is the main set:



4 x 100m as 100m steady

4 x 100m as 75m steady, 25m hard

4 x 200m as 50m steady, 50m hard

4 x 200m as 25m steady, 75m hard

4 x 100m as 100m hard



4 x 200m as 200m steady

4 x 200m as 150m steady, 50m hard

4 x 200m as 100m steady, 100m hard

4 x 200m as 50m steady, 150m hard

4 x 200m as 200m hard


Key Points


-       CV exercise is any form of exercise that raises your heart rate and gets your heart, lungs and respiratory apparatus working.

-       CV exercise can be used for fat loss, general fitness but also prevention of chronic illnesses such as obesity, atherosclerosis, hypertension and type 2 diabetes mellitus.

-       When planning your program try and consider what energy system you are using; your aerobic system, your threshold system or your V02Max system.

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