The best kind of training

A conversation this morning got me thinking about what I consider the best kind of training.

If you’d asked me 15 years ago, I’d have said “none”.

Then something happened and some 5 years later the answer would have been very different.

At the time, my answer was whatever workout where I was so exhausted, I barely managed to drag myself to bed, shaking, before I fell asleep.

It was a dumb answer.

It’s an answer based on ignorance and thinking “harder” equals “better”.

Turns out, that isn’t completely true.

As with all things the human body is capable of achieving, the answer to “what is the best kind of training” (intensity) is…

It depends.

If your goal is to improve your cardiovascular capacity – your breathing and recovery during exercise – and you’re NOT an elite level athlete, training at between 40-80% of your VO2max is more effective than higher intensities.

If you’re untrained, keep to between 40-60% of your VO2max to give yourself the most effective/quick adaptation.

The more trained you are, the higher the intensity needs to be to get the same degree of adaptation.

If you’ve trained for a while, feel in decent cardiovascular shape and want to get better, you have to kick the intensity up to between 70-80% of your VO2max.

What is your “VO2max“.

Since your VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during intense exercise, it can be measured objectively.

To get an accurate read it just takes a bit of equipment and serious effort. The effort will be all yours.

However, you there are several methods you can use to estimate your own VO2max with a bit of math and knowing your actual min/max heart rates.

This isn’t as precise, but if you use the same method it will help you identify relative improvements.

It is, speaking frankly, all most of us need.

To know what the best kind of training (intensity) is going to be for you, start by figuring out what your VO2max might be.

Then figure out where you fit in the typical ranges for your age bracket/sex.

Know that and “Bob’s yer uncle!” when it comes to training intensity.

Occasionally, you should go above or below your “optimal range”, but most of the time try to stay right in the middle.

If you do, you’ll see some interesting changes to how quickly your heart rate recovers during exercise.

And that – how fast your heart rate returns to normal/recovers – is the best sign of how fit you actually are.

Now, get out there and do the best kind of training (for you) today. Cheers!

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