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Detailed information on my killer new style of cardio.

Friday, March 11, 2011 by  
Filed under Daily Blog

My Schwinn 231 Recumbent Bike

My Schwinn 231 Recumbent Bike

Yesterday was a cardio day, and I did another 45 minute medium-high intensity session on the recumbent bike. This sort of cardio is something I’ve not tried before this year’s cut, and it’s proving to be very effective. This is not the sort of cardio you would ever want to do in a fasted state, nor is it something you’d want to attempt unless you’re already in very good shape. Here is the basic outline of what I’m doing before, during and after this style of cardio (this plan has evolved over the past few weeks):

  • I do this kind of cardio about 2 hours after a meal. I like to have at least two meals (high in protein and carbohydrates) in me to help fuel this workout. You do not want to attempt this while fasted!
  • About 20 minutes before the cardio session I toss 3 scoops of AtLarge Nutrition’s BCAA+ powder, 12 ounces of water and some crushed ice into my shaker. I drink the BCAAs slowly over about 10-15 minutes.
  • I spend the first two minutes of the cardio workout quickly getting my heart rate above 160 BPM. For the entire remaining 43 minutes I never allow my heart rate to drop below 160 BPM (83% of my maximum heart rate).
  • I simulate hills by frequently bumping up the bike’s magnetic resistance level from my base riding level of “7” all the way up to its maximum setting (and points in between).
  • I max my heart rate (193 BPM) about 8-12 times times over the course of the ride.
  • I try to improve the distance traveled from one session to the next; if I can do this without increasing my average heart rate that indicates even better improvement.
  • After the workout I shower and then consume a protein + fat shake. The shake is easy to make and absolutely delicious: I toss 2 scoops AtLarge Nutrition’s Nitrean protein powder (chocolate or vanilla), 2 tablespoons Smucker’s Natural Peanut Butter, 15 ounces of water and 8 large ice cubes into my Blendtec and press the “smoothie” button. Perfect every time.

I always wear my Timex Ironman heart rate monitor while I’m doing my cardio. A heart rate monitor is one of the most valuable items you can have in your fitness toolbox, and I highly recommend the Timex Ironman. I’ve been using the Ironman for a while now, and it’s just awesome. In fact, it’s earned a spot on My Favorite Things list (I’ll be adding it sometime this weekend). The Timex Ironman has all the features you’ll need to track your training and cardiovascular fitness level, and it won’t break the bank.

As for yesterday’s cardio session, I rode a total of 45 minutes, my average heart rate was 166 BPM, my maximum heart rate was 193 BPM, I covered 14.3 miles with an average speed of 19.07 MPH and I burned nearly 1,100 calories (this according to the watch–I never put much stock into the “calories burned” number, but it is interesting to compare this figure from one session to the next). This was my best cardio session of this type yet! My previous best was 14.2 miles with an average heart rate of 167 BPM, so yesterday I went faster, I rode further and my heart didn’t have to work as hard to do it. Nice!

Something interesting that’s worth pointing out here. When I begin my cardio session and quickly build my heart rate up to somewhere around 165-170 BPM (my target baseline for this style of cardio), it feels unsustainable at first. I think this is because my body is still adapting to the exertion. What I do to combat that feeling may sound counter-intuitive, but it really works. After maintaining 165-170 BPM for about 2 minutes, I go right into my first simulated hill and bump the resistance level all the way up to 16 (my bike’s maximum); I ride as hard as a can at this level for about 45 seconds, then I back the resistance down about 4 or 5 ticks, ride as hard as I can for another 15 seconds, then bump the resistance back UP to maximum and ride all-out for another 15 seconds. After completing this first 1m15s simulated hill, I drop the resistance back down to my base level of 7 and check my heart rate (at this point it’s always right at my maximum–193 BPM). After this first (of many) simulated hills, maintaining 165-170 BPM no longer feels difficult–in fact, it feels easy by comparison. I discovered this interesting phenomenon while doing some particularly challenging (from a cardio perspective) extended mountain biking speed runs.

WARNING: This kind of cardio is very challenging, and should never be attempted unless you’re already in excellent cardiovascular shape. If in doubt, always check with your doctor!

John Stone Fitness Comments

5 Responses to “Detailed information on my killer new style of cardio.”
    • One correction: I’m not consuming a whey shake, Nitrean is a blend of proteins.

      You’ve never heard of protein + fat shakes post-cardio? That’s one of the most commonly used macro combinations after cardio workouts.

      I often will have a protein + carb shake or meal after intense cardio, especially long sessions (I’m talking about 3 hours on the trails) or HIIT cardio.

      I guess the real question is this: does the medium-high intensity cardio I describe above tap into glycogen stores? Perhaps, but I don’t have the definitive answer to that question. What I can say is that lean mass loss on this cut has been very minimal (mostly water), my strength is up and my energy levels are excellent–all while I’m losing fat. So the protein+fat shake post-workout combined with the carbs and BCAAs pre-workout seem to be staving off catabolism while I continue to burn fat.

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