Cardio: Endurance Based Session


Cardio within a gym/fitness facility can often be walking or running on a treadmill, not very exciting and for some people, cardio is completely avoided.

But it’s so much more:

Let’s keep this simple, cardio helps strengthen your heart and lungs. Your heart is a muscle that is needed more than any other muscle we have. Improving your cardio will help you improve your endurance from strength sessions, classes and improve daily life like walking.

But it’s boring:

One of the reasons its seen as being boring and not very exciting is there is often no structure applied to the session, there is no goal and improvement is not measured.

Within a fitness facility kitted out with a large amount of treadmills, cross trainers and rowers etc, we see people jump from one bit of kit to another fairly quickly.

Let’s make it more exciting and worth while.

Firstly you may only ever do cardio as a warm up but even then, it needs structure.

You may do cardio to improve your endurance, conditioning and it’s part of your weekly training. But it needs structure.

You may use equipment like a rowing machine, cross trainer or bike for off feet conditioning like many professionals sports do like rugby for example, but it needs structure.

To make it more exciting and worth while it needs structure, it needs a plan, many have nice sports watches with heart rate monitors but don’t know their heart rate zones. Heart rate based training is a great way to provide structure, motivation and when used alongside other data you can easily track your progression.

Most cardio equipment within a gym will have data such as pace, speed, resistance, time, distance and some even have built in training sessions.

Keep it simple: (example session plan)

Purpose = improve endurance/conditioning for someone new or returning to training.

 Use any cardio equipment which you like.
 Set up the equipment correctly if it needs setting up, this includes learning how to use it.
 Warm up for 10 minutes with the intensity increasing every couple of minutes. Focus on technique and the session ahead.
 By the end of the 10 minutes we should feel a little breathless, on a scale of 1-5 we are looking for 2-3, you can talk but breathless.
 Complete 5-15 minutes at this level of intensity (2-3) , if at any time it feels to hard or or cant talk reduce the intensity.
 Complete 5 minutes cool down (don’t just stop at the end of the main set).

So this session plan is between 20 and 30 minutes so we know how long our session is.

Throughout the session we warmed up, we had a main session and a cool down which provided structure.

We used a simple scale of 1-5 to create and monitor intensity while also offering a regression if the intensity was to high.

From this initial session we can now record time within each zone 10min w/up 5-15min main set 5min c/down, we can record the level of resistance, speed, distance in each zone, we can record how we felt and if wearing a nice watch with HR monitor we could have pressed lap when going into the next part of the session so once home we could review how HR was affected.

We now have the foundations for an endurance session that can be repeated, progressed or regressed if too hard. Over time by using basic data we will see improvement which provides motivation.

A simple session that can lead to many places.

This plan can also be adapted for those that have a high level of fitness, the main set could be increased, maybe have 2 blocks within the main set with a short recovery, intensity can be set to the individual and this plan could also be followed with a friend or even in a class environment because on a scale of 1-5 its personal; to each person therefore we all train at the intensity right for us.

The key to an endurance based session is not going too hard or too easy, comfortably uncomfortable is good, you can hold a conversation but breathless and reduce intensity if you can only say 1 or 2 words.


Where did that come from…?

There may be people that will take the approach “it’s Xmas, I am going to eat, drink, enjoy and not worry about tracking, planning etc” and that’s good. But there will also be people wanting a little help and support to try to manage their way through Xmas while still enjoying themselves.

Through experience I know there are several times per year when weight gain can be noticed… Bank Holidays, Summer holidays and yes, Xmas is also one of these times!

But where did it come from?

For many, it’s all those little extras they did not notice. Each day those extras creeping into daily routine. Then add to this more social engagements and we see our daily calorie intake increase and often our training time reduce. Our non-fitness activity like daily steps can also be heavily reduced = consuming more and moving less.

 Many will have work or club Xmas parties.
 There will be family and friends nights out.
 At work there may be more boxes of chocolates, crisps, snacks just sat on the side.
 Some may have to do many Xmas socials through their work and companies they supply to or get invited with.
 When at home or vising families, often there will be little extras to be had from the odd mince pie to handful of nuts or a few little chocolates.

 If your still reading this well done, lets go to stage 2…!

Let’s just say to make it easy, your daily goal is 2000 calories and alongside your present training, those 2000 calories maintain your weight.

 If you reduce your training but keep your diet the same, you could gain weight.
 If you keep your activity levels the same but consume more than your 2000 calories, you could gain weight.

Every little helps (with the gain).

It would be very easy in 1 day to have an extra 500 calories… 1 x mince pie and 4 small chocolates out of your favourite tin and that is approx 500 calories.

The odd handful of nuts and a glass of wine is 500 calories.

These little bits don’t fill us up. They are nice to eat & drink, we often ‘forget’ we’ve had them and then we still end up eating our normal daily food/meals.

If we did this 4 out of 7 days, we would have consumed an extra 2000 calories in 1 week, that is 1 extra days calorie intake.

If we do this over 4 weeks, that would be 4 days extra calorie intake.

Do this for 5-6 weeks due to having to empty the cupboards before starting the January diet and that is 1 extra weeks calories in just over a month.

I am not saying you can’t enjoy your meals out or those treats because you can. It’s all about balance and understanding your intake.

Walking is a great way to increase daily activity.

Training is a great way to improve fitness and can help to lose or maintain weight.

For activity to help with weight management, it needs to be part of a calorie controlled diet.

Thank you for reading and I hope you have found it of some use!dc0750de8b47988572695e49ce02c996--welcome-december-welcome-winter

Looking out for a hero…?

Did you know that a tin of Cadbury’s Heroes which could contain 660grms would contain just over 3000 calories.

But the good thing is they have a really good shelf life so once open they can be enjoyed little and often. I mean, who would buy a tin of chocolates ready for the festive season and open them early, leaving them going back to the shops to restock ready for the Xmas break?

How many have sat and found themselves picking at these without thinking or looking and thinking they are only small.

Helpful tips:

If you have no self control, don’t buy them.

If you have them and allow for them as part of your intake, then that will help with the balance of energy in and energy out.

Not sure what to allow per chocolate? The easiest way is base each one on approx 50 calories so it’s easy to manage a daily allowances.

Set yourself an allowance of say 4 per day, but reduce or remove something else.

It’s ok to enjoy treats but it’s important to understand what they provide.

AWOL: a way of life

Your body is fit for life not just for Christmas.

Maybe, just maybe….

Maybe Just Maybe…

Maybe that person is not following a fad diet.

Maybe that person is working hard, learning constantly about their diet, what foods they like, what their diet delivers and from there they change it and keep repeating the process.

Maybe that person behind the scenes is quietly working away day after day, making the most of any time they might have from 10 minutes at home to a gym session.

Maybe that person doesn’t post everything they do on social media and state what they will do but than actually never do.

Maybe that person does not jump from one new fad to the next.

Maybe that person doesn’t follow the crowd and sticks to what they do and learn from results and outcomes not just long term but each and every day.

Maybe that person trains when they don’t feel like it, or they felt tired, they adjusted sessions to fit into their lifestyle and how they felt.

Maybe that person did what was required even though they didn’t really want to but they knew the importance.

Maybe that person prioritises their diet and fitness over other social options.

Maybe, just maybe, that person works their ass off everyday of the week. Yes they fail, yes they fall off the wagon, yes they enjoy treats. They have ups and downs but they work their ass off no matter what.

Before we want what others have, lets look deeper into what they did to achieve what they did.

Be you, have your own goals and then they will be important enough to you for you to do what is required.

If it’s important we will find a way, if it’s not we will find an excuse.


Learning to run…

Running can provide so much from improving fitness, contributing to weight loss while also helping with mindset and time out from daily life.

Running can also unfortunately lead to injuries ,but many can be either reduced or prevented.

Help prevent many injuries, reduce risk and train when injured:

  Try not to run to many times per week, often 3 times per week is enough and allows for adequate recovery.
  Keep your runs to a distance that is suitable for you, this is both per run and weekly mileage.
  When new to running, a progressive walk/run plan can work well, try not to jump from 5k to 10k quickly, progress slowly.
  Strength & Core work will enhance your running and help prevent many injuries.
  A maintenance plan which could be a list of exercises, sports massage/therapy appointments etc. can help you mange your training load, these exercises are often easily done at home.
  Try not to self-diagnose injuries, if you have a niggle or injury have it looked at, seek professional help.
  Often when runners have an injury they stop training. You may not be able to run but off feet conditioning & strength work can often still be completed, making the return to running much easier.
  Events/Races are a great way to stay motivated but make sure your training is adequate beforehand. Races/events can push you harder due to being around others meaning you run quicker, you push too hard which can lead to technique being lost quickly and injuries occuring later into the event/race.

If there was 1 key point I could offer it would be ‘don’t stop training when injured’, be proactive there is always something to do.  Work on your core strength & off feet conditioning and get a rehab training plan in place because the return to running can be either very difficult or very easy.


It’s a dog life…

It’s A Dogs Life (maybe we could all learn a thing or two):

Woody Msf has habits, he has a diet and he has a few treats. He can gain weight and he can lose weight or maintain his weight.

We are no different as we tend to stick to the foods we like. We have habits and can gain or lose weight.

But why is it when we want to lose weight we make drastic changes, altering food groups, creating big calorie deficits and use methods which may not be sustainable long term?

So Woody has been inured recently but with a little rehab, he’s back to his nutty self but during a check up, the vet found he has gained a few lbs. Thus highlighting he was over eating while being sedentary, so not moving as much as he normally would.

So we need to create a calorie deficit for Woody. Rather than changing his routine (he is a Lab after all…), looking for a quick fix, the answer was simple.

Keep him in his routine and having his normal food but rather than 1 x heaped filled cup twice per day, he would have flat filled cups. This created his daily calorie deficit and he has lost weight.

Did he lose weight over night? No but he is now back to his required weight, still eating his same food and maintaining his usual habits (generally being a boisterous 6 year old lunatic!).

We can also take this approach when wanting to lose weight. We can reduce our main meals slightly to create a deficit. This way we still have the same foods we enjoy, our habits are not changed but with consistency, results can be achieved.


Fitness & Wattbike Coaching…

The MSF Fitness studio is a constantly changing landscape with many different clients passing through, all with different goals in terms of their physical fitness.

One of our clients is Keith who has been with us for several years now.  A member of Black Country Triathletes, Keith has competed in events far and wide.  Keith’s training at MSF Fitness began by making use of a Wattbike through our drop-in service. He would book in and complete his own session. This worked really well for him initially and offered great flexibility as it enabled him to train at a time that suited him. He then got to the stage where he was looking for more structure to his training, to ensure his sessions had ‘purpose’ and were progressive, built around his goals.


We were able to offer Keith one of several monthly coaching packages. His coaching plan is based on completing 2 Wattbike sessions per week. He has been on this package since 2016 and is very consistent with his training, always making his sessions. His plan is progressive and is built week on week, depending on his performance in the previous sessions and what races and events he has coming up. His sessions are very specific and personal to him, including working to heart rate as well as an exact watt/power. As well as his coached sessions, Keith attends a weekly TRX class to work on strength & conditioning which supports his bike and running training.  He also continues to run and swim with his club every week.

To list just a few of the events Keith has excelled in:

2015 Geneva European Sprint Distance Championships – Bronze Over 60

2016 Lisbon European Sprint Championships – 4th Over 60

2016 British Sprint Championships – Bronze Over 60

2016 Stafford 70.3 Ironman – 1st Over 60

Keith’s most recent event was taking 3rd in his age category (60-64yrs) at the British Sprint Distance Triathlon Championships in June 2017.  Completing a 750m open water swim, 20km bike and 5km run, he was just 14secs off 2nd place in a time of 1h 14.19s.

Keith at the British Triathlon Sprint Distamce Champs in Strathclyde
Keith taking Bronze in Strathclyde

Keith then went on to compete at the Staunton Harold Triathlon on 11th June. This new event saw Keith completing a 600m swim, 16.9 mile bike and a 4.8 mile run.  He came 11th overall and 1st in the Over 60 category. He was 5th on the bike leg.

To date, Keith has qualified for everything he has wanted to, including the Worlds (Sprint & Olympic). If only he didn’t have to work, then he could actually go and compete in them all! Great work Keith, well done! Consistency works.