Fitness tip: When most people do ''cardio,'' they do it at such a low intensity/effort level that they are not achieving much of anything, other than wasting valuable time that could have been spent in a more effective manner. This is especially true for athletes who do ''jogging'' or other slow and steady cardio to improve their fitness level. I wish you well after your first sprint/high intensity burst on the field/court/rink, and for the duration of the game/match ;).
I like to replace the term ''cardio'' with ''conditioning'' and my workouts help me a) be in game-shape for soccer year round even if it is off-season b) recover very quickly after intense sets (or supersets) of strength training c) keep my body fat at a low level d) achieve that exercise induced ''high'' and e) save time as I get a much bigger bang for my buck in significantly less time.
While my sessions are very intense, I built my fitness level up over time. Generally, I do interval training with very intense intervals followed by short rest intervals, or do very intense but steady sessions but for a shorter duration (10-15 minutes of non-stop craziness). Obviously your intensity will be dictated by your current fitness level.
Here are 2 examples of conditioning workouts that I do:
1) Sprints on the Curve treadmill:
A typical workout is the following:
Round 1: 30 seconds @7-8mph, rest 30 seconds, x 10 sets
Rest 1 minute
Round 2: 20 seconds @9-11 mph, rest 20 seconds x 10 sets
Rest 2 minutes
Round 3: 15 seconds @11-12 mph, rest 30 seconds x 10 sets
Rest 2 minutes
Round 4: 10 seconds @12.8-13.4 mph, rest 20 seconds x 10-12 sets
The Curve treadmill is incredible as it is self propelled, and it is a sprint uphill so it is WAY harder than sprinting outdoors and is not like a regular treadmill where you are simply picking up your feet and aren't striding.
2) Intervals on the elliptical
The elliptical has a very bad reputation, and rightfully so. Most people use it with zero intent, and achieve little to nothing. I use it for intense interval training, and can routinely get my heart rate (taken manually) to 200bpm or more.
I am using a medium-high level of resistance (11-13) and am going very quickly so my heart rate is through the roof. I find that people make the mistake of either using a resistance that is too high so their legs are the limiting factor, not their heart and lungs, or are using a resistance that is too low. As I am trying to make this a sprint, I want to go as quickly as possible and at a very challenging resistance. Important to note, my body is ALWAYS in control.
I like this particular kind of elliptical without the moving arms as the goal is to improve my conditioning, not get a ''full body workout,'' and I've actually found that my heart rate is WAY higher on the type of elliptical I am using here. The ellipticals with the moving arms are designed in a way so you have to stand totally upright which isn't natural to sprinting, and I can't imagine it is good for the spine as it is forced to be stick straight.
Ellipticals are great as they are low impact so people who aren't able to sprint can achieve the same effect by using the elliptical. When I was struggling from my past rib issues and had so many different symptoms but was still playing soccer, yet my body wasn't able to tolerate sprinting other than at my weekly game and practice, I found that I was able to stay in really good ''game shape'' by using the elliptical.
On this particular day, my workout was 24 minutes long. I warmed up for 2 minutes, and then did the following:
Reach 20 calories as quickly as possible @ level 11 and 210-230 RPM, rest = Reach 5 calories at a recovery level x 5 sets
Reach 15 calories as quickly as possible @ level 12 and 210-230 RPM, rest = Reach 5 calories at a recovery level x 8 sets
Reach 10 calories as quickly as possible @ level 13 and 200-220 RPM, rest = Reach 5 calories at a recovery level x 12 sets
This workout seriously killed me as it was almost like a series of mini Wingate tests, and I find that attempting to hit a certain number of calories as quickly as possible is more effective than doing timed intervals. I wasn't focusing on calories burned in the traditional sense, rather I wanted to hit a target number as quickly as possible as this would mean that my intensity was higher.
Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable and sweaty. If you are able to carry on a conversation during your workouts (or want to), you need to step it up!
It you like to do longer cardio, I find that walking, hiking, road biking are great options!!