Cardio Vascular Endurance

Physical Fitness is not just being able to run 3 miles, or lift a lot of weighs, or being able to touch your toes, or even being your ideal weight.  Each of these are just one of the aspects of fitness, and to be physically fit, we must we fit in each area.

Actually, there are 5 Components of Fitness and they are:

I have written about the first 4 (you can read my posts by clicking on the links above), and now that I have just returned from a great 4 mile run,  I want to complete my series and provide some information about Cardiovascular Endurance.


Cardiovascular Endurance is defined as is the ability of the heart and lungs to supply oxygen-rich blood to the working muscle tissues and  the ability of the muscles to use oxygen to produce energy for movement.  


The heart is a muscle and just as we can strengthen our quads and biceps, we can also strengthen our heart muscle.  Regular aerobic, or high intensity training strengthens the cardiovascular system and improves cardiovascular endurance.


The strength of our cardiovascular system is determined by several factors, and as each of these increase, the amount of blood flow and oxygen supply to your muscles also increases.  Regular exercise can improve all of these factors:

1) Heart rate (how many times your heart beats per minute)

2) Stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped per heartbeat)

3) Heart contraction (the forcefulness of each actual contraction of your heart muscle)


Cardiovascular endurance is obviously important for running a race, cycling long distances, swimming, etc. but it is also vital for living a full life!



Some Major Benefits of Cardiovascular Fitness are:

Cardiovascular Health — Simply put, strengthening our cardiovascular system helps prevent heart disease,It lowers cholesterol and triglyceride levels  high blood pressure and stroke.

Weight Control — The stronger our heart, the longer and more intense we can exercise, and exercises to increase cardiovascular endurance also burn a lot of calories!

Disease Prevention — Again, aerobic exercise helps prevent obesity which can lead to diabetes, heart disease, and stroke.  And, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, being physically active also reduces the risk of developing breast cancer and prostate cancer.

Mental Health — I’m sure you’ve noticed how good you feel after a brisk walk.  According to May clinic, “Aerobic exercise can boost your mood, ease symptoms of anxiety and depression, reduce tension and promote relaxation”  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also states that physical activities can also improve our quality of sleep, and enhance our thinking and judgment skills.


It is relatively easy to improve our  cardiovascular endurance.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends 150 minutes (or more) of cardiovascular (or Aerobic) exercise weekly to build endurance and encourage good health. This can be a little as 30 minutes a day, 5 days a week.  A simple definition of aerobic exercise is “any physical activity that makes you sweat, causes you to breathe harder and gets your heart beating faster than at rest.”  

This can include: walking (briskly), jogging, cycling, skating, skiing, using the stair master, row machine or other equipment at the gym, and a bunch of other great aerobic exercises.  Here is a list of exercises you can do at home.  The key is, you want to exercise at 70% of your maximum heart rate for about 20 minutes during your workout.


An easy way to determine your training zone is to subtract your age from 220.  Next calculate 70% of that  number for your target heart rate.  Next, halfway into your cardio workout,take pulse for six seconds; then add a zero to that number. This number is your heart rate per minute.  If your heart rate halfway through your workout is under that 70% mark, increase your exertion, and if it is over that 70% mark take it down a level.  If you are a serious athlete, there are other more precise ways to calculate your maximum heart rate and you can check some of them out here.


If you haven’t done much exercise, start slowly, maybe with a 15 minute walk at slightly above your normal pace a few times a week.  Then as you get comfortable, slowly increase the time and the pace.  Always remember to first warm up and then cool down after your workout!

Remember don’t start an exercise program without first consulting your physician.

And, have fun!





Transition to Winter Activities

It has been a busy few weeks.  So busy that I have totally gotten out of my exercise habit, uggh, why do I do this to myself?


As it has gotten darker and colder, my outdoor running has pretty much stopped, and so it is also a time of transition to the gym and yoga.  I did manage to get myself to yoga yesterday for the first time in over a month!  I was beginning to feel all sorts of tightness in my body and realized that it was time to get back to class.

I am making a commitment here and now to get to yoga at least twice a week (preferably more, but if I go 8 times a month, I will be getting my money’s worth out of my membership).  I also will get to the gym at least twice a week to keep up (and hopefully build) my muscle strength.  As I plan to do some skiing this winter I had better get into shape for the season — squats, squats and more squats!


I feel so good when I do these things, why do I let them lapse?





I am not completely done running however as I have signed up for a Turkey Trot 5K on Thanksgiving morning.  I will be visiting family and my son, daughter-in-law and possibly my daughter will be running the race too.  Closer to home, my running club (Coastal Athletic Association) has all sorts of fun things planned — monthly pub runs, a canned food run, a jingle bell run, even an evening run around Nubble Light to see the holiday lights!  I hope to join in some of these events and will share my experiences with you!

Muscle Strength — Another Component of Fitness

This is the time of year I generally change up my exercise routine.  As the days get shorter and the weather gets colder, I tend to give my running shoes a rest and instead I go to the gym to lift weights, and show up at yoga class more regularly.  As I (unfortunately) can’t spend hours every day exercising, I find it very hard to cross train and do all three — running, weights and yoga.

Fitness isn’t about just having great cardio-vascular strength, or being able to touch your toes, or even being thin.  Fitness is made up of 5 different components:

  1. Muscle Strength ( how much force a muscle can exert a single time, in other words, the maximum amount of weight can you lift once)
  2. Muscle Endurance (how long a muscle can work without fatigue)
  3. Cardio-Vascular Endurance (the ability of the heart and lungs to work together to provide the body with oxygen)
  4. Flexibility (ability for the joints to achieve full range of motion)
  5. Body Composition (percent of body fat vs. lean muscle tissue)

To be physically fit, we have to be fit in each of these five areas.  A while ago, I wrote about the phenomenon of Skinny-Fat.  Just because someone is thin, if they don’t have lean muscle mass, or cannot sustain moderate aerobic activity, they are not fit.  Likewise, many runners, although they can run many miles at a time, don’t strength train and so they have weak upper body muscles — again they are not truly fit.

Today I want to talk about Muscle Strength.  First though, you may ask, What is the difference between muscle strength and muscle endurance?  Muscle endurance refers to how long a muscle can work without fatigue.  Training for muscle endurance involves low intensity and high volume workouts.  In other words, you should lift weights at about 50%-75% of your max, doing 15-20 repetitions per set, for 3-6 sets.  Typically someone says she wants to be “toned” they are referring to muscle endurance.

Before starting any exercise program check with your doctor to ensure that are healthy and that you don’t have any health issues or concerns that should make you avoid certain types of exercise.


Muscle Strength means how much force a muscle can exert a single time, in other words, the maximum amount of weight can you lift once. Training for muscle strength involves performing several warm-up sets and then 2-6 “work” sets of 80%-90% of your maximum weight for up to 6 reps per set, and a minimum of 2 minutes rest between sets.  If you can do more than 6 reps, the weight is too low.  Generally when someone goes to the gym and says they want to bulk up, they are referring to muscle strength.  As you can see, there are very different techniques for different results.  


For beginners (or anyone who has not been weight training regularly in the last 6 months), it is best to start with a program designed for muscle endurance.  After a solid 3-6 months (depending on your level of fitness) of such a program, then you can begin to work up to a program focusing on muscle strength.  It is best to concentrate on one or two muscle groups at a time and really work them with 3-4 different exercises, again at heavy weights (80%-90% of max).

A 4-day a week program that works well is to break out your days as follows:

Day One: Chest (Pecs) and Triceps

Day Two: Upper Back (Lats) and Biceps

Day Three: Legs and Lower Back

Day Four: Shoulders (Deltoids) and Abdominals

Each day, do 3-4 different exercises for each muscle group.   Start with the most difficult exercise and make sure to do several warm up sets starting at a moderate weight and work up to your work sets.  Do 4 work sets of 4-6 reps per set at a heavy weight.  Rest 2 minutes between sets. As your muscles are already warmed up, for the next 2-3 exercises you can go right into the work sets, but still rest 2 minutes between sets.

After you have finished, be sure to stretch the muscle groups you have been working to minimize muscle soreness!




















On to the next Challenge

It has been a spring and summer full of races for me.   I ran seven 5Ks, a 4 miler, a 5 miler, and two 10Ks as part of two different race series.  I also ran a 5 mile and 10 mile race.  My season is winding down with one more 5K  next month to finish the Seacoast Race Series (and get another jacket for completing it).

Now the real work begins as I train for the Seacoast Half Marathon!  I started gearing up my distance with a 6.5 mile run this weekend.  It felt great.  The weather was cool (59 degrees) and we ran along the beach for a large part of the run.  However there was a strong headwind and afterwards I was beat.  I spent most of the rest of the day on the couch!


Each time I run a half marathon I say, “My preparation should have included more weight training”,  and so I am putting it down in writing and setting a goal to get my sorry self to the gym a minimum of two times a week from now until the race in early November (and hopefully beyond).

No excuses.  I am going to start today with a workout at lunchtime.

Let’s Get in Shape Together

I wrote this as a guest post on a cool blog, Drink Wine and Giggle.  The Drink Wine and Giggle gals are all about using the power of friendship to turn girlfriend time into life-enhancing experiences.  They offer activities that will encourage self-awareness; strengthen your bonds of friendship; be an inexhaustible source of fun; and make your life better in a lasting way.  Check them out! at

Let’s Get in Shape Together

The title of this post is Let’s Get in Shape Together – the key word being together. I have always found that it is a lot easier (and a whole lot more fun) to exercise and get in shape with a friend. Not only does the time pass more quickly when you have someone to talk to, but you will hold each other accountable for doing the exercise!

The hard part is finding a friend who wants to do the exercise you want to do at the time that is convenient for both of you. So rather than wait around for a friend to want to go to the gym, to yoga or for a run, a better approach may be to go out there and join in with people who already exercise. You may start out as strangers, but you may end as friends!

I have met all of my exercise partners, many of whom are now my friends, this way.

About twenty years ago, when I first got into exercise, I joined the local Y. It was convenient for me to go during lunchtime and so I started going a few times a week at noon. Within a few months, after seeing the same people week after week I started developing friendships. And since the only time I saw my “Y friends” was when I went to the gym, it kept me going. To this day, while many of us have moved away and few of us still go to that YMCA, I remain friendly with a handful of women whom I first met at the Y. We stay in touch and even get together a few times a year.

More recently, I wanted to get back into running. I noticed that my local running store had a 5K and a 10K training group forRunning Grace upcoming races. I signed up for the 10K group. The goal of the group was not only to train us to run the race, but also to encourage camaraderie among the participants. During my first run I met up with a woman who ran at my pace.  We started talking, trained side by side and completed the race. Now, 3 years later we meet for a run once or twice a week and even make time to go to the gym together. I met a new friend who I would never have met if I hadn’t first ventured out there alone to the running group.

These are just two examples from my life. There are many opportunities to join up with a group of people who share what you enjoy. Check out your local bicycle clubs (for all abilities), hiking clubs, ski clubs, adult softball and basketball leagues, bowling leagues and soccer leagues.

A Google search will yield groups and clubs in your local area where you can join in with a group of people who enjoy the activities you do and who will keep you getting out there and participating!