By Zoid Fitness Team on Oct 15, 2019 6:49:00 PM
As a beginner, it can be challenging to start any sort of new hobby or activity, let alone to get started in the often-intimidating world of fitness. Cardiovascular fitness is one of the most important aspects of working out, so beginners should focus on cardio in order to maximize their overall success, strength, and endurance in the gym.
There are many ways to improve and elevate your cardiovascular fitness, but which ways are the best? Below are 5 helpful tips you can try as you get started with improving your cardiovascular fitness so it doesn’t seem like such a massive undertaking.
1. Build cardiovascular endurance with agility training
Agility is the ability to move quickly and easily, and in order to be agile, it helps to have a high level of cardiovascular fitness. When you choose agility training as part of your fitness plan, you can kill two birds with one stone, because not only will you improve your agility, but you’ll improve your cardiovascular fitness, too. Because agility training typically involves shifting from one position to the next at a fast pace, agility training gets your heart beating fast. On top of boosting your agility and cardio, it’s also great for building up strength and power in your muscles.
Many beginners who are just getting started with agility training choose to practice with a personal trainer and start slowly at first, since agility training can feel pretty intense. Working with a trainer can help you feel more confident and help prevent you from making rookie mistakes as you train.
With that being said, agility training isn’t rocket science, and you don’t need a paid professional to give it a try. You can easily get started on your own with something simple like jumping over hurdles. If you feel like jumping hurdles is a bit too easy, you can make it even more challenging by changing the height of the hurdles.
Because you’ll be using many muscles in your body to jump from one hurdle to the next, while also incorporating aspects of balance and speed, you’ll be getting that heart beating quickly and boosting your cardio ability. Jumping hurdles require a lot of leg strength, so if you keep at it, you’ll also find that your legs will quickly be toned and powerful to go along with your improved cardio and agility.
Another great agility training drill is to use a speed ladder (sometimes called an agility ladder). These intense exercises challenge your ability to focus mentally on top of physically pushing your body to the limit. Even if you aren’t quite ready to spend significant amounts of time working with a speed ladder, incorporate a few speed ladder drills into the beginning or end of your workout. You’ll soon begin to notice that your speed gets faster each and every time you practice, and your agility and cardio will benefit big-time.
2. Take advantage of training apps or programs
There are a number of handy apps that you can download on your smartphone, TV, or computer to help you as you attempt to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Whether you’re using an android or iOS device, you can find useful (and free!) apps that give you the ability to build and create your own workout. You can follow along with videos, graphics, or other specific types of instructions that guide you through your workout so you don’t feel lost, even as a beginner.
This is a great way to take advantage of some type of “professional” training without hiring an actual trainer to assist you. If you go this route, just be aware of your experience level, and try not to select or attempt exercises meant for more advanced athletes that know their way around proper form and technique. This ensures that you are staying safe and taking care of yourself while working out.
Even if you don’t use a workout app, you can use technology to your advantage as you work out. Download music apps or podcast apps that help that motivate you or pass time during your workout. If you’re a runner, there are apps you can use to track and plan your running route around the neighborhood. If you’re walking, you can choose an app that counts your steps and tracks how many miles you’ve walked during the day, week, and month. Some apps even allow a sharing option to show how much your friends or other local beginners have walked or ran in the same time frame you have. This is a great feature that can give you a sense of community and an “in it together” type of feeling, which is an essential part of staying motivated and inspired to work out and improve your health.
For before and after your workouts, you can also find apps that track the number of calories that you eat and burn. Some of these apps give you the option to scan or search for food items, enter them into your tracker, and keep up with your macros. This is another helpful way to work towards maintaining proper cardio fitness.
3. Set realistic goals for yourself
One of the worst things you can do as a beginner is rush into something and expect big results in too little time. You need to focus on one goal at a time. Doing too many things at once, or biting off more than you can chew, will increase your risk of injury or burnout. It will also lower your motivation.
Imagine being excited, starting your first day of exercise, and choosing to run for two hours. You have no proper training, goals, or discipline to achieve or maintain that level of workout yet! Because you’re not used to your body being in that state or running for that distance yet, you’ll be too tired and worn out the next day to do it again. Before you know it, you’ll be putting off your workouts more and more until you have to start all over again from square one the next month. The point is, don’t dive in headfirst. Instead, dip in a toe. Give your body a chance to adjust to being active.
Individuals who are trying to achieve cardiovascular fitness should understand that it takes time and a lot of practical planning to get it done the right way. We all have goals and we all want to succeed, but sometimes, we tend to compare ourselves to other people too much, or base our end goals off of other people that we see online. You might follow or be inspired by someone you see on social media, but you never know what that person did to look the way that they do. Maybe they’ve had surgery, or maybe that image they posted photoshopped or filtered. No one really knows, and just because other people look a certain way or perform a certain way doesn’t mean you should hold yourself to those same unrealistic standards. Don’t expect to have the body of a Greek goddess after just a week of working out! Take your time and enjoy the ride. As they say, it’s a marathon – not a sprint.
4. Make a dedicated effort to stick to your workouts
For beginners in particular, it takes a bit of mental strength to push yourself to work out. Cardio fitness requires a little more effort than other types of workouts, and some days, you might be tempted to just stay on the couch instead of head to the gym, or maybe you do make it to the gym, but you find yourself taking too long of a break during your workouts.
With this in mind, try to limit your rest time during your workouts. When you’re in between reps, it can be easy to take a break and unknowingly extend the break beyond the recommended limit. Things like looking at your phone or taking too long of a drink break can really add up. Before you know it, you’ve been resting for 10 minutes and your body has gone into rest mode. Use a timer to make sure that you’re being consistent in your workout. You want to only keep your rests below a minute so that your body still continues to burn calories even during rest mode.
If you’re getting bored when you work out and you feel yourself slipping, you can switch up your routines during your cardio sessions to reinvigorate yourself a bit. Add another rep, do a different move, or just switch up your workout location to get a different perspective and keep things interesting.
Whatever it takes, keep at it! After a while, you'll get into a groove and even find yourself looking forward to your workout time.
5. Focus on your diet
Working out will only get you halfway to proper cardiovascular fitness. One of the best ways to improve your fitness as a beginner is to eat the right foods. If you’re throwing back greasy food one night and hitting the gym the next night, you’re not going to make a whole lot of progress. Changing your eating habits can go a long way.
Focus more on fruits, vegetables, and protein. Be wary of heavy meals and foods that promote inflammation or bloating effects.
If you’re considering making a more substantial change to your eating habits, consider the keto diet – it’s one of the best nutrition plans you can follow to improve your cardiovascular fitness. Following a keto diet involves eating more fats and less carbs. That means things like meat and poultry, eggs, nuts, and avocados – not unhealthy fats in foods like pastries or heavily processed food.
Eating those “healthy” fats allows your body to burn more fat than anything else. This is perfect, as cardio can be one of the quickest ways to burn fat off of your body, especially compared to strength training, which focuses more on building your muscles.
If you need more help, we’re here for you
Keep these tips in mind when you’re beginning your quest to improve your cardiovascular fitness. It can seem like a long, intimidating journey when you’re first getting started, but if you stick with it, you’ll reap the rewards in the end.
When you incorporate healthy nutritional choices, set realistic goals, and utilize the proper resources in your daily workout routine, you’ll be on your way to improving your health and boosting your cardiovascular fitness in no time.
And don’t forget, if you need some more pointers or expert assistance as you embark on your quest to get fit, be sure to check out our Zoid Academy page and other handy online resources for people who are beginners in exercise just like you!