By most standards, cardiovascular training is helpful - and necessary for maintaining a strong and healthy heart. "Cardio" training is really anything that elevates the heart rate for an extended period of time. It could be 10 easy minutes on the elliptical machine to warm up before lifting weights or a four-hour training ride for an Ironman. The important thing is to train at the level at which your body is conditioned, and progress from there. Running is no exception.
We've all had days where we "muscle" through our training runs. Lack of sleep, improper nutrition or over-training are a few reasons we can attribute to a less-than-stellar run. Some of us have greater pain thresholds than others. We can tolerate more discomfort, turning our legs over way too fast to feel remotely comfortable. As it turns out, consistently running outside of what our heart is able or trained to do can do more hard than good. Without allowing your body to become fit enough to run marathon, or training to run a marathon at a pace that's too fast for your heart can be dangerous. Having the "hardest run of your life" every now and then really isn't a big deal. But having one of those runs every time you get moving is a sign that you're trying to force something that's not there yet.
What Determines Someone's VO2?
VO2 differs from person to person and is greatly influenced by genetics. Ever run with someone who never jogged a mile in their life, then suddenly leave you in the dust the first time you go out for a short run?
Men usually have a higher VO2 than women. Men have greater muscle mass than women. This extra muscle means extra oxygen-rich blood. More oxygen in your system means you can stay aerobic, and push yourself harder than having less oxygen in your system.
Proper training does improve a person's VO2, but not overnight, and for many people, not as much as they'd like. Nonetheless, the key to increasing your VO2 by training is to stick with a continuous training program.
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