How to design cardiorespiratory workouts

As a personal trainer, once you’ve assessed your client’s cardiorespiratory fitness status, you are then responsible for setting a programme that is suitable for their needs, abilities and fitness goals. You must always take into account that some individuals are training for a different reason: some train to improve their fitness levels and others train to simply improve on their health status.

Each phase of a cardiorespiratory workout should include the following:

  • Warm-up of between five and 10 minutes.
  • Endurance activity of between 20 and 60 minutes.
  • Cool-down of between five and 10 minutes.
  • Stretching of +/- 10 minutes.

What is the purpose of a warm-up in a cardiorespiratory workout?

The purpose of a warm-up is to increase the blood flow to the heart and muscles. This phase will decrease the chance of muscle and joint injury. In addition, it will lessen the chance of abnormal cardiac rhythms during the workout. The tempo of the warm-up will gradually increase to prepare the body for a higher intensity in the endurance activity phase.

During the endurance activity phase of the workout, the exercises are performed according to the FITT principle:

  • Frequency: how often you exercise
  • Intensity: how hard your work during the exercise
  • Time: how long your exercise
  • Type: what type of activity you’re doing

These are the different aspects of your programme that you can manipulate to change your workouts, which is something you need to do regularly to avoid plateaus and boredom. For example, if you start out walking three mines a week for 30 minutes at a moderate pace, you may lose weight and increase your endurance. After a few weeks of the same workouts, though, your body will adapt to those walking workouts which could lead to a plateau. At that point you could add another day of waling (so changing your exercise frequency), walk faster or add some running (so changing the intensity), walk for longer periods of time (changing the time) or trying something different like swimming or cycling (changing the type).

This phase of the workout is usually 20 – 60 minutes long depending on the intensity of the exercise.

Trifocus Fitness Academy - cardiorespiratory workout

Why is the cool-down phase needed?

The cool-down phase immediately after endurance exercise is needed to reduce the risk of cardiovascular complications caused by stopping the exercise suddenly. During this phase, the individual continues to exercise for about five to 10 minutes of lower intensity of the exercise that they were doing in the conditioning activity. It allows the heart rate and blood pressure to return to a hear baseline level and prevents the pooling of blood in the extremities. This reduces the risk of dizziness and fainting.

What’s involved in the stretching phase?

The stretching phase usually lasts up to 10 minutes and is performed after a warm-up or a cool-down phase. Usually, static stretching is performed, which helps to reduce the change of muscle cramps and muscle soreness.

Each level will have to prepare your personal training client for the next level forward. One thing to remember is that you always need to use the minimum effective dose. That means just giving them enough to get the results you want. More important is the consistency that they apply to exercise and their general health. Tweak where needed, but believe in the process to get your clients to that “next level.”

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