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Boost Your Cardio Performance With These Easy Steps

2nd February 2023

2nd February 2023

By Robyn Schaffer

Cardio training is one of the most popular forms of exercise, and experts recommend getting at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise, or 75 minutes of vigorous activity each week. 

Whether it’s running, cycling, skipping, or HIIT classes, the variety of options means there’s something for everyone. There's a plethora of health benefits when it comes to cardio, so it’s important to try and get some into your fitness routine.

How to get better at cardio 

If you’re not used to cardio-style workouts, it can be hard to know where to start when it comes to improving your performance. Alternatively, if you’ve been doing cardio for a while now and want to take it up a notch, it can be just as difficult to know how to really boost your performance.

Cardio of benefits 

The benefits of doing regular cardio are well-documented and near endless. They include:

With that in mind, we’ve put together a list of some top tips anyone can adopt to seriously set their cardio training in motion. Whether you’re a beginner or a total pro, these easy steps could be the key to transforming your fitness routine.

How to boost cardio endurance 

  • Set gradual, achievable targets

No one's a professional at anything from the off, so don’t expect to be able to run a marathon within weeks of starting to boost your cardio training. Increase the intensity of your workouts slowly; muscles and joints take longer to adapt to the stress of exercise than your heart and lungs. If you're running or cycling, don’t increase your time or distance by more than 10-20% each week, in order to avoid injury.

So, if you start out with 10 minutes of exercise, add on one or two minutes each time for the first few weeks before making your progressions slightly larger.

It’s also a good idea to keep a journal or diary where you can record and keep track of your fitness goals and achievements. You can either write these down on paper, or use a fitness app to help you.

Apps can help you track your steps, heart rate, nutrition and more, so if you’re looking to take your cardio training that bit more seriously, it’s a no-brainer. You can see the results in front of your eyes. There have even been studies that have shown that smartphone apps and exercise trackers can help improve fitness.

What the Innermost Insiders say:

“I’d advise anyone looking to improve their cardio performance to set themselves little targets. Preparing for the London Marathon, I would run one short run (e.g. two miles) and one longer run per week (e.g. six miles), giving myself enough time to recover between the runs. With practice, and after a couple of months, they both became six miles, and then 10 to 15  miles.” - Zack Seamons

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On your marks. Get set. SMILE 😁😂

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  • Interval training

Interval training has been used for years by athletes looking to improve and build upon their fitness. It usually entails combining short, high-intensity bursts of speed with slow recovery phases, and doing this in alternation throughout one exercise session. Essentially, interval training can help you boost your cardio performance by working both the aerobic and anaerobic systems.

During periods of high-intensity (such as during interval training), the anaerobic system uses the energy stored in the muscles (glycogen) for short bursts of activity. The anaerobic metabolism is able to work without oxygen, however the by-product created is lactic acid.

As lactic acid builds, we enter what’s known as ‘oxygen debt’, and it’s during the recovery phase that our heart and lungs work together to ‘pay back’ this oxygen debt and break down the lactic acid. It’s in this phase that the aerobic system is using oxygen to convert stored carbohydrates into energy.

Ultimately, it's thought that by doing high-intensity intervals that produce lactic acid, the body learns to adapt and burn lactic acid more efficiently during exercise, hence improving our performance during cardio. 

In addition, here are some of the several other benefits of interval training:

  • More calories burned. If you’re looking to lose body fat, intervals are more effective than long, slow endurance exercise. The effort you have to put in means your body will have to work harder to recover, so you’ll burn more calories in the 24 hours after a session of interval training than you would after a long, slow, steady run.
  • A healthier heart. Did you know HIIT can actually decrease strain on your heart? Over time, cardio exercise can increase your heart stroke volume, making your heart stronger and more efficient. This can also decrease your risk of both heart disease and high blood pressure. 

What the Innermost Insiders say:

“For me, I try to change it up each session so as to not stagnate my cardio training. So if I go for a long run on Monday, I’ll do interval training on Tuesday, just to make sure you're shocking the body and not making it get used to a specific exercise.” - Darren Placid


  • Combine cardio with strength training

Life is all about balance. So even if your main fitness goal is to boost your cardio performance, it’s important to switch things up every now and again, and combining cardio with strength training can actually help you reach those goals in the long run. Strength training helps our muscles become stronger and more powerful, making us ready for those intense cardio sessions. But, it can even help reduce the chances of health problems like osteoporosis, and the symptoms of things like diabetes, obesity, and back pain. But beyond that, it’s good for you mentally too. Researchers have found that strength training can improve brain cognition, reduce anxiety and depression, and boost self-esteem.

Try this easy-to-follow strength and cardio workout from Whole Life Challenge to get you started.

It’s easiest to do this one if you have access to a treadmill in a gym, but any outside space will do perfectly too.

  • 5-minute warm up walk
  • 90-second jog
  • 30-second sprint 
  • 10 press-ups 
  • 10 bodyweight squats
  • 90-second jog
  • 30-second sprint
  • 20 walking lunges (10 each side)
  • 60-second plank
  • 20 mountain climbers
  • 90-second jog
  • 30-second spring
  • 10 burpees
  • 60-second wall sit
  • 10 squat jumps
  • 90-second jog
  • 30-second sprint
  • 5-minute cool down walk
  • Make time to rest and recover

Even though the cardio training itself is what we’re focusing on here, rest and recovery is just as crucial to the process of boosting your performance. Proper rest and recovery allows your muscles to repair themselves so they’re well-prepared and stronger for your next session. If you over train and tire yourself out, it can actually end up having the adverse effect and increase chances of strain and injury.

Here’s some of the best ways you can recover post-workout to ensure your cardio performance is at its best:

  • Rest. No, really. You can boost your performance just by sleeping. Sleep is one of the most important factors in our health and fitness, and getting the right amount of quality sleep is crucial to efficient recovery.
  • Hydrate. Drink plenty of water throughout the day after your workout to replace all the minerals and nutrients lost through sweat. And if you’re looking to really maximise your recovery, try The Power Booster. Containing creatine monohydrate (one of the most popular sports supplements in the world which increases power, strength and speed), it’s perfect for after high-intensity training.
  • Stretch. Stretching helps the muscles stay strong and supple, minimising the chances of tightness and injury. Having a hot shower or bath before stretching can also help loosen the muscles even more prior to stretching.

Looking for some inspiration? Check out these nine easy stretching exercises.

  • Fuel your body properly

Without proper fuel, our bodies simply cannot perform at their best. However, sometimes it can be hard to know what our bodies need at which moments. And different types of exercise can require different types of fuel. Barbara Lewin, RD, a sports nutritionist who works with professional athletes, told Health.com: “What’s healthy on a regular basis is not necessarily a good choice for the race course, or even for a workout.”

So for cardio, when you eat is just as important as what. It’s recommended to have a pre-workout meal that’s low in fat and sugar, moderate in protein, and high in carbs. So something like a protein smoothie made with berries about 60 to 90 minutes before you workout would be perfect. This ensures you’ve digested the food properly, while the high-carb content will provide you with enough energy to power you through the session. About 20-30 minutes after your workout, in your body’s ‘metabolic window’, opt for a carb and protein-heavy snack. The protein will help rebuild muscles, while the carbs will replace muscle glycogen stores and replenish energy.

Examples of some snacks you could have include things like:

  • A protein shake with fruit. Try one of our Innermost proteins to get all the post-workout goods you need.
  • Greek yoghurt with berries.
  • A bagel with eggs.

What the Innermost Insiders say:

“I always make sure there’s enough energy in the tank. One of my biggest runs (20 miles in two hours and 20 minutes) was actually completed shortly after an Easter Sunday family meal. Eat light, allow time to digest, and don’t run on empty. I’d also advise eating clean, no fatty foods, no carbonated drinks, and little to no alcohol.” - Zack Seamons


Think you're a bit more clued up on how to boost your cardio endurance, now? If you try out any of these hacks for boosting your cardio training and performance, let us know, We’d love to hear from you!

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From the Bedroom to the Gym: Is Your Sex Life Affecting Your Workout Performance?
The relationship between sex and workout performance is one that’s long been debated by scientists and fitness fanatics alike. It’s complicated and multifaceted, so answering the question of whether your sex life is affecting your training is difficult. That said, today we’re going to take a look at a variety of evidence, both academic and anecdotal, as well as several different scenarios and at least try to reduce some of the mystery around the subject. First, it helps to understand what’s actually happening to the body, both physically and psychologically, during both activities.   The Effects of Sex on the Body Sexual activity causes several changes to occur in the body:   Physical Changes That Occur During Sex During sexual activity and the lead up to it, the human body undergoes a process known as the sexual response cycle. This is the case for both males and females, though the cycle can be highly individual and may not be the same each time for each person. Describing the full sexual response cycle is beyond the scope of this article, however it consists of 4 phases: Desire Arousal Orgasm Resolution Factors such as elevated heart rate, increased blood flow and pressure and heightened muscle tension all come into play. If you’d like to read about the sexual response cycle in more detail, check out this great article from Cleveland Clinic.   Psychological Changes That Occur During Sex Several psychological changes occur both during and after sex. Most notable are the release of endorphins and oxytocin, which are associated with improved mood and a better sense of wellbeing. These are also responsible for reduced stress levels, which brings a multitude of additional benefits that are of particular interest to those of us participating in regular training and exercise. Cortisol, the hormone responsible for stress, is catabolic in high levels, meaning it can cause the breakdown of lean tissue. So, whilst it is unclear whether sex itself affects workout performance, the reduction in stress levels it may bring is definitely beneficial for preserving our results!   The Effects of Exercise and Training on the Body Exercise and training also cause the body to undergo a number of changes. These occur both during and after the physical activity. There are in fact a number of similarities in changes that happen during exercise and sex:   Physical Changes That Occur During Exercise The physical changes that happen in the body vary based on the type of exercise being undertaken, however, there are some that are common to exercise in general: Increased heart rate Increased blood flow, especially to the muscles Faster, deeper breathing due to additional oxygen needs Heightened activity within the circulatory, respiratory, musculoskeletal and endocrine systems A full summary of the changes that occur within these systems can be found here. More aerobically demanding exercise will, of course, place greater emphasis on the circulatory and respiratory systems as well as causing fat to be metabolised as an energy source. Resistance training, which often relies more heavily on the lactate and creatine phosphate energy systems, instead promotes greater muscular and endocrine (hormone) activity. Note the common physical changes between sex and exercise here, as they do crossover!   Psychological Changes That Occur During Exercise The psychological changes that occur during exercise are similar to those experienced during sexual activity and are mostly related to the release of endorphins and other ‘feelgood’ hormones. These help to regulate mood, and it is common knowledge that frequent exercise and leading an active, healthy lifestyle promotes a feeling of wellbeing.   Does Sex Affect Our Workouts? This is where things become complicated. Though extensive studies have been done on the subject, the results of these have varied massively. We must also take into account the experience of individuals, and this anecdotal evidence again has huge variance. Let’s look at both:   Sex and Training: What the Science Says Scientific studies on the relationship between sex and training are contradictory at best. There’s no denying the positive benefits of both activities, particularly from a psychological perspective, but as for the effect of sex on actual performance in the gym the results are inconclusive. A study, published in April 2021, by Kirecci, Albayrak and co. examined the effects of sexual activity of 50 men in the 24 hours prior to training on lower body strength. The study measured effects by having the men perform 3 separate squat sessions, each at the same time of day. Each of these sessions occurred after participating in or abstaining from sexual activity the night before. The men performed 5 sets of 5 repetitions of their maximum squat weight during these sessions and the difference in weight lifted was observed. The study concluded that ‘sexual intercourse within 24 hours before exercise [has a] detrimental effect on lower extremity muscle force, which suggests that restricting sexual activity before a short-term activity may be necessary.’ Aside from this study, most others found either no notable relationship between sex and athletic performance. A meta-analysis of 9 crossover studies, conducted by Zavorsky and Brooks and published on 16 September 2022, confirms this. The analysis concluded that ‘The results demonstrate that sexual activity within 30 min to 24 h before exercise does not appear to affect aerobic fitness, musculoskeletal endurance, or strength/power.’ This is perhaps more notable, because these studies incorporated different types of exercise and were not restricted purely to a strength/power based activity like squats.   Anecdotal Evidence: What About the Experiences of Real Gym Goers? The anecdotal evidence is, as expected, highly individualised. However, there tends to be a bias against the results of most studies, particularly in those participating in sports involving strength and aggression. For example, many fighters claim that they perform better when they abstain from sex in the days leading up to a contest. Similarly, bodybuilding forums are full of debate on this topic and many claim they note a significant decrease in motivation to train at maximum intensity after sexual activity. It has been hypothesised that this may be due to a downregulation in testosterone production after sex; during orgasm the mineral zinc is released in the body and this is also a precursor for natural testosterone production in the body and may, therefore, provide some reasoning as to the experience of many trainees.   Key Takeaways The relationship between sex and workout performance will always be a complicated one. The effects of one on the other in terms of physical fitness and, in particular, mental wellbeing, are clear, but when it comes to actual performance this appears to be highly individual. We’d advise doing what feels best for you but not worrying too much about it. Instead, prioritise your nutrition and make sure you’re fuelling your workouts properly. While you’re here, why not take a look at the Innermost range? We’re proud to be completely transparent about the ingredients in our products and we always ensure they’re of the highest quality. Check us out, and be sure to get in touch if you have any questions! Read more