By now, we all know that cardio melts away excess pounds and revs up endurance for any activity, even those that aren’t strictly cardio-related. But few people relish the idea of spending hours on the run. For those people, cardio countdown sets can be an effective way to fine tune a cardio workout without additional distance, time, or stress on the joints.
With cardio countdown sets, you match large quantities of time with reduced levels of effort and short periods of time with higher levels of effort. After doing a basic stretch and a walking warm-up of no less than 2.5mph for about 2 minutes, you set the long time/low effort number you wish to start at. Starting at 10 will give you a 55-minute total workout. Starting at 5 will give you a 15-minute workout, that doubles up nicely to 30 minutes if you do it twice (which we recommend). However, if you really choose to push yourself, you can do a starting number of 5 and still get noticeable results.
For purposes of illustration, we’re going to detail a 5-countdown set.
5 – beginners, do a quick brisk walk… usually around 3mph. More experienced runners may choose to start at 3.5mph. Maintain this speed for 5 minutes.
4 – up your speed to approximately 4 to 4.5 mph. Alternatively, you may choose to increase incline or resistance by one or two levels. Continue for 4 minutes
3 – up speed to 5.0-5.25 mph or increase incline/resistance another level or two. Continue for 3 minutes
2 – up speed to 5.25- 5.75 mph or increase incline/resistance. Continue for 2 minutes
1 – up speed to 6 mph or whatever setting constitutes an almost full sprint. Or, max out incline/resistance. Continue for 1 minute.
COOL DOWN or REPEAT – Cool down should be of walking at minimal effort until breathing returns to normal (at least 1 minute).
Do not stop between intervals… it should be a continuous increase in effort/difficulty as you go. Sets can be repeated as desired or combined to achieve a certain time frame (for instance, two 5 sets and two 3 sets comes to about 45 minutes after you include a warm up and cool down).