When you miss 8 goals in one game because you're out of breath, it's time to work on cardio.
March 1, 2010 8:19 AM   Subscribe

Can you help me see the fastest cardio gains in the shortest period of time? Agony and suffering are OK!

So...I turn 30 in a week, and I'm actually pretty active, play soccer year round, etc. I'm not lazy, per se, but I realize that my greatest shortcoming in my league is my lack of cardio. I sprint very well, but I recover slowly. Gone are the days of running miles and miles.

I've also continuously been hurt the last few seasons, I'm sure it's a combo of poor stretching and having too much weight on my frame.

SO...my current league ends in like 10 days, and I'll have a couple months before the next one starts. I'd really like to see some big cardio gains, I really don't care if I suffer in the process. At this point, I think suffering might be cathartic. My ankles are finally healed, my heels are a little tender. My right rotator cuff is permanently destroyed, so over-head weights are out of the question.

Limitations: I don't really want to own a machine, or to get a gym membership. I'm hoping I can do crazy interval training with a jump rope or something.

I'm more concerned with cardio @ this point than strength or weight, but I realize they all go hand in hand.

So...educate me. Recommend me some shoes too, while you're at it. I'm a wee pigeon toed, so I wreck shoes pretty fast between the scuff-and-buff of my sloppy gait. Is there a website where I can become active to help keep me motivated? Anything?
posted by TomMelee to Health & Fitness (21 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
exercise at elevation - 7,000 feet + if possible. bag some spring peaks.
posted by H. Roark at 8:23 AM on March 1, 2010

Run stairs. A lot of tracks have bleachers; run around the track a few times to get warmed up and then run up and down the bleacher stairs. Or find a tall building to which you have access to the stairs and run those (better in rainy/snowy weather anyway).
posted by rtha at 8:32 AM on March 1, 2010 [2 favorites]

I don't want to sound like a shill, but Crossfit has helped me get in better cardio shape _and_ stronger (which is why this is the second exercise thread in a row where I've recommended it.)

Also, if you are carrying some extra weight, I've noticed that there is a weight under which I can run, and a weight over which running becomes incredibly difficult, so getting rid of it (which can be a dietary intake thing) can help.
posted by Comrade_robot at 8:33 AM on March 1, 2010

I'll second rtha's stair-running recommendation, and also pipe in to say that my high school soccer coach swore by ladder-running as a fast, but brutal, method for cardio gains. Here's an eHow article that describes Joan Benoit's ladder method, which is pretty similar to the one we did in high school.
posted by General Malaise at 8:46 AM on March 1, 2010

Interval training is great... go to a standard 400m track and try near-sprinting 100m followed by jogging the remaining 300m, and repeat until you're ready to die.
posted by Diplodocus at 8:54 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Similar to stairs, run hills. We ran them in cross country weekly, along with interval workouts. For hill workouts, find a nice hill, sprint up it, and jog down. Rinse and repeat 'till you want to pass out.
With intervals, you basically sprint a set distance or time and then take a short job. For instance, we'd run 12x400s at :60 clips and then take a :15-20 jogs. I think 800 was x8-12 at 2:30? 1600 around 6:00 at 4-5 with 400 in between.

But mostly hill workouts are where it's at. They also do wonders for mad quads & calves, which a soccer player should love.
posted by jmd82 at 8:54 AM on March 1, 2010

PS I'll add that the type of interval training I just mentioned is probably pretty close to the type of work you'd do in soccer, just taken to an extreme, so it should help with your game a lot.
posted by Diplodocus at 8:56 AM on March 1, 2010

Nthing interval training. Especially for a soccer player, who does a lot of low-intensity jockeying around for position, punctuated by explosive bursts of activity.

Shoe advice: If you're looking for running shoes, I would strongly suggest going to a running store -- a real one, not a Dick's Sporting Goods -- and getting someone to analyze your gait. If you don't have a real running store in your area, you can sort of half-ass it at home by doing the "wet foot test" to figure out if your arches are high or low (normal to low arches usually do better in stability shoes, high arches frequently do better with neutral cushioned shoes). Additionally, look at the wear patterns on the bottom of your old shoes -- if they're worn strongly along the outsides, you oversupinate and should probably stick with the neutral-cushioned shoes. If they're worn strongly along the insides, you overpronate and should get shoes with a greater degree of stability. If the heels wear off so that the shoes kind of rock backwards, you are a heel striker; either make sure you have plenty of heel cushioning, or work on refining your gait to strike with more of a midfoot or forefoot landing (the latter strategy might put extra strain on your calves and Achilles tendon, FYI). Obviously, I'm a big proponent of wearing shoes while running; I apologize if this turns into a heated debate with barefoot running advocates (another school of footwear thought that might interest you).

Still, it's better to have an experienced person analyze your gait for you -- they're likely to pick up on things that you might miss, and the above guidelines aren't hard-and-fast for everyone: for example, if you have flat feet, many people will automatically stick you in stability shoes, but if you also have a relatively immobile ankle joint, the stability shoes will actually hurt you.

You also mentioned that you have a "pigeon-toed" gait -- you can actually retrain your running gait to be more efficient, to a certain extent. People used to think that your gait was immutable, like a fingerprint or something, but that turns out to not be the case. There are a lot of different systems, all of which purport to give you a more-efficient gait; if you're interested in trying to modify your gait, START SLOWLY and proceed incrementally, because you will be using a different pattern of muscle activity than your accustomed gait. Doing hard intervals using a different stride than you're accustomed to is a recipe for injury.

tl;dr -- Go to a specialty running store to get fitted for proper shoes for running-type workouts. If you can't, use some tricks to figure out what you need; roughly 60% of the populace ends up in stability shoes, but you could easily fall into the 40% that doesn't. Runner's World magazine has frequent shoe review guides and a Shoe Finder tool on their website.
posted by kataclysm at 9:09 AM on March 1, 2010

From the conditioning research blog, a comment on a soccer conditioning article from a sports scientist.

5 x 20m (20m grid 5 lengths) x 5
5 x 15m x 6
5 x 10m x 7
all are to be completd at max with 2 min recovery between sets. This was used for the Australian U20 female team prior to world cup qualifiers and there was an improvement of approx 10-15% in max Aerobic Power after 2 x/week (4 weeks) and 3 x/week (4 weeks) I have not publihed this work yet but the benefits are that it is over in 15mins doesnt negatively effect sprint and power and is more specific to the game.
posted by Jakey at 9:12 AM on March 1, 2010

posted by blue_beetle at 9:12 AM on March 1, 2010 [1 favorite]

Cross fit will absolutely crush you and get you in unbelievable shape. Try doing the Filthy Fifty, or a tamer version that I like to call the Dirty Thirty which simply lowers the reps from 50 to 30. By the time you get to the Burpees you will want tp puke if your doing it right.
posted by jasondigitized at 9:12 AM on March 1, 2010

As a student in kinesiology (exercise science), I second HIIT (see blue_beetle), it is the fastest way to increase your VO2max (aka better cardio).
posted by Monte_Cristo at 9:53 AM on March 1, 2010

Rollerskating. Might not be an option if you've got ankle troubles.
posted by dchrssyr at 9:56 AM on March 1, 2010

I'm not sure how effective these activities were in increasing our cardiovascular endurance, but I remember them as being the most grueling workouts we did in cross country, track and rugby:

- Stairs. Our school was 3 stories, so we'd sprint up the first flight of stairs, sprint down the hallway to the next stairwell, and continue this until we got to the top floor. Then we'd jog all the way back down and start over. You could also do this on the stairs at a stadium, or maybe in a building with an infrequently used stairwell.

-Hills. This is the same idea as running stairs. I would find a nice series of 3-5 hills that you could run continuously. Try to sprint up the hills, keeping a quick rhythm, and then relax on the downhills and straight aways.

-Circuits. In rugby we would set up an elaborate series of tasks around the perimeter of the field. The activities varied, but here are some I remember: burpees, pushups, situps, over-unders (need a partner), star jumps, etc. Between activities we would jog the long and sprint the short sides of the field as we did a lap. It might be a good idea to tailor the activities for skills you want to work on. You could practice specific ball handling drills for soccer, or keep to strict cardio work (and do things like jump rope or star jumps). You might feel sort of silly doing these activities by yourself, but I guarantee you'll be exhausted afterwards if you push yourself.

-Interval Workouts. If you have access to a track, you could try running 800m, 400m, 200m, 100m, 200m, 400m, 800m, with short breaks in between. You could change the distance and break time depending on your level of fitness--the idea is just that you are running as hard as you can, get a minimal break, and go again while your heart rate is still up.

You might want to see if any of your teammates are interested in training with you. I find it difficult to really push my speed or endurance without someone else running next to me. Good luck!
posted by gumtree at 10:34 AM on March 1, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for the input so far! Regarding my pigeon-toed-ness, when I was wee my doctors initially planned to give leg braces but, true story, they told my parents if I wore my shoes on the wrong feet for a couple years it should provide the same benefit. So....they did.

I know my gait is wonky, I've just never really known what to do about it. I also have a bit of scoliosis, but it's really quite minor. I think those two things (the gait and the scoliosis) combine to give me some pretty rockin' lower back pain at times.

Anyway---all that aside. Can you tell me how much I should reasonably be able to expect to pay for a good pair of fit-to-me shoes? I mean, like, a range?
posted by TomMelee at 11:13 AM on March 1, 2010

price of shoes - MrDoodley is a bowlegged oversupinator who got hooked on asics gel-nimbus shoes for the cushioning and slight reverse-stabilizing. he can wear neutrals like nike 360 but not nike pegasus, which doesn't have enough cushioning for him. you can find all of these on sale at *more* reasonable prices, but the pegasus is the only sub-$100 shoe that goes down to a truly reasonable price before all the sizes except 4EEE and 14N are sold out. try eastbay.com, sports authority, gart bros. or dick's or even finish line at the mall (IDK where you live).
posted by toodleydoodley at 11:32 AM on March 1, 2010

Tabata training sprints on a stationary bike.
posted by jade east at 12:41 PM on March 1, 2010

I usually pay $100-$120 for running shoes, which is steep, but I see it as a worthwhile investment (before I started buying quality shoes at the local running store, I would give myself more and worse injuries -- physical therapy costs more than appropriate footwear.) At the sub-$100 price range, you can get a decent pair of basic running shoes but you're likely to lose out on some things that you might want (nice cushioning, smooth heel-to-forefoot transition).

One thing that you can do to mitigate the cost of buying shoes is to get your first pair at the running store, but then buy subsequent pairs of the same shoe from somewhere like Roadrunner Sports, which frequently offers substantial discounts. You can also look at the clearance section of the running store -- if you're not an unusual shoe size, you can frequently find last year's version of your running shoe for cheap. Sometimes there are significant changes to the shoe between years, though, so know what you're buying. It's kind of like cars -- they'll be pretty much the same for five years and then there'll be a total redesign.

One thing that you shouldn't do is get fitted at the running store and then turn around and buy the shoes off the internet, because that's just rude. You'll pay a few more dollars at the running store, but you're paying for the expertise of the salespeople.
posted by kataclysm at 12:56 PM on March 1, 2010

General Physical Preparedness might be what you want to look into. I generally don't write down workouts for people because you can find them fairly easy if you look. But I here are a couple of cheap things I use all the time for my workouts.
- Ace Wheelbarrow (+ eyehole screw + thick rope) for sled dragging
- 5 Gallon Jugs for all kinds of things - suitcase walk, sumo walk, farmer walks, push ups, rows
Duffle bag - fill with sand, rice, garbonzo beans, foam, var pieces of cloth, etc..

You could buy other things (kettlebells, etc.) but those things will get you started on some tough workouts. Include some speed, plyometrics, and jump rope; and you'll have a damn good workout.
Oh, and my personal suggestion for building up ankles and feet is to not wear any shoes, preferably while doing said workouts on grass.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:23 PM on March 1, 2010

Before you go spending a ton of money on fancy padded running shoes you owe it to yourself to at least look into the barefoot running movement and why so many people are doing it that way. You may very well have problems that preclude you from participating, but to ignore it totally is to ignore what many (myself included) believe to be a much healthier and easier style of running.
Other than that, I second HIIT-- on a bike, running, jumping rope, however. Whatever program you do, if you actually want to get the fastest cardio gains in the shortest amount of time, you should be pushing yourself frequently to the brink of puking. If you aren't smoked at the end of most of your workouts, you aren't doing it right. This will not come cheaply.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:09 PM on March 1, 2010

I don't know much about fitness, but here's the cardio stuff my college soccer team coach had us do:

120s. Sprint the length of the field, you have 60 seconds to jog back. Do it again. Every third or so walk back and give yourself a few extra seconds.

180s. Start at the edge of midfield, sprint along the side/end lines to the other edge of midfield. Jog across the field. Sprint off again.

300s. Measure 50 yards. Shuttle there and back three times. One or two minutes, then repeat (we would partner up and alternate). Twice is doable when without being in great shape, but work up to 3 then 4. This one kills.

I like these exercises because you can do them in cleats on a soccer field. I cannot bring myself to run for shit unless I'm on a field or court of some sort. They're all relatively quick, we'd do them after warming up and stretching to kick off 90-120 minute practices.
posted by kjell at 8:54 AM on March 2, 2010

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