Best way to increase cardiovascular capacity (and maybe endurance)?
June 28, 2015 10:37 AM   Subscribe

Given my set of constraints, I need some ideas about forms of exercise I can do to increase my cardiovascular capacity and maybe my endurance also. Details within.

I'm learning how to paddle on a dragon boat and my coach told me I need to increase my cardiovascular capacity before the race. It's one month away. We're going to be doing four 250m sprints on race day. Right now I can do one race piece but I'm struggling to keep up--it's very much a sprint sort of thing where you're left gasping for breath and the end and in the middle are my muscles are burning and I'm gritting my teeth.

Constraints: I'm not supposed to run because I have a frozen/arthritic toe and running leaves me hobbled and unable to wear shoes for a week. I can't do stuff with lots of jumping either for the same reason, though I can tolerate some.

I was thinking I should do HIIT with a heart rate monitor? I have access to a bike on a trainer and a heart rate monitor. I also have access to an elliptical machine at my work gym but I've never used it and I don't know if it would irritate my foot problem. (I've also only used an elliptical twice ever and felt like I was about to fall over the whole time. It was kind of horrible.) There are some good long stairs near my house that I could climb but again, no running so I don't know if it would get my heart rate up high enough.

Does HIIT seem like the way to go to prep for sprint races? I could especially use ideas for forms of exercise I could do to get my heart rate up high enough. (Or what to do on the elliptical, stairs, etc.) If there are any exercise videos out there that would fit, I'd be happy to know about those too. I like guided exercise.

(I'm 33, at a healthy weight and I already do aerobics classes 3-4 times a week with some bodyweight exercises thrown in. I'd be substituting more intense training for some of those exercise classes. I eat a balanced, nutritious diet.)
posted by purple_bird to Health & Fitness (7 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
I'd also suggest using a rowing machine. Concept2 is (or at least was ~4 years ago when we got one) THE name in rowing machines. It's a fantastic workout and will use similar muscles if not the same as dragon boat rowing.

If you don't have access to one, have the budget, and want to work out at home, Concept2 rowers are about $1-1.5k including shipping, depending on model.
posted by bookdragoness at 12:13 PM on June 28, 2015

Every morning, I do 100 kettlebell swings and it wears me the hell out.
It doesn't take a long time once you get into the swing of it (HA! See what I did there?) but you will be huffing and a puffing by the end of it.
I started out by breaking it up into 4 sets of 25 swings, and made my own Hungarian Core Blaster with parts I bought from Home Depot and some used weight lifting plates.

You remain stationary while you swing, and you can do it barefoot no worries.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 12:23 PM on June 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

HIIT is for precisely this sort of thing. You just need to figure out what exercise you're going use with it, the bike would be okay, a rowing machine would be better.

Just about anything you do will help, it's more about making a decision and getting started at this point. It's a short time period so you won't make a ton of progress but you have time to make some.
posted by VTX at 1:08 PM on June 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Hiit on a bike will be fine, one month is long enough to deliver a noticeable improvement. There's a hundred programs outthere, the main thing is when going hard, you go as hard as you possibly, possibly can. For me, hiit means feeling a little spewy afterwards.
posted by smoke at 2:59 PM on June 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I am a competitive paddler, but I am not a paddler on your dragonboat team. I used to do intervals of 500 m on the rowing machine in the gym (with 1 min rest between intervals) to train for our 500 m dragonboat races (and to warm-up for strength training). A 250 m race will probably take 1:15 or 1:20, but you want your training to go a little longer than that, so that you know you can maintain a good level of exertion up tp the finish line.

I think a bike trainer would also work, but I was always way more motivated on a rower (distance countdown, time countdown, and on the Concept2 machine that I used you could also program a little "rival boat" graphic.)

To counter a couple of posters above, I don't find that the rowing machine necessarily works the same muscles as dragonboating - it's my legs that turn to jelly after rowing, not my back or my core - but I think the advantage of the rowing machine is getting used to the enter-pull-recover rhythm of paddling. It's a lot slower, obviously - the stroke rate on a dragonboat is more than twice what I can maintain on a rower over the same distance - but I found in both that taking advantage of the recovery was the key to moving quickly and being able to maintain a consistent level of exertion over the whole piece.

I also wonder if you're using the best technique, which is tricky to nail down when you first start out. If you're using your arms to paddle, you will get more tired more quickly than if you're using the muscles in your core. Can you ask your coach for some feedback on that?

Memail me if you want to chat more about training!
posted by invokeuse at 3:37 PM on June 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: My work gym does not have a rower, but it's an excellent idea. And I've always enjoyed those when I tried them so it's nice to have specific recommendations. I was afraid that even with HIIT I might not have enough time to make a ton of progress too. (Luckily I literally started yesterday.) The heart monitor is really illuminating!

Does anyone have opinions on how many times a week to do HIIT? I was thinking 3 times a week with rest days in between. (I'll be doing strength work or aerobics or actually paddling on a dragon boat or outrigger canoe 3 other days of the week. One day for rest.)
posted by purple_bird at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2015

3 times a week is a pretty standard recommendation - particularly if you're looking for a quick improvement. Don't do more than 3 though, and if you only get 2 that's okay.
posted by smoke at 3:19 PM on June 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

« Older Simple Character Animation for Mac?   |   Millenial student loan debt, amirite? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.