As I pack for my trip to Argentina tomorrow to climb the tallest mountain in the Southern and Western Hemisphere with our HOTWORX Climbing Team, I am thinking about cardio. Cardio conditioning is the most important physical aspect leading to the success of any mountain climb. It is imperative to get your heart in shape in general, but especially for the sport of hiking. Climbing a mountain requires a calorie burn ranging from 3,000 to 5,500 per climbing segment which is a direct reflection of how hard your heart is working. Depending on the terrain, you will scale anywhere from 1,500 to 4,000 vertical feet in any given, weather permitting day. A mountain climb is one continual HIIT session. Each step to the top requires heart work, and a well conditioned cardiovascular system is key.
Doing cardio inside of an infrared sauna, especially cycling, is probably the best way to prepare for a climb. Doing Hot Cycle at HOTWORX gets me to my target heart rate zone faster and allows me to finish my workout sooner, and with zero impact to my joints! I always promote a low to zero impact method because I believe that you should save the impact for the game. In this case, the game is a trek to the summit of a legendary mountain high atop the Andes in South America.
Your game might be different. Maybe running is your game, maybe it’s softball, or skiing, or an obstacle course event, or surfing. Whatever the case, saving the impact for the game with an infrared routine will keep you from injury and, if done right, will certainly get you the intensity level you need to prep for the game.
So, what is the correct level of cardio training. To determine that, you need to become super familiar with your heart rate. The best way to do it is to buy a fitness tracking device that you can easily see without having to look at your phone for the data. I am talking about a watch. I have tried a few and I will have to recommend the latest fitness watch by Apple. The Apple Watch Ultra is by far my favorite. It will do everything you need, but most importantly it is super accurate and easy to read for tracking your calorie burn and heart rate. Your heart rate (HR) needs to peak near your HR max and then go down a little when the intervals ease up during HIIT.
“Your exercise intensity must generally be at a moderate or vigorous level for maximum benefit. For weight loss, the more intense or longer your activity, the more calories you burn.” (1)
With a program like HOTWORX, your HR rises fast and is easy to track for a fast and efficient cardio workout. You can refer to the chart below to match your age to a heart rate zone for fitness training. The best approach to cardio is to start at a moderate level of intensity and heart rate, and then build to higher levels. The approach is determined by your fitness goal and the condition of your cardio system at the beginning of your program. Is your goal general fitness, or is it competition? How far you take it is based on your goal.
What about the mental aspect? I can tell you from experience that mental preparedness is vital to the success of each cardio interval that you do preparing for your competition or event. When you change the workout environment to something like that of an infrared sauna you force your body and mind to acclimate. This trains your mind to overcome the initial discomfort and makes everything you do in life easier from riding a bike to picking up a suitcase or working in the yard.
Without a doubt mind over matter comes into play on the field, and for my teammates while we are scaling a mountain. My high school football coach, Coach K, always had us in great condition to the point that we were never winded in the fourth quarter when the game was on the line. As it relates to hiking, upon the final ascent to the summit your body is completely exhausted and this is where mental toughness takes over along with cardio. If your heart is not ready, though, no amount of mental toughness will get you to the top. I’ve seen tough people fail to summit because they neglected their cardio training. Your mind can help you to withstand higher intensities while training and preparing and it can certainly help you in the game or on the mountain, but it is best to be fully ready from a cardio standpoint before you step on the field, or the court, or wherever your game is played.
Intensity is the feeling, heart rate is the metric.
“Beware of pushing yourself too hard too often. If you are short of breath, are in pain or can't work out as long as you'd planned, your exercise intensity is probably higher than your fitness level allows. Back off a bit and build intensity gradually.” (2)
Cardio conditioning is guaranteed to happen so long as your remain consistent and relentless with your infrared training!
As a rule of thumb, subtract 220 from your age to get your heart rate max. Generally, you need to train with bouts of 85% max heart rate to achieve your best cardio conditioning. It is well documented that HIIT with its alternating intensity of workout intervals is highly effective and even safe for those with type 2 diabetes. Infrared HIIT is super effective for weight loss as well as cardio.