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Going the Distance: Building Heart and Lung Muscles
Does taking the stairs at a friend's apartment building sound like a chore to you?
If your car broke down and you only had to walk for 30 minutes to get there, could you do it with a smile on your face?
The thing you probably don't know is that endurance is very difficult to measure because it really comes down to two things:
#1. The strength of your heat muscles
The human heart is composed of a series of intricate muscles which contract and squeeze the heart, thus pumping fresh blood (and energy) throughout our cardiovascular system. Some of the energy being transported is sugar, fat and even proteins, but another source of energy the blood transports is oxygen from your lungs...
#2. The strength of your lung muscles
Air is drawn into the lungs by the pharyngeal muscles. Breathing out is automatic and requires no effort, but breathing in requires a contraction of the pharyngeal muscles. Rapid breathing is the result of a rapid use of these muscles, resulting in more oxygen being sent from the lungs to the heart, which makes re-oxygenizes blood to make fresh blood. That oxygen is then transported all over the body to specific muscle groups which need it most.
So how do you make your heart and lung muscles stronger? The answer is quite simple: Cardiovascular Exercises (or Cardio for short). Running, swimming, cycling, jumping jacks, boxing and similar activities get your heart racing and your lungs working quickly. Such exercises don't just build up your muscles in your heart, lungs, legs, arms, etc, but they also burn a lot of calories (fat, sugar, etc). They also reduce your risk of heart failure as you get older because you have a good strong heart.
Additional benefits include: A boosted immune system, a higher metabolism, a more enjoyable sex life, a slimmer figure, reduced chances of cancer and many other health benefits.
When you hear about people who go jogging or running for 60 to 120 minutes on a regular basis you may wonder how they managed to get that way. Truth is they didn't start out they way. They built up their heart and lung muscles over time, years of jogging and running on a weekly basis. Compared to some people who can only run for a minute or two, it may seem mind boggling that some people are able to run that far over long distances.
But what if I was to tell you that was actually the norm during "cave men times"? No TV, no internet... everyone hunting and gathering for food. Exercise was part of daily survival and recreational sports. The human body hasn't really advanced much physically since then. We still have the same genetic codes for accomplishing such feats of strength and endurance. So you do have the genetic material inside you to become a caveman (or cavewoman) running machine. You just need to unleash it.
Learning How to Improve Your Endurance
1. Practice Often (Once a Week is Not Enough)
A huge factor in improving cardio endurance is not letting progress slip away by taking a week off. You need to be doing intense cardio at LEAST twice a week to see progress. Even though it is built back quickly, stamina is lost rather quickly if you stop practicing because your heart and lung muscles wither back to normal if you aren't giving them a regular challenge. When starting out, aim to train at least 2-3 times a week.
The BEST routine is to go jogging every second day. 15 days per month. Why? You need the day off in-between to rebuild muscles. If you try to do it everyday then your muscles will be damaged repetitively without enough time for them to repair themselves.
2. Always Reach Limits and Aim Higher
It will be difficult when you first start jogging and running. One way to improve your stamina in a quicker way is to turn your jogging routine into Interval Training Exercise. You alternate jogging for several minutes with walking for several minutes, increasing times for the jogging on a weekly basis until eventually you are jogging the entire time. See the image on the right as an example of how to do this.
3. Push Through your Mental Barriers
Psychologically it's not going to be easy to keep jogging. Nobody likes to lose their breath or have sore legs but you know what, it will get better really soon as you build up your strength and endurance! Keep at it and within a couple of months the less enjoyable parts of building endurance will be a distant memory.
And you will be so happy you did it and succeeded when you do reach that point where you've realized you have the endurance to do it and keep doing it.
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