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20 mins to Kick-butt Cardio

By Andrew Raines, RHN on March 14, 2013

20 mins to Kick-butt Cardio

Most of us spend the majority of our day operating at a moderate heart rate. A lower than average heart rate can be valuable for everyone, especially athletes. An excellent way to reduce the energy requirements of your heart is to improve your maximal oxygen consumption. VO2 Max is a measure by which aerobic fitness can be gauged. Athletes with a high VO2 Max can use oxygen more efficiently, which helps to reduce strain on their body, and increase endurance. Or in simple terms – having a high VO2 Max means that you have crazy kick-butt cardio skills and great stamina!

Your VO2 Max shows the maximum amount of oxygen that you can transport and use during increased exercise. For athletes, even a modest boost in VO2 Max has been shown to dramatically improve cardiovascular fitness levels. A higher VO2 Max directly translates to improved cardiovascular efficiency and performance. But it’s not just athletes that benefit from an improved VO2 Max. Increased VO2 Max has everyday benefits including a reduced risk for cardiovascular disease, respiratory ailments, and general fatigue too.

Improving Your VO2 Max

Raising your VO2 Max takes under 20 minutes a week, but the training is intense. You should only attempt it if you are in good health and have already achieved a reasonable level of fitness. Since the training is relatively intense, the duration is short — you warm-up in only 5 minutes, the bulk of the workout is 10 minutes, and the cool-down is just 3 minutes. This exercise can be done on an elliptical trainer, a stair climber, or a treadmill. You can also increase your VO2 Max by using outdoor activities such as sprinting, cycling, or running stairs. Follow these steps to increase your VO2 Max using an exercise bike:

  1. Start pedaling slowly on an exercise bike, enough to break into a light sweat
  2. Exert yourself by pedaling hard for 30 seconds
  3. Pedal slowly for 30 seconds while catching your breath
  4. Repeat twice
  5. Without rest, go straight into pedaling hard for 60 seconds, followed by 60 seconds of easy pedaling
  6. Repeat once
  7. Repeat the first set of 30 second intervals 3 times


Maximum Effort

Easy Effort (Recovery)

3 30 seconds 30 seconds
2 60 seconds 60 seconds
3 30 seconds 30 seconds


VO2 max training is not an everyday workout. It’s highly intense so focussing on recovery is your key to success. Following your training, make sure you stretch, drink plenty of water, and get lots of rest. You may also want to incorporate an après workout supplement like Vega Sport Recovery Accelerator which can help muscle glycogen replenishment, muscle tissue repair, inflammation-reduction and rehydration so you can recover faster, and be ready to rock the rest of your regularly scheduled training.

Andrew Raines, RHN

Andrew Raines works at Vega as the Education Manager. He is an advocate for clean, plant based sports nutrition, and is a former competitive kickboxer and soccer player turned ultra-marathon runner. As a coach and trainer, Andrew thrives on seeing people boost their performance with plant-based power. He’s a Registered Holistic Nutritionist, Certified Plant-Based Culinary Professional and has a Certificate in Plant-Based Nutrition from eCornell and the T. Colin Campbell Foundation.
Andrew Raines, RHN