We've been taught to believe that intense = good or fast = good. You grew up watching workout commercials of people out of breath and sweating profusely. You see it now on social media ads and from large brands. "Come join us for this spin class!" [insert intense music and dripping sweat towels].
Although there's nothing inherently wrong with these fitness brands (in fact, I think there's a lot to say about sense of community and accountability with them), they don't take your specific goals into consideration.
When we think of cardio, we think "go balls to the wall!" with speed and intensity. This can be beneficial at times, but if the goals are to become more efficient and faster, high intensities are not everything.
Low intensity steady state (LISS) cardio has a large place in your training.
LISS is where your aerobic base is built.
If you want to become a more efficient and faster runner, running in your heart rate zone 2 for most (not all) of your runs will allow you to build your base aerobic fitness. Zone 2 will be a talking pace. You can also calculate it by multiplying your HR max by 60-70%.
For example, I'm 29 years old. My max HR = 220 - 29 = 191. To get my zone 2 range, I'd take 191 x .6 = 114 and 191 x .7 = 134. This means my heart rate zone 2 range is 114 - 134 bpm.
If you're used to doing cardio in HR zones 4-5, this is going to feel like a massive change. You may feel like you're "so slow" or "this isn't doing anything", but that's okay. Less is more in this scenario. Not pushing your heart rate or your intensity will allow you to build your base, push your duration, and recover quicker. Building your base is the foundation of increasing your aerobic capacity and ultimately increasing speed over time.
Now, you might be thinking, if I don't have big endurance goals, why do I need to "build my base"?
Even without big endurance goals present, improving your cardiovascular fitness is beneficial for heart health. Zone 2 cardio can also be used as a recovery method for your strength training sessions.
As I preach Zone 2 training, also understand that only doing Zone 2 is not recommended. Pairing it throughout your week with a session of intervals and a session of intensity (Zone 3-4) is helpful for endurance training.
If you take away anything from this email: going slow will lead to going fast over time.