There are more options for cardiovascular training than just walking and jogging – calisthenics, swimming, sprinting – and here’s a quick list of pros and cons for swimming, sprinting, agility and speed work.

For this installment of my review of some different forms of cardiovascular exercise I’ll start with another favorite of mine, swimming.  Swimming is right behind cals on the “most recommended” list.  Just like cals, swimming offers total body benefits without the negatives of impact that come from jogging, and can have a massively positive effect on lung capacity as well. You don’t need a lot of equipment either, and if you belong to an indoor pool inclement weather isn’t a problem.

Furthermore, swimming is ideal for athletes engaged in power sports who want/need to improve their cardiovascular conditioning, athletes who should not under any condition do distance running or machine based cardio.  Being that there are no biomechanical similarities between swimming and sprinting – and other forms of running required in sport – swimming can improve cardiovascular conditioning without messing with the mechanics of sprinting.  Jogging is counter-productive to the sprinting mechanism and swimming is not. 

So tennis players, baseball players, football players, lacrosse players, basketball players and any athletes who participate in these kinds of sports should include swimming in their conditioning programs.

There are some negatives associated with swimming.  As a realist, I understand that some people hate to swim, can’t swim and/or have no interest in swimming.  To these folks all I’ll say, “It’s your loss.”  I’m not here to brow beat people into seeing things my way.  The other “cons” for swimming are that it can be costly for some folks to join a pool especially during the winter months, the need for instruction for those who can’t swim and the fact that swimming is a difficult activity.

Some folks might find swimming boring, and they wouldn’t be wrong.  However, with the advent of the waterproof iPod case and headphones, you can now swim with musical accompaniment.   I use my iPod to get me through my laps, and it’s the single best change that I have made to my routine in the past 10 years.  The pros far outweigh the cons for those who are willing to make the commitment to get into the pool and swim.

Last but not least, I’m going to extol the virtues sprinting, agility and speed work.  And for the sake of brevity, for the rest of this piece all three of these activities will be referred to as “sprinting,” or “sprinting drills.”  Sprinting can have a massively positive effect on overall conditioning, both aerobically and anaerobically.  This activity can be done in a minimum of space, both inside and outside, and with a bare minimum of equipment.

Sprinting drills are mentally stimulating and require concentration as well as an intense physical effort.  This activity can challenge the most athletic and fit members of the population and be adapted to meet the needs of those folks who are just starting out and/or who aren’t all that athletic.  These drills develop balance, agility, coordination and stability in addition to improving a person’s level of conditioning.  Despite the demanding nature of these drills, they are relatively easy to learn and anyone willing to put in a little bit of effort can discover how to do these drills properly.

By no means is this piece meant to be the last word on cardio, but rather a stepping off point for people who might be interested in looking for something different.  There are more interesting, rewarding, challenging and beneficial activities for folks who don’t want to get stuck in a rut of walking or jogging.

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