Your cardio doesn’t suck (a common conversation)

Below is a common conversation I’ll have about cardio and pacing for the test. Enjoy!

John Smith: Hey Marc, I just ran PARE my test for the first time, and I failed. Miserably. I play sports competitively, like soccer, hockey, and basketball, but none of that prepared me for the test. I thought my cardio was good enough, but apparently not. How do I improve my cardio so I can pass my test?

Marc: Hey John, that’s a good question. If you don’t mind me asking, what was your final time, and what was the breakdown of your lap times?

JS: Hey Marc, thanks for getting back to me so quick! Well, I got over 5 minutes, 5:05 to be exact. When I got to the machine, I was just gassed. There was nothing left in the tank and I had to take several breaks to catch my breath and make sure I kept the weight up all the time.

My lap times started at 19, then 22, then 24, 28, 28, and finally something over 30 seconds. I don’t know exactly cause I was so exhausted by the end. I couldn’t believe how tough that test was. You make it look so easy!

M: Lol, I joke that I’m the worst example to watch. It’s like watching an Olympic swimmer, those guys make it look easy too but it’s anything but.

Looking at your times, it’s not a cardio problem you have. It’s a strategy problem. In this case your pacing strategy. You started way too fast, and it bit you in the ass.

You mentioned you play sports competitively, and I’m assuming you’re competing at a high level. Which indicates that you have a good base of cardio fitness. Again, I’m assuming, but it’s a fair assumption.

I bet that if you ran the test again tomorrow, and you slowed down your pace from the beginning, you will pass your test.

JS: But if I slow my pace, won’t I run out of time to complete the push/pull machine? I’m not the strongest person, and I need all the time in the world to get through the machine. That’s why I’m running the course fast.

M: And how’d that work for you?

JD: Touche

M: I totally get your logic. Logically it makes sense: “If I run the course as fast as possible, it’ll give me as much time as possible”. What you, and many others, failed to take into account is the amount of energy it takes to run very fast. You will have more time to complete the machine, but you won’t have the energy.

You need to slow your roll from the get go and be as consistent in your laps as possible. I suggest no more than a 3 second difference between your fastest lap and slowest lap. Doesn’t matter what your fitness level is, that rule of thumb holds true for everyone. As fast as I’m able to run through the course, that’s not my fastest speed.

JS: Really? You could’ve fooled me.

M: I’m serious. I even demonstrated the difference between “sprinting” the PARE and “pacing” the PARE (A Tale of Two PARE’s). When I “sprinted”, I was 17 seconds slower overall compared to pacing. I had another client who did the same thing. She was nearly 1 minute faster overall when she paced herself compared to sprinting.

It’s not about running the course as fast as possible. It’s about running the course as fast as possible AND still have energy remaining for the rest of the test. This means slowing your pace to what feels like a Sunday jog.

You see, it’s not about how much time you can save, it’s about how much energy you can conserve.

JS: Well, I gotta say Marc, that makes total sense. I’m gonna slow down my pace next time and I’ll let you know how it goes. Thanks for the advice Marc!

M: You’re very welcome! 

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