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Continuous training is when low- to mid-intensity exercises are performed for more than 20 minutes without resting intervals. Generally, this type of training is used to prepare the body for sustained workouts such as marathons and triathlons, but can also be effective for more casual athletes. It allows the body to work from its aerobic energy stores to improve overall fitness and endurance. Chief benefits of continuous training include fat burning, muscle building, and increasing maximum aerobic potential.
How It's Done
Almost any type of exercise can be done in a continuous way. Jogging, cycling, and swimming are often the most common, but the style of exercise is nowhere near as important as the manner in which it is accomplished. The most important part of this type of training is the amount of time spent performing the exercise.
The main goal behind continuity training is to condition the heart for long periods of exertion. Athletes typically start at about 60% of their full capacity, which means that they are working, but not burning themselves out. A light jog or an easy bike ride that lasts an hour or more are good examples of what this might look like. Although professional athletes often use continuity techniques to improve their endurance training, but it is by no means limited to those with superior athletic ability.
Personal trainers and sports medicine experts generally agree that continuous exercise is one of the best ways to establish a workout regimen. Those who have never exercised before, or who only do so intermittently, are usually best served by starting out very slowly. A modified continuous training plan of a few minutes of walking followed by 10 to 12 minutes of light jogging, then another few minutes' walk to cool down is often the best way to start getting into shape.
Warming up and cooling down is important in all workouts, but is especially crucial for beginners. When the heart is ramping up to its peak condition, allowing time to ease in and ease out can help prevent muscle injury and shortness of breath. For most athletes, a two-minute warm up and cool down is sufficient, no matter how long the exercise session.
One of the biggest benefits of a continuous exercise plan is the slow but steady improvement most athletes see over time. Someone who may only be able to jog for eight minutes at the start may find, after enough weeks or months have passed, that 12 minutes is achievable. Before long, 20 or even 30 minutes may become normal. Usually at least three or four workouts per week are required to see improvement.
Continuous training can also help establish what is called a "fitness base," a foundation of exercise that athletes can depend on for further training. A person who knows he or she can comfortably jog for 45 minutes will be able to use that amount of time as a window for speed intervals or more intensive workouts later on. When the body is conditioned to keep moving for certain durations, it can adapt to filling those periods with different, more strenuous activities.
In addition to helping athletes build up their endurance, continuous training can help people lose weight and improve their cardiovascular strength. Contrary to some opinions, losing weight does not always require intense bursts of energy. Regular low-intensity workouts that are long enough to count as continuous training usually lead to sustained weight loss after several months.
Heart health is another significant advantage of these workouts. People who participate in continuous exercise typically have a lower resting heart rate, which can lead to a reduced risk of heart diseases and cardiac stroke. As the body becomes more efficient at processing and distributing oxygen during workouts, the respiratory organs are strengthened as well.
In most cases, continuous training is one of the safest forms of exercise because the body is not working at full intensity, and the average duration is not long. As with any form of physical exertion, however, things can go wrong when athletes do not pay attention to their bodies. Serious aches, pains, and muscle soreness can all be signs that the athlete is exercising with too much intensity and should slow down, at least for a little while. Starting slow, knowing when to stop, and always building time for warm-ups and cool-downs are usually the best ways to prevent injury.