Many people define themselves as either runners, weight lifters, yogis, cyclists, dancers, or more. While these activities have some serious benefits by themselves, holistic health means possessing the proper strength, mobility, body composition, and cardiovascular fitness to confidently move through any activity.

Cardiovascular conditioning is crucial for your health, but repetitive activities like running or cycling can be a huge contributor overuse injuries and loss of joint mobility when progressed improperly.

Follow these 4 tips for safely progressing your cardiovascular training to see concrete results, reduce injuries, and keep progress on track:

  1. Only progress 10% per week.

When starting a new cardiovascular training plan, whether it’s swimming or cycling, only progress 10% of your total weekly volume per week. For example, if you ran 2 miles per day for 3 days, that’s 6 miles per week. The next week, you can run up to 6.6 miles. That extra .6 miles can be tacked onto the end of one of your 2 mile days, spread out over 3 days, or done as sprints on a previous off day. The 10% rule provides just enough progression to prevent overuse injuries from doing too much too soon.

  1. Alternate weekly between duration and intensity.

In the above example, the only variable changed was weekly mileage. While this approach provides some solid results, you can prolong your progress by alternating between upping the duration and intensity. Here’s how it works:

  • Week 1: Cycle for 15 miles at 60% of your maximum heart rate.
  • Week 2: Cycle for 16.5 miles at 60% of your max heart rate.
  • Week 3: Cycle for 16.5 miles at 65% of your max heart rate.
  • Week 4: Cycle for 18 miles at 65% of your max heart rate.
  • Week 5: Cycle for 18 miles at 70% of your max heart rate.
  1. Deload with active rest.

When we set goals, we often subject ourselves an indefinite, unrelenting grind until we reach satisfaction. While this method seems like the most direct route to achieving your dreams, it can actually lead to injury and stagnation.

Instead of continually upping the difficulty of your cardiovascular training, schedule some days or even weeks for what we call “deloading.” Deloading is when you purposefully reduce the difficulty of your workouts to give your body a chance to recover and adapt for the next stage of training. You may go from 5 days of workouts to 3, only run 3 miles per day instead of 8, or spend a week participating in yoga or another alternative activity. Think of programming in a deload week every 4 to 6 weeks.

  1. Variation

While activities like running, cycling, or swimming may be your go-to exercise, they also each represent a narrow range of movements. This repetitive movement, in the absence of other forms of exercise, can reduce your mobility and destroy your posture over time. Years of leaning over bike handles and pedaling in one plane of motion can lead to forward shoulders, reduced thoracic mobility, and poor lateral hip mobility, for example.

To prevent getting stuck in one position, try varying your conditioning on a regular basis. Pick sports or activities that require you to move in ways different than your normal training regimen.

Start implementing these 4 rules to keep your training safe, effective, and fresh.