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How to Progressively Overload Cardio – Increase Vo2 & Endurance

Mid workout to Progressive Overload Cardio (cardiovascular system)

When you stop getting better at the gym, it’s not just about your body. You need a strong mind. Keep going.

Keep strong. Be brave. It’s more than tough; it’s tiring. Sometimes, you’ll think you can’t go on. But you can.

Are you ready for it?

If you believe you can do it, there are ways to get past plateaus or diminished progress at the gym. Using a plan that slowly increases your workout is a good, proven way to really get better.

Why These Principles Work

Progressive overload is a great way to improve your VO2 max and overall endurance. It’s all about slowly upping the intensity of your workouts. By doing this, you make your cardio system work more efficiently and perform better.

The idea is to gradually turn up the intensity, duration, or how often you work out. This way, you’re challenging your body, enhancing your heart health, and increasing your stamina.

The National Academy of Sports Medicine says the Principle of Progression means you can raise your training, like time, weight, or how hard you work, by up to 10% each week. This slow increase lets your body get used to it and lowers the chance of getting hurt.

For people who run, this means they can add at most 10% more miles or time to their runs each week. So, if someone runs 20 miles in one week, they can go up to 22 miles the next week.

Adding more work gradually helps keep your body challenged and getting better, while also helping to avoid injuries.

I’ve seen a lot of runners get hurt because they skipped many workouts or got really excited about a new running goal and then ran up to 50% more than they did the week before. Doing this is usually a bad idea and leads to getting hurt.

By sticking to the 10% rule, runners can get stronger and faster without harming their health.

Now that we’ve covered the basics of progressive overload and its importance in training, let’s examine some key statistics and research findings that further prove progressive overload’s impact and effectiveness!

Progressive Overload Running Statistics

  • Improvement in Maximum Oxygen Uptake (VO2max): Runners who incrementally increased their running intensity saw their VO2max improve by approximately 7.7%, compared to a 2.8% increase in those who maintained a constant intensity.

  • Oxygen Uptake at Lactate Threshold (LTVO2): An 8.0% increase was noted in LTVO2 for the progressive intensity group, versus a 2.6% increase for the constant intensity group.

  • Highest Speed Achieved During Testing (Vmax): A 4.4% increase in Vmax was observed in the progressive group, compared to a 1.7% increase in the constant intensity group.

  • 5000m Time Trial Performance: Runners following progressive overload showed a 5.0% improvement, outperforming the 3.0% improvement seen in the constant intensity group.

What Do These Statistics Mean To You?

By embracing progressive overload, it’s more than just running extra miles. You’re cleverly enhancing your body’s ability to manage and adapt to greater physical challenges.

The close to 8% boost in VO2max is really something to get excited about.

This indicates that by slowly ramping up your running intensity, your body will get better at utilizing oxygen. For you, it means enjoying longer runs without gasping for air.

Picture yourself breezing through your usual route with ease, or confidently adding that extra mile you’ve been considering.

The improvement in Oxygen Uptake at Lactate Threshold is another significant triumph. It’s similar to elevating your endurance threshold.

You’ll notice you can keep up a faster pace for a more extended period without feeling your muscles burn. This is key for runners aiming to boost their stamina, particularly in lengthier races.

And we can’t overlook the 4.4% increase in Vmax. Sure, it’s about speed, but it’s also about running more effectively.

Still not convinced? Give this a try:


  • 1st Week: 10 Minutes
  • 2nd Week: 15 Minutes
  • 3rd Week: 20 Minutes


  • 1st Week: 2 Times
  • 2nd Week: 4 Times
  • 3rd Week: 6 Times
progressive overload running mid workout near beach

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Utilizing Progressive Overload in Running

Whether you want to get your fastest 5K time, run your first marathon, or lose weight with a running and strength training program maybe you just want to get faster in general.

Whatever your big dream goal is, knowing your main goal is the first step to making progressive overload work for you.

person working on stability demand exercise

Increase duration to Runs

To use progressive overload in your running program, add TIME to your runs.

Incorporate progressive overload into your running routine by extending the duration of your runs. Take marathon or long-distance race training as an example.

It’s important to include a weekly long run in your training schedule. Progressively increase the distance of your long run each week, adhering to the 10% rule.

This principle suggests increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10% to prevent overtraining and injury.

This gradual increase helps your body adapt to the added stress, enhancing endurance and strength over time.

Person on treadmill running applying progressive overload techniques

Increase Intensity to Runs

Increase the intensity of your workouts. Speed workouts and hill workouts change the intensity of your routines.

Increased intensity changes your muscles in a way that can give you speed and make you a stronger runner.

Make two of your runs per week speed workouts (hill workouts also count as a speed workout). Intervals, tempo runs, hill workouts and Fartleks are all forms of speed workouts.

progressive overload cardio in the gym for runners

Strength Train

Strength train. Do circuit training, weightlifting, or resistance training exercises like squats, push-ups, and planks to obtain more lean muscle tissue.

The more lean muscle tissue you have, the faster you can run.

Another benefit of strength training for runners is that when you strength train, you are preparing your muscles for the demands of intense, harder workouts.

If you’re new to strength training, use the 10% principle: never add more than 10% more weights per week to your exercises.

Common Questions

What is Progressive Overload Cardio?

Progressive overload in cardio involves gradually increasing the intensity, duration, or frequency of your workouts to challenge your body and improve endurance and cardiovascular fitness.

Can I Apply Progressive Overload to Running?

Yes, Progressive overload is ideal for runners to improve endurance and speed. Gradually increase your run intensity and duration for noticeable gains in performance and fitness.

Does Progressive Overload Work for Cycling?

Absolutely. For cycling, you can increase the duration of your rides, add resistance, or include more challenging terrain in your routes.

Does Progressive Overload in Swimming?

Yes, you can apply it by swimming longer distances, increasing your pace, or adding more challenging strokes to your routine.

How Often Should I Increase Intensity or Duration?

It varies, but a good rule of thumb is to make adjustments every 1-2 weeks, depending on your fitness level and response to training.

Is Progressive Overload Suitable for Beginners?

Yes, but start with very small increases in intensity or duration to avoid injury and excessive fatigue.

Can I progressive overload while cutting?

Yes, you can use progressive overload in cardio while cutting. It helps maintain or improve fitness and endurance as you reduce body fat.

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