Most despise cardio, but do it without understanding the why and how to get the most bang for their buck of time.
In order to get the most out of your cardio training, you must know your heart rate and train to that target. Knowing your targets keeps you honest and ensures you're getting the adaptation that you desire. In order to have this hammered in, I will provide a brief explanation of how fat loss happens and end with ways you can track your heart rate during training.
To understand and clarify, "cardio" is short for "cardio-respiratory exercise." The root word is "cardio" which refers to the heart. If we are setting to train the heart and get a response, we have to know what the heart is doing to truly understand our training.
The Short Story of How Fat Loss Works
To the surprise of most (including myself when I learned this aspect of physiology) fat leaves our body primarily via carbon dioxide. Yes, we literally breath our fat out. Fats and carbohydrates are, at the molecular level, carbon chains. With that, to fuel our exercise we have to then break down these carbons and utilize them for energy. The byproduct of your body going through oxidation and breaking down fat produces carbon dioxide in which oxygen grasps a hold onto and pushes out via the lungs.
Increased Exercise Demand
Increased Heart Rate & Oxygen Demand
More Fat Burned
There are other steps that occur in this process, but the above are the main essentials that are taking place. When exercising, you incur an oxygen debt in which you have to replenish throughout the day. Your cardio/circuit training sessions should have high demand that get's your heart rate and breathing up.
Tracking Your Heart Rate
The best best system I have utilized to track heart rate is with the Polar Heart Rate Monitor. Purchasing the heart rate monitor comes with a watch that also tracks your steps, and a chest strap for accurate heart rate measurement. There are other watches and trackers, but Polar is in my experience the most accurate.
If you're using a cardio machine, most come with heart rate monitors that can give you a decent estimate of where your heart rate. Either way, if you're doing cardio ensure that you are tracking your heart rate and know your targets.
For my clients, I typically utilized the Karvonen method in prescribing their THR (target heart rate) for any cardio exercise.
Karvonen Formula: (Max HR-Resting Heart Rate) x (% Intensity) + Resting Heart Rate
For a HIIT session for myself, I would go to 90% with my max heart rate being 194 BPM and my resting heart rate being 51 BPM. My target heart rate will be 181 BPM that I would work towards in my HIIT session. This will ensure I hit my target and reap the results of that session.
Track your heart rate for the desired training effect. It is not a difficult endeavor and will prove to be valuable for you when you're training. We all want results and don't intentionally plan wasting time. Cardio is the same and knowing your target is essential for your results. Let's move!
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