Cardio is something alot of us hate to do. Admit it. We all dread it... even I hate doing it, but at the same time, at the corner of our mind, we do realise that it is important and a must if you want to improve your fitness levels. Some of us do it to shed some pounds, and some do it to keep the fat off and the abs fully visible. However, how do we get the most out of our time on a treadmill/stepper, etc and at what intensity do we need train at?
I've touched on the topic of intensity before, but here's a neat method to roughly determine if you're on the right track without the need for any fancy calculations. This should help the totally clueless get some direction while they do their cardio.
Although you could determine your target heart rate with some effort and calculations over a few observations, there are 'other ways' to monitor your exercise intensity. Please be advised, that this is not a guaranteed accurate method to determine if you're exercising at the required intensity, but a fairly sufficient gauge to see if you're on the right track. If you're a beginner, this is an excellent way to gauge your intensity without having to crack your brain in dealing with numbers.
Firstly, what is THR?
Target Heart Rate (THR) : The ideal intensity level at which your heart is being exercised but not overworked. Determined by finding your maximum heart rate and taking a percentage of it (60 to 85 percent, depending on fitness level).
With that covered, let's move on. Known as the TALK TEST, it is basically your ability to TALK during your cardio workout, and believe it or not - it can actually help you determine how hard you're working. Sounds too simple? That's because it actually is.
When doing your cardio, you should aim for an intensity that allows you to talk comfortably. If you can talk comfortably, you're probably somewhere around the lower range of your target heart rate zone, which is kinda okay, but you should aim for better. Try singing or reciting a few lines from a favorite song (do it too loud, and you'll look like an idiot). If it's VERY VERY easy to do, you should bump up your intensity a bit and try again after a few minutes. If it gets too difficult to sing or talk, slow down to get into a better zone. The goal is to get to an intensity level where its comfortable to talk, but yet, you're unable to hold a really long conversation and long sentences without having to pause for deep breaths.
If you're exercising at a rate where you're almost breathless, well.. then you're pushing it, cos you shouldn't be breathless during your workouts, UNLESS you're doing interval training, HIIT (High-intensity interval training) or a short, high intensity workout, and that's a totally different topic.
Of course, with all this in mind, please don't throw your common sense out of the window too. If you ever feel dizzy, or lightheaded, you should slow down or stop exercising.
If you're keen on exploring and wish to determine your Target Heart Rate more accurately, I'm sure a helpful Personal Trainer at your gym could help you out. If he/she isn't willing.. well, then you need a new gym.