Unfortunately, when it comes to enhancing your physique many things are not easy to quantify or standardize. Many people (including myself at times) need everything to be specific, measured and/or in “black-and-white” when it comes to bodybuilding and training. They need exact numbers or indicators to feel comfortable about what they are doing. When they don’t get those concrete answers, they get confused and frustrated.
Intensity is the key to determining the effectiveness of cardiovascular training. Constantly striving for a higher level of intensity, pushing yourself to exert more effort, or taking your training to the “next level” during each and every one of your cardiovascular training sessions MUST BE the cornerstone to this training strategy in order for it to be effective.
I think the very best way to determine the effectiveness of your cardiovascular training session is simply by getting in tune with your body. Listen to your body. Feel how hard your body is working. If you pay close attention to your body, are sensory acute to how it is responding during your cardiovascular training sessions, and are completely honest with yourself, you’ll know when you are working hard and when you are not.
The best way to make certain your cardiovascular training sessions are continually effective is to set ambitious goals before you even step foot on a machine. Just as it is important to have predetermined standards or goals during your weight training, you should have decided on the goals for your cardiovascular training session. It seems obvious, doesn’t it? But how many of us really set ambitious goals or standards for the cardiovascular training we do on a consistent basis? I, myself, did not do so in the past. I felt that if I just finished my time on the stationary bike or treadmill then I was doing well. The main objective for my cardiovascular training was accomplished if I completed the session. As long as I was burning a significant number of calories during my workout even though it was an undetermined amount, I believed I was sufficiently getting the job done. I may have indeed burned some calories, but undoubtedly my cardiovascular training time was not as effective as it could have been. In comparison, my cardiovascular training didn’t even come close to the hard, heavy, intense, and goal-oriented weight training I did in the other part of the gym. My cardiovascular training could have been a lot more efficient if I had the right mindset. Now, I make my cardiovascular training time more effective—and mentally rewarding—by going about it in the same manner I treat my weight training.
Before I get on a treadmill, stairmaster, or crosstrainer, I not only have a definite, predetermined time that I’ll spend on a particular machine, I also know the exact distance I should travel (at the halfway point and when I’m finished), what difficulty factor I’ll be doing that session at (RPMs or incline grade), and the calories I will burn (at the halfway point and when I’m finished). I’ll write down these figures and review them before my next session. That way, they will become the baseline standards that I’ll make sure I meet during every session. Most of the time, I’ll try to exceed those standards. If I continually beat them, I raise my performance standards to meet these new, higher goals.