From professional athletes to couch potatoes, cardio training is often the least popular part of the average workout routine. Not only is it exhausting, it is also time consuming, repetitive, and boring. Even if you have discovered the key to enjoying your cardio training program, you still have to fight the off-days when your list of reasons not to work out seems a mile long. It is times like these that you must put your mental strength training on overdrive and remind yourself what you’re fighting for – your health! Your scale allows you to track your weight loss in pounds and your tape measure allows you to track your weight loss in inches, but what can you use to track the effectiveness of your cardio training? Below are 4 signs your cardio training is effective:
Sign #1: Resting Heart Rate
Your resting heart rate, or RHR, is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are in your most relaxed state. I like to measure mine when I first wake up in the morning – as soon as my eyes open, before I even sit up. I count my pulse for 10 seconds and then multiply that number by 6. A healthy RHR for adults is 60 – 80, while athletes tend to have an RHR of 35 – 50. As you can see from those numbers, the more fit you are, the lower RHR you have. Every few weeks, test your RHR for 3 mornings in a row to create an average. As you get into better shape, you will notice the average number decreasing. You will be less winded with more energy, and you will feel healthier.
Sign #2: Training & Target Heart Rate
As you track your RHR, you also need to track your target heart rate (THR) because it will change as you become more fit. You can find THR calculators online or, for a more accurate calculation, you can try the Karvonen formula, which incorporates your personal RHR. When you are in your THR zone, you are burning calories, which combined with a healthy diet, promotes weight loss. No matter what your cardio training program is, the time you spend in the THR zone is the most complementary to losing weight. As you get started, you can spend just 5 minutes in the low end of your THR zone and still feel like you accomplished something. As you become more fit, you can incorporate interval or circuit training to experiment with the low, mid, and high end of your THR zone. You will feel the difference as you have more endurance and stamina, which means your cardio program is working. Remember to adjust your program as it gets easier! You can also incorporate strength training into your cardio plan, but the cardio portion is integral to calorie and fat burning. Strength training on its own is not the best way to shed pounds. Though it is great for muscle definition!
Sign #3: Muscle Tone
One of the most rewarding ways to track the results of your cardio program is your appearance. Clothing will become loose, you will notice muscle definition, and you may notice a difference in your general body structure. Make sure to reward yourself when you feel your clothes fitting better, but remember your reward is not to skip a day of cardio. Get creative with the incentives you allow yourself, without overeating. When you are trying to notice new muscle definition, remember that no one knows your body the way you do. Some easy places to notice changes are your arms when you reach for a towel in front of a mirror, and your legs when extended in front of you, ankles crossed, in a sitting position. As you feel stronger, your structure will change too. You will look stronger as you stand, and sit with much better posture. So take note, and hold your head up high!
Sign #4: Mind
When you get your heart rate going and your lungs working, more blood and oxygen pump through your brain, and you produce more endorphins. These produce seratonin, a natural antidepressant. When your mind is more clear, you feel happier, have an improved memory, and you will know your cardio is working.