Cardiovascular exercise is necessary for most of us in our quest to achieving the lean bodybuilding look that we are looking for. Few can achieve the lean appearance required to see a full six pack of abs without cardio. In addition to fat burning, cardiovascular exercise offers many benefits such as an improved glucose metabolism as well as a lowered heart rate, blood pressure, and cholesterol. Now that we know why we need cardio, lets look at ways to make it more enjoyable and effective.
1. Choose A Cardiovascular Activity That You LikeWhile this may seem rather obvious, many people completely miss the boat on this one. Choosing an activity that you like will ensure that you keep doing it long term. There are many choices to pick from such as walking on the pavement, treadmill, an elliptical machine, stair stepper, recumbent bike, aerobics video, etc. Just choose your weapon of choice and go for it!
2. Choose Some Good Music Or A Good Workout PartnerI always notice that when I choose some good music (I like techno myself) I not only burn more calories during the activity than if I didn't but also the time flies faster. I also seem to have a larger pain tolerance as my mind is concentrated on the music and not on what the body is feeling. The only time when I use no music is if I have a good workout partner with who I am competing against seeing who covers a larger distance during the allotted time.
3. Perform Cardio On An Empty Stomach or Right After The Workout Glycogen levels (stored carbohydrates) are lower at these times, and thus, it is easier for the body to access fat stores. If not possible, then perform the activity 2-1/2 hours after a meal so that your blood glucose levels are not so high that all you burn during the activity is carbs. Note: even if carbs is all you burned, those are calories that would not have been burned otherwise so you are still benefiting.
4. Perform Cardio For A Minimum Of 20 Minutes And A Maxiumum Of 45 Minutes.More is not better when it comes to cardio. Most of you will benefit from 3 sessions of 20-30 minutes. Never go above 45 minutes at a time when doing cardio as after 45 minutes the catabolic hormone cortisol will increase and you will risk losing muscle tissue and protecting fat! Only competitive bodybuilders may find themselves doing as much as 45 minutes twice a day before a show but that amount is kept for very short periods of time.
5. Perform The Cardiovascular Activity At A Comfortable But Challenging PaceAs beginners, you may want to perform the activity at a pace that allows your body to comfortably continue for the amount of time required (20-45 minutes). Once your body adjusts to that, you can start to move quicker and look for a more challenging pace. Eventually you will be able to achieve a heart rate that falls around what is called the fat burning rate, which is approximately: 220 - (Your Age) x (.75).
6. If Using Any Fat Burning Supplements With Caffeine, Take Them 30 Minutes PriorIf you take any fat burning supplements with caffeine, take them 30 minutes prior to your cardiovascular exercise as they may increase your work capacity, possibly your rate of fat burning, and your pain tolerance. Caffeine has been shown to improve all these items in several studies. In my own self-experimentation, I find that I do perform better and with less pain when I save my caffeine for before my cardiovascular workout.
7. Don't Stick To The Same Exercise Or The Same Amount Of TimeYour body thrives on change. Do the same thing all the time and not only you get bored but also your body stops responding as it adapts! Once you are more advanced, make sure that you have 3 cardiovascular activities that you like so that you cycle them on almost a daily basis. In addition, feel free to do some days of 20 minutes at a very challenging pace and other days of 45 minutes at a more moderate level. Variety is the spice of life!