Today I am going to lay out some simple steps you can do to make sure that you are truly igniting your “afterburn effect” so that your fat burning is as high as possible.
In my last post, I said: “it’s not about how much time you spend doing cardio BUT about the quality and intensity of the time spent.”
That being said, in order to really activate your afterburn, you have to get some things in place.
Choosing a form of Cardio
The best form of cardio in this scenario is the one that you have access to on a regular basis. Consistency is necessary in order to build up your aerobic capacity which you will need to become a fat burning machine.
If you already know what you “like” then stick with it. If you don’t, you will need to experiment, but really you can make anything work.
Keep in mind that every form of cardio has a learning curve especially if it’s a new motion for you and your body.
Now for the steps…
Step 1: Establish a QUALITY aerobic baseline.
What I mean by this is that you need to be able to actually sustain doing cardio for a certain amount of time without tapping out.
The set-point that I used for myself was 30 minutes.
Prior to competing, I HATED THE VERY THOUGHT of doing cardio! My stomach would literally turn. So unless the cardio was worked into a sport like when I was playing basketball or soccer, I just wouldn’t do it.
So getting to the point where I could do 30 minutes consistently without having an asthma attack or falling asleep out of boredom was a very big deal and came with a great sense of pride and accomplishment. Moving on…
Can I do less than 30 minutes for my baseline?
Yes, you can do less than 30 minutes to create a baseline but I have found that 30 is better than 15, 20 or 25 initially.
There is something special about minutes 15 through 30 that really pushes the body into a new zone for aerobic training and capacity while simultaneously training the mind to be stronger and not give up. So if you can, commit to 30 minutes to start.
Step 2. Set your Constants
Working to optimize your fat burning cardio requires you to minimize variables and focus on constants.
Your “constants” are the things about your cardio session that don’t change (or change minimally) from session to session.
I find this can be done more easily using cardio machines over cardio done outside. So we’ll start with cardio done on a machine and then carry things over to cardio done outside. The different variables that you can make constants are your:
- resistance level
- speed (within reason)
- time duration
- machine programming (i.e. manual setting, interval setting, cardio training, hills, etc: each one of these come with different built-in programmed changes)
(Time of day is a factor as well but we won’t worry ourselves about that right now.)
Let’s look deeper into each one…
You should be tracking your weight ONE TIME A WEEK preferably on the SAME DAY and at the SAME TIME for best accuracy.
This becomes constant because you will use that same weight every day you do cardio for that entire week until your next weigh in.
This weight is also the weight you will enter into the machine when prompted. You want to make sure to do this because the final readouts are partly dependent on this.
*Note* Whether the caloric burn or distance traveled is perfectly accurate to your Fitbit or SmartWatch isn’t the main concern here. The margin of error is the margin of error and as long as it is consistent then forward progress is forward progress and THAT is what really matters.
When creating your baseline pick a resistance level that isn’t too easy but also isn’t too hard. The only way to really find out if level 5 is a good level for you is to hop on and hold it at level 5 for 30 minutes.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from doing cardio is to never trust the first 5 minutes because they can be very deceiving! It’s the last 10 minutes of the 30 that really tell the story!
Aim to maintain as much of a constant speed as you can when establishing your baseline.
Go to the “manual” setting to start when establishing your baseline. On most machines, if you hit “quick start” it won’t ask you for your weight, age, etc.
Step 3: Do the work and Track it!
Do the work and track it means just what it says…DO THE WORK AND TRACK IT!!!
Are you maximizing your 30 minutes of cardio?
Ask yourself these questions:
- Am I holding back during my cardio session?
- Do I finish my cardio session feeling like I “save” some energy for later?
- Do I gauge the effectiveness of my cardio session based on how I feel that day?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you have more to give to your cardio! Give all you have in the moment to force your body into its fat burning zone (safely, please!) and then document it!
Don’t just talk about what you do or did, log it somewhere and make sure you are improving. The tracking of what you do is where the power is.
Use your favorite digital or physical workout journal to keep track of your cardio sessions so that you can base your effectiveness and progress on real data…not just how you feel!
The same rules apply if you are doing cardio outside! Track your distance traveled, time spent to travel the distance, and possibly your caloric burn and/or speed (there are free apps that you can download that will track your speed via GPS right on your phone).
Remember, YOU HAVE TO DIG. If you can talk while you are doing your cardio, you are not focused enough and definitely not working hard at your upper threshold so take it up!
If you don’t question your body’s ability to complete the task then your cardio goal is too small and you need to up the ante on yourself.
You must keep raising your standards for yourself with your cardio.
Do not be ok with just showing up. Just because you show up to class doesn’t mean you will be able to pass the final exam. You get me?
So let’s do what needs to be done. Attack your cardio in a new way and watch your fat melt off.
Don’t want to sweat? Get over it! Your sweat is your fat crying for mercy so embrace it!
Let me know how you did in the comments below and when you’re ready, join me here where I show you how I cut my time back to 16 min intervals!
Eat Clean, Train Dirty, and Expect Success!