Hitting intensity levels during cardio - Question

  • Hey Gang,

    Hoping to get some advice here.  Just recently started the program (yay!) and I've been doing the Stairmaster for my cardio because that's where I can hit my intensity level - or at least I think I am.  I can't seem to get the Arch Trainers or Elipticals to get me to my 9s or 10s, and I hate running so no treadmill for me.  But, I'm wondering about those 9s and 10s....and 6s.  When I get to minutes 6, 10, 14, 18 and 19 of the cardio routine, I'm not sure I'm hitting a true 9 and 10.  Here's what I'm experiencing; on the Stairmaster, my heartrate gets so high, and I'm breathing so heavy that I have to get down to my 6 intensity.  But, I'm not feeling a 6 intensity in my legs, or anywhere except my heartrate and my breathing.  So I'm concerned this may not be a true 9 or 10 (or 6), because honestly, it's not hard for my body to do it, just my heart and lungs.  Then when I go down to my 6, it's like I'm doing nothing with my legs, but still working to get my heartrate back down.  I don't think I'm working the true intensity range because of this.  It might just be me not being conditioned enough yet...but so many of us start out lacking good conditioning in our hearts and lungs.

    So, any suggestions?  Does my question even make sense?  :)  I need to know how I can hit a true 9 and 10 intensity, then go back down to a 6 intensity without having to slow down so much it seems I'm doing very little.

    Today I'll be indoor cycling instead of working out on the Stairmaster, and I think that may make a difference, but still hoping for some guidance.  Thanks everyone! 

  • I go by heart rate, or if you are blowing hard (heavy gas) when doing the cardio and feel VERY STRESSED then you are doing it right... start slow and build up but always feel on edge at your 9s and 10s

    I went out walking through the city center, it happened just the other day. Sometimes Sydney Harbor in the winter, blows a little luck my way.

  • The point of level 6 is to do little... but not too little. This is the whole point. Up and down, which is why it's called interval. You have chosen the most demanding  machine to hit very high tens as you would like them. But you will have to find that ten on your own with more experimenting between intensities and machines. Surprise yourself. Take it where you never thought you could.

    Post-edit: but please try to condition your body first before you try very high intensity exercises you never tried before.

    Courage isn't lack of fear. It's our ability to carry on despite our fear

  • JenAlly,

    Congrats on starting BFL! You are going to have great success!

    Your question make perfect sense. Here is a re-post of something I wrote awhile ago. It is my take on true 10s.

    Hope it helps.

    I started BFL having never set foot on a treadmill. I had lifted weights in the past and been involved in sports and martial arts but “I’m not a runner” I always told myself – a lie I all too readily believed. It is amazing the excuses one can come up with to avoid cardio. However, when I decided to take the BFL challenge I wanted to face and overcome many obstacles, obstacles I put in my own way then pretended I couldn’t do anything about them. One of those things being the treadmill.

    Don’t worry I am not going to write about those first awkward, klutzy, moments or the fear of being flung backwards into a row of ellipticals. Nor am I going to discuss the increase in cardio and endurance or the benefits of training in a fasted state and fat burning. Though all those physical things happened, and continue to happen, the greatest changes took place in the mind.

    The first thing the treadmill taught me was exactly what a true 10 is.

    In my opinion, when people say (and I include myself) ‘I hit all my 10s’ they more often then not, have not. Now don’t get all ruffled. I am not being disparaging or minimizing the effort we all put forth in the gym. The discrepancy between what we think is a 10 and a true 10 happens because there is a gap between what we perceive we can do and what we can actually do. What we think is a 10 is probably more like a 9. Now don’t get me wrong a 9 is good – really good – but just because we are out of breath, or sweating or our legs are burning doesn’t mean we have hit a 10. A 10 is not physical it is 100% mental. A 10 is when you push through all the lies and excuses that flood the thinking with reasons why you should stop - “You’ve run more than enough today.” “you have already set a new personal best.” “stop now and just lower your calorie intake today, it will be fine”. A 10 is when you ignore the screams and cries begging you to stop. A 10 is when you run, not with your legs, but with your mind. I admit it is hard to explain and in order to truly be understood must be experienced. But I truly believe each and every one of us is capable of so much more that we think we can do. It all has to do with our mind.

    Once I was running on the treadmill and thought I was near done. I truly felt I had nothing left. Suddenly my shoe came untied. I continued running, not thinking of how far I still had to go, but instead thought about my shoelace. All of the sudden I was running and ran further that ever. It was in that moment I realized how the mind can seriously impact training either negatively or positively. Personally I am not an advocate for distracting the mind in order to run further. I believe in training the mind to focus and persevere, but this experience taught me a valuable lesson and showed me how the mind, when misused or simply not used, can get in the way and seriously hinder forward progress.

    Having old habits and thoughts regarding weight training I often thought I was lifting to a 10. I wasn’t. The 10s I have experienced on the treadmill have taught me how to hit 10s when I am weight training. Bill Phillips called these moments High Points and that is what they are – points. A brief moment when you shatter all limitations and transcend all you thought possible. This is a true 10.

    The second thing the treadmill has taught me is the importance of focusing on intervals.

    During my first challenge I made, to me, rapid progress on the treadmill. Granted from my starting position there was nowhere to go but forward. By the end of my first challenge I was running 2.5 miles in 20 minutes. For me that is good and I was very proud and happy. Then I read the Body for Life Champions book. I really enjoyed Mark Unger’s story. His goal was to run 3 miles in 20 minutes by the end of his challenge (I think he did it in 18 minutes!) I thought this would be a good goal for me. I started watching how far I ran in 20 minutes. At first I hit 2.64 miles in 20 minutes then over the next two weeks I progressively ran less and less. I didn’t understand what was happening. Then it hit me: I was focusing on the total distance and not the intervals. Up until that point I had been focusing my entire concentration on each minute one minute at a time. When I got away from that and was thinking about the end result I would look at the time and say ‘man I had better hurry up if I want to run 3 miles’. It just didn’t work. My mind was everywhere except the moment, the mind/body connection was not there and my breathing was out of control. I felt hurried and behind. I didn’t have a hope. I needed to get back to focusing on one minute at a time and give each minute my total concentration.

    This realization has not only got me back on track on the treadmill but opened my eyes to how this applies to the BFL challenge as a whole and indeed to the rest of life. Yes I have specific goals for the 12 week time frame but I will only get there one day at a time. Everybody, including myself, wants the kind of results we see in the amazing before and after pictures. It doesn’t happen in one big rush. It happens one day at a time, one moment at a time, one decision at a time. That is why it is so important to train your mind to focus on the moment and give your best, your absolute all, one ‘interval’ at a time.  

  • Orrin, as much as I really enjoyed reading your post and the passion showing from a beautifully written piece that can only be a reflection of how truly you believe in every word, my fear here is that many of us on BFL are not used to that intensity. i have been always a weight lifter. Never a cardio person by any stretch of the imagination. By that i mean gym cardio. I did many inner-city walking challenges and i swim a lot, but gym cardio? Pass, pass, pass. So, i was a gym cardio virgin when i started BFL last year. Long story short, when I ran on the treadmill I did exactly what you said. The result?

    This is my second cycle on BFL after a long crippling injury to my right lower body from the hip down (front and back) because of too much all-out running. Today, I can lift weights on BFL like there is no tomorrow. I don't hold back. But when it comes to cardio, i am taking my time to condition my body (what's left of it lol) and ease into running.

    We seldom talk here on BFL forums about easing ourselves into our tens. And many of us get injured on this program (or any other program really) because too much too soon is bad for you. But it seems on BFL we like to think that too much too soon is "the deal".

    Courage isn't lack of fear. It's our ability to carry on despite our fear

  • I am going to have to disagree with you, Ruby.  We should not ease ourselves into a 10.  We should always strive for a 10, keeping in mind that our 10 and all levels vary according to our ability.  My asthma is killing me lately.  That means my cardio 10 today was only 8.4 MPH.  There was a time when it was 9.4.  I plan on getting it to 10 for my 10.  The point is that I didn't need to ease, I needed to adjust.  

    Jessica Mighty Max ~ 2013 Body-for-LIFE Champion ~ Champion is a VERB!

  • But this is what i meant, adjust/ease/build towards it, just don't try to do too much ad throw yourself into a point where you will set yourself back. I went from not running at all in my life to running 11 kilometers an hour in my first cardio session. That went on for almost two weeks till i stepped down the treadmill, and I could not walk.. not as a euphemism, I was standing on one leg.. the other was gone from the waist down. I dislocated my ASIS in a fortnight, something weight-lifting didn't do in 15 years because when I started weight lifting, I started with enthusiasm and caution. Caution is not synonymous with holding back.

    i am all for giving it our all, breaking the glass ceiling, but we might as well need to set realistic levels that we need to go beyond in due time. It's easier when it comes to weights. If the weight is not budging no matter what you do, it is too heavy for you. that simple. Even though I have seen people push their luck too far with a weight that is not budging and getting a hernia in the process. But when a conveyor is speeding away under your feet forcing your joints, spine, and tendons to move in a way that can ruin it, that is a different strategy. Sometimes the result is on the therapist's table as was in my case.

    Courage isn't lack of fear. It's our ability to carry on despite our fear

  • You're giving a very specific example that's unique to you.  Can injuries happen?  Of course they can.  If one is doing the levels that are appropriate to them then in most all cases they can handle it.  Encouraging people to ease into it also encourages mediocrity.  I do not believe that's your point, but I think when you tell someone to allow their fear to win, that's what you get.  If you go too hard then turn it down.  I've tried to do levels for which I wasn't ready and I turned it down.  

    Ps - Go to a running clinic.  I need to do that.  I run like an elephant.  

    Jessica Mighty Max ~ 2013 Body-for-LIFE Champion ~ Champion is a VERB!

  • I have seen so many forums on here that say something to the effect of "i started BFL last year, got injured, had to stop". Although, most of them got injured doing weights. I am in favor of mediocrity for the first two weeks when a very new activity is being tried out. Running is a natural movement, an all-out sprint on a speeding conveyor is not.

    My therapist said the injury was because I did too much too soon.

    But you hit the hammer on the nail with your statement "...for which I wasn't ready..." This is exactly what I meant. We need to be pushing our limits, not our luck.

    Courage isn't lack of fear. It's our ability to carry on despite our fear

  • Most injuries are from strength training and that's not even from pushing too hard.  I would say it's from too much weight, causing bad form.  In truth, bad form.  It really is about our own personal limits.  If you can't do it properly then you can't do it.  

    For instance, I don't do dips without an assist machine.  I'm just too uncoordinated for that and doing them poorly can cause a sternum break.  That would hurt, badly.  

    Jessica Mighty Max ~ 2013 Body-for-LIFE Champion ~ Champion is a VERB!

  • Thanks to all of you for replying.  This has been a good post with lots of great points.  I am blessed to be someone that IS used to working out and used to pushing the limits of what I'm able to do - I'm actually a group fitness instructor both in weightlifting classes and in cardio classes.  I have surprised myself on many occasions in the past with doing more than I thought I could, and know I will while I go through this BFL program.  

    I think both dogsbrekky and Orrin's post really helped clear this question of mine up.  I can go by heartrate and what my anaerobic threshold is, or I can shoot for it to be a mental 10, bypassing the physical.  This could be one in the same, but I find for me, my body can go longer than my heartrate can...gotta work on that.

    I have to agree with you Jessica, I don't want to ease into anything.  And it's possible, Ruby, that you're saying the same thing, just a different way.  My 10, at the beginning of the program, will be different than someone else's who has been doing BFL for 10 weeks, or maybe on their second round.  Doesn't mean I'm easing into it, it means I'm pushing myself to my personal limit.  We all have different limits.  And Ruby, shin splints are one of the reasons I don't run on treadmills!  Ick!

    So while I know a lot about fitness, I needed help with knowing how to FEEL the different intensity levels based on how BFL wants us to feel them.  And wanted to know what to base my 10s on.  I got great answers, and am grateful!  I hope to have all of you help me again in the future!  I'm sure I'll have more to ask...


  • Agree here with Jessica once again.

    I find it highly ironic that the person who said she was not going to do cardio after the challenge is giving advice on cardio.

  • I find it highly ironic that when someone says she doesn't want to do GYM cardio AFTER a challenge is completed, people understand what they like when they like and pass several judgments on it as if their whole activities in their lives are based on the gym, and they slouch on their couches happily ever after.

    Courage isn't lack of fear. It's our ability to carry on despite our fear

  • well then, I suggest you not slouch.

  • Trivial suggestions and a teen attitude. Welcome back. No recent photos yet?

    Courage isn't lack of fear. It's our ability to carry on despite our fear