Today at the gym eight people were on the treadmill- and six were holding on to the handle bars. The person on the stepper was leaning over the handles, reading a magazine. It is unlikely that these people were intentionally ‘cheating’ their workout; they just didn’t know they were reducing its effectiveness. Although the people were still getting some exercise, they were not getting the most out of their workout time. Get the most out of your cardio workout by avoiding these common mistakes.
1. The Death Grip. Holding onto the treadmill or stair climber is an easy way to burn fewer calories during your workout session. Holding on to the treadmill is similar to being pulled by a slow moving car when you walk outside- not an effective way to workout. Although some people may hold on for fear of losing their balance while exercising, many people hold on because of habit, or simply because holding on makes the exercise easier. If you feel unsteady on the cardio equipment, slow down, lower the incline, and simply rest one hand on the handle. If you find walking, running, or stepping while holding on easier (especially when you walk or run uphill), you are absolutely right- and an easier session should not be your goal when working out. If you need to hold on, your workload is too high. Again, slow down, lower the incline, or lower the load on the stepper until you can manage the intensity hands free.
2. Resting on the equipment. Leaning on the cardio machine means your legs do less work, which means you get a poorer workout compared to standing tall. When on the elliptical machine, stand upright. When biking, ensure that the majority of your weight is on your seat and legs. When on the stepper or treadmill, follow the first point of this article and don’t hold on at all.
3. Catching up on your reading. While reading or watching TV prevents exercise boredom, they can also distract you from getting a proper workout. If you really enjoy reading or watching TV during exercise, take short breaks to focus on your exercise. For example, pick up the pace during a commercial break, or do one minute at a higher intensity after you finish a page. To increase the variety and effectiveness of your workout, swap the novel for upbeat music from time to time.
4. Doing the same workout day after day. We are creatures of habit, and it is easy to fall into the routine of hopping on the same cardio machine, slugging away at the same pace, for the same length of time. While this works for the first few weeks, the body quickly adapts to the workout. This adaptation results in few calories burned and a plateau in fitness level and weight. To combat the plateau, change your workout routine frequently! Add intervals where you work harder for a set amount of time, and change the type of cardio equipment that you use. If you are very comfortable doing your current routine- it’s probably time for a new one.
5. Doing only cardio. Cardiovascular exercise is important, but so is strength training. Strength training builds bone mass, speeds up your metabolism, and builds muscle strength. If one of your goals is to lose weight or to increase muscle tone, resistance training is key.
While any exercise is beneficial, avoiding these mistakes will allow you to get the most out of your workout. The result: more calories burned, and more weight lost for your exercise minute!
Tanja Shaw is a Kinesiologist and personal trainer, specializing in weight loss, pre and postnatal fitness, and health and wellness programs. She owns Ascend Fitness Coaching, which offers Boot Camps, mom and baby fitness classes and personal training in the Chilliwack area. More information is at www.ascendfitnesscoaching.com