As a gym owner and certified personal trainer, I have ample opportunity to observe people and their exercise regimens. I often see individuals toiling away on cardio routines; making mistakes which reduce the effectiveness of their workouts. I usually try to advise them how they can improve their routines, but most people continue going their own way.
Maybe you are one of those people. Maybe you your training progress hit a plateau. Maybe you cardio routine is simply not producing the results you want and need to see.
Maybe you are making the same mistakes I see others make all the time.
1. Holding On: If you want to maximize the effectiveness of your treadmill routine…let go of the handles! Holding on reduces your energy output and calorie burn by about 20%. The point of walking at a high incline is to increase the workload on your glutes and work your core as you are forced to lean forward to maintain your balance. Holding on and leaning backwards defeats the purpose.
2. Too Much “Steady State” Cardio: Steady state cardio – walking/running at a moderate pace for extended time periods – was the rage in gyms 20 years ago. Back then, it was not uncommon to see people slogging along on the treadmill for an hour or longer. Some people still do it. Steady state cardio has its benefits, but it is not a particularly effective way to shed pounds and reduce body fat. To do that, you are going to have to step up the intesity of your workout and be prepared to work harder.
Effective exercise is all about the intensity of the workout, not the duration. You will get far more benefit from an intense 45 minute workout than you will 90 minutes at a moderate exertion level.
Interval training is the way to go if you want to reap the maximum benefits from your cardio exercise. By now, most of you should know that interval training alternates short bursts (30 to 90 seconds) of maximum exertion with “recovery” periods of moderate exertion (1 to 2 minutes). The entire workout should last 20 to 30 minutes. It is difficult and it is physically taxing…but it works. Try it and see how it works for you.
3. Doing the Same Thing Over and Over: You are wasting your time if you are using the same equipment, at the intensity, for the same length of time every day.
Fat is nothing more than stored energy. Ancient humans often did not know when their next meal was coming, so their bodies stockpiled energy for later use in the form of fat. Our bodies are genetically wired to resist burning fat. They adapt to activity and slow the metabolism to retain that stored energy.
To effectively burn fat/calories and lose weight, you must prevent your body from adapting to a given activity level. Try to keep your body guessing by varying your exercise routine regularly.
I never do the same cardio routines back-to-back. I try to push myself harder every time I work out. Ii will Increase my intensity, pace, or the incline/resistance on the machine. I’ll go a couple minutes longer. I’ll use different machines. Once a week I do cardio without any machines; doing a high intensity-high repletion kettlebell workout, which takes care of cardio and resistance training in one shot.
The possible variations are endless. Just do something to keep your body and metabolism form adapting to a routine.
4. Using a Treadmill to Train for a Race:
If you are training for a race, get off the treadmill, get out of the gym and hit the streets. Running on a treadmill is not the same as running.
Yes, there are cardio and fat burning benefits to the treadmill, but treadmills do not work your legs the same way running does. On a treadmill, the ground is moving beneath you. You do not have to use the muscles on the back of your legs to propel yourself forward. All you are really doing on the treadmill is picking up your legs.
Also a treadmill cannot reproduce the force of running downhill, putting you at risk for injury when you actually get outside on uneven terrain. To properly prepare for a race, get out of the gym, and run on streets or trails approximating the course on which you will be racing.