As a fitness instructor, trainer and gym manager, I have seen a lot of people doing cardio. Some right, some very wrong….yes there is a wrong way to do cardio. So I thought I would discuss a few of the most egregious cardio habits, why you are not seeing results and how to fix them.
Low Intensity Cardio
Back in the 1990’s when I first started teaching, we had classes called “Fat Burners” where the cardio was long and the intensity was low. The theory was that if you worked at no more that 65 percent of your heart rate maximum, your body would burn fat. That has been discredited by much research and we now know that very few people can train their bodies to burn fat (some long distance runners can do it). Instead, the body burns glycogen first and then when it runs out of glycogen, it starts to burn muscle. Another reason to keep your engine fueled with a high grade diet, including smart carbs.
I see people sitting on a recumbent bike (usually reading or watching TV) pedaling at the slow pace. Now if you’re recovering from an injury or you just want to break up your day with a little exercise (a walk outside would be better instead of sitting), then OK but if you really want to lose weight, relieve some stress or improve your cardiovascular system, then you need to be working harder.
Try attending a HIIT class. The High Intensity Interval Training class will give you the benefit of cardio and weight training and push you to work at your maximum intensity…remember it’s YOUR max intensity, not the person next to you. Work as hard as you can but safely to avoid injury. Not only is this better for you physically, it’s far more time efficient than an hour of low intensity cardio.
I see this time and again…people that watch TV while doing cardio. While this may pass the time, you are not going to be working as hard as if you concentrate on your workout. Listening to music – yes that is motivating and enjoyable. And don’t get me started on those who read during cardio. If you can read a book or a magazine, there is no way you’re working hard enough.
Turn off the TV and save the book for later and focus on what you’re doing. If you’re walking or running outside, take the moment to enjoy nature; it’s also a great exercise in mindfulness – learning to be present and enjoying the moment you’re in can be a huge task in our technology-driven world.
This is what I call doing tons of cardio for the sole purpose of being able eat or drink anything afterwards. I’ve seen people go from the gym to Starbucks in 15 minutes and order a venti carmel macchiato….there’s no way you’ve burned enough calories in a short workout to burn off those calories. And the calorie counters on cardio machines woefully over-estimate the amount of calories burned, especially if you lean your upper body on the machine!
As you get older, you have to watch your caloric intake far more than the exercise you do. So don’t sabotage your exercise efforts but over-indulging in post workout drinks, protein bars or shakes. Eat a light meal or snack up to 2 hours prior to working out and then have a small post workout snack of carbs, a little bit of protein and lots of water. Drinks like Gatorade are meant for workouts of 2 hours or more.
Race Training Cardio
People decide they’re going to sign up for a 5 km, 10 km, half-marathon or yikes! Tough Mudder (one of those team events crawling through the mud etc) and they begin to train in hopes of losing weight. If you are over-weight, beginning to run will put excess pressure on your lower body joints and may lead to injury.
Instead sign up for the race, but set yourself some short-term goals. Start with walking a short distance the first week to let your body become accustomed to the different muscles you’re using. Keep increasing the distance weekly and/or go to a walk/run program. Slow and steady really does win the race!
Hope this will help you with your cardio training. If you need more info on cardiovascular training, take a look at these links: