Wonder why you aren’t losing weight or running as fast as you used to? Not all cardio is created equal.
Here’s how to make sure you get the most out of your next cardio session whether you’re out running or crushing your next spin class.
“I just can’t lose any weight.” or “I think I have reached a plateau”
A common line that many people let out in frustration as they chug along on their gym treadmills staring at the timer wishing there is only a minute left to go in their run. Sometimes the problem is not that we are not putting in enough effort but rather our approach towards cardio training isn’t the best way to get the results that we want.
Mix it up
Your body works in amazing ways. The more you do something, the better it becomes at it. This means that if you keep doing the same type of exercises, your improvements will plateau as body learns and reacts to complete your workout in as little effort as possible. Efficiency!
One of the biggest problems of steady state cardio exercises is that the improvements in fat loss and speed are very noticeable… but only in the beginning. As your body adapts to the workout, the calorie burn benefit is limited. This is why weight training is often viewed as “better” than cardio for weight loss. After each weight training session, your body undergoes a healing process to repair the micro-tears from your workout. That healing process will require more energy and is why you will continue to burn calories after you leave the gym.
While a little variety in your workout might not seem like much, a well designed workout which incorporates cardio (sprints mixed with steady efforts) and strength training elements will be the most efficient way to burn fat and build a stronger body.
One of the most important variables in any form of exercise or sport is – intensity. Most people find a level of intensity that they are comfortable with to begin their workout and usually rarely deviate too far from it for the entire workout. While this approach is great to build endurance, the benefits of fat loss and increasing speed are limited. It is also good to keep in mind that there is only so much endurance you can build. Going long all the time will not necessarily result in huge improvements in endurance but may lead to poor form and eventually injuries as your body finds ways to compensate the cumulative fatigue of the workload. This is why elite marathoners incorporate several speed interval sessions a week since they know they have reached their endurance capacity and instead need to focus on training to run fast.
In your next workout, try playing with the intensity of your workouts by mixing high intensity efforts along with some low intensity or active recovery intervals. A workout program that is designed that way will jumpstart your metabolism as your body needs to replenish it’s energy by converting lactic acid that’s produced during sprinting into glucose and restore your blood hormone levels after an intense workout. The results? Faster fat loss and improvements in the intensity level that your body is capable of exercising at a.k.a. more speed!
Try various forms of cardio
Just as how cardio at different intensities affect our bodies differently, different forms of cardio exercise engage different energy systems in our body. For example, cycling (at preferably high intensities) has been shown to be better for building strength and fat loss while rowing is the most VO2Max demanding workout. This is not to say that running is “bad” but rather that our bodies can benefit from doing other forms of cardio besides just weight training.
Ultimately, our bodies respond to stimulus and we need to constantly challenge ourselves to increase the intensity or try out a new form of workout to continue improving.