Are your cardio workouts boring you to the point where you dread them?
I promise you that if you try a couple of little tricks you’ll start looking forward to them, albeit in a twisted way, and your fitness level and calorie burns will soar even if you’re fairly new to exercise. Plus, you’ll cut the time of your workouts.
Sounds like empty infomercial promises, huh? Shorter workouts and more results? It’s true. But unlike an infomercial, I’m not going to promise results without some work. In order to make the most of these tricks, you have to be willing to push yourself just a little bit.
Here’s the usual disclaimer: Get your doctor’s OK before you start working out, because this kind of training might not be for you if you’ve had a recent serious health issue.
The first trick is interval training. There are books written about this topic. Oddly enough, some of them are long and boring, but I can boil it down for you: Warm up for five minutes doing a cardio activity like running or riding a bike, and then boost your intensity for a minute, and then go easy for a minute or two, and then hard again, and then slow again, repeating, over and over, for 20 minutes, and cool down for five minutes by continuing the same activity at a lower intensity until your heart rate returns to near normal.
The key is that by the time the easy segments roll around, you should be pretty happy about it. There’s no real right or wrong way to go about this. Just push yourself a little during the harder segments so that you’re looking forward to the easy segments and make sure your recovery segments are at least as long as the exertional segments. If you’re new to exercise, that might mean boosting your treadmill speed slightly or ramping up the incline a few degrees. If you’re a seasoned athlete, you might do all-out sprints coupled with jogging. Play with it – it should be fun. A good iPod playlist is helpful, too.
The second trick is my favorite, something I call “kamikaze” workouts. Depending on a client’s fitness level, I pick four or five conditioning exercises — things like lunges, squat thrusts, pushups, body weight squats or jump squats, mountain climbers, kettlebell swings or jumping jacks — and intersperse them with bouts on a cardio machine.
A moderately intense workout could look like this:
- Five minutes on the elliptical machine to warm up
- 20 reverse lunges
- 10 jumping jacks
- 20 kettlebell or dumbbell swings
- 15 pushups with hands on bench
- Five minutes on the elliptical machine to recover your breath and heart rate
Repeat until 20 to 30 minutes have passed, ending always with the elliptical machine, allowing the heart rate to return to near-normal. I promise that by the third time you get on the elliptical machine, you will be drenched in sweat and feeling an endorphin rush.
Studies show that this kind of training boosts your overall calorie burn because you’re able to work more intensely. And because you’re pushing yourself beyond your normal level for short periods of time, what used to be “normal” is now easier. Because this kind of training can be intense, never skip the cool-down. It’s important to help your heart rate return to normal.
Add interval and kamikaze workouts to your program a couple times a week on nonconsecutive days, and not only will you cut your time in on the dreadmill — oops, I mean treadmill — you’ll see your fitness level soar.
Wendy Watkins is a personal trainer and group exercise instructor at the Bangor-Brewer Athletic Club in Brewer.