If you’re one of those people who spend hours working out at the gym but have hit a plateau when it comes to your fitness goals, it’s time you supercharge your cardio workout.
Basics first –
Cardio is not about just burning fats but it is an essential component of workouts. It helps to improve your cardiovascular health, helps you lose weight and enhances your lung capacity.
Before you start:
1. Figure out your fitness objective
Do you want to lose weight? Improve strength and endurance? Zero in on your objective first. Whatever your goal is, it is best to get medical and/or expert advice before starting out.
2. Determine your current fitness level and target heart rate:
Is our body used to exercise? If yes, what all forms of exercise have you tried before? Or is it the first time you’re pushing your body to exercise? A proper evaluation before planning your fitness routine is very essential. Your Target Heart Rate or Training Heart Rate (THR) also needs to be determined. It is a desired range at which you will benefit the most from physical exercise. It is mostly based on age but other factors like physical condition, gender, etc. also comes into play.
Once you know your target heart rate, you can use the cardio machines more efficiently in order to burn more calories.
3. Plan your routine to meet your fitness objective:
The rule of thumb is that if you burn around 3500 calories, you stand a chance to lose around 0.4 – 0.5 kg; which means you need to burn around 500 calories per day, every day through diet and exercise. If you eat around 200-300 calories less per day and burn around 300-400 calories during your workout, you should ideally lose weight as per your plan.
The biggest mistake most people make is just doing the same kind of exercises every day, at more or less the same intensity.
If you want cardio to work for you, follow these tips:
1. Switch between high and low intensity
Whether you’re on the treadmill or cycle, keep on switching between high and low intensity. For example walk at 6 kmph for 2 minutes and try to do at least 10 kmph for the next 5 minutes and gradually come down to 6 kmph again. This variation helps reach your target heart rate, improves cardiovascular health, metabolism and weight loss. If you’re on the cycle, increase the resistance. This is a technique used by professional athletes and is called interval training.
2. Do it after strength training
Strength training uses your body’s glucose stores. So, when you do cardio following strength or weight training, your body has very little glucose. Your fat stores are used up instead. This helps reduce your fat percentage and increases chances of weight loss.
3. Vary your regime
As we exercise, the fact is your body’s endurance goes up and it gets used to that particular level of exercise. This hinders your ability to burn fat. Try different cardio activities like cycling, swimming, boxing, running, jogging, aerobic exercises, yoga, spinning, skipping or participating in team sports. Include at least two different types of cardio activities in a week.
4. Keep pushing the limits
Find ways to make your cardio workout more challenging. Try running on an inclined treadmill, add more resistance to your cycle – basically push yourself to see how far you can go. The moment you realize your body is getting comfortable with the exercise, take it to the next level. No pain, no gain!
5. Don’t miss strength training
People seem to think that they are two different phases of a workout but actually aim to do one thing – improve your overall fitness. Weight training helps build your lean muscles and increases your basal metabolic rate, thus helping you lose weight faster.
Consult your trainer to get the best of both worlds at the same time whenever possible. For example, you could do squats with a sub-maximal weight, strap on sand bags while on the treadmill, do sides and lunges with dumbbells.
6. Have fun
Cardio doesn’t have to be boring. Team sports like football, hockey and basketball or individual ones like squash and tennis are some of the best forms of cardio. Not only that, it’ll give you a competitive edge and cut down the monotony. So find some friends and hit the field.