Fitness Articles

Are You Cheating Yourself at the Gym? Part 1

Make the Most of Your Cardio Workouts


Why it's cheating: Treadmills help propel your body. You don't have to do as much work when the belt is doing some of that movement for you. Walking on a flat road outside is more challenging and burns more calories than walking on a flat (0% incline) treadmill at the same speed.

The quick fix: Increase the incline. If you like to get outside when the weather is nice, varying the incline is more likely to mimic an outdoor route. Plus, you'll burn about twice the calories at a five percent incline in the same amount of time.

4. You exercise at one constant speed. Pacing yourself is important if you're training for a long-distance race, but should you pace yourself during a workout?

Why it's cheating: Doing the same workout over and over can result in a plateau since your body quickly gets used to doing the same thing all the time. Changing your speed and intensity level can help prevent plateau and offer greater challenge.

The quick fix: Try interval training. Most treadmills offer programs you can follow, so take advantage of them. Changing speed is also a great way to improve your fitness level and increase your calorie burn. Read SparkPeople's Interval Training Guide to learn more.

5. You skip the warm up, cool down or stretches. All of these components are important for a reason. Do you think they're a waste of time since they don't burn a lot of calories or build muscle?

Why it's cheating: You body can't go from a resting level to an aerobic level (or vice versa) in a matter of seconds. It takes a few minutes to prepare for exercise and recover from it. Without warming up, cooling down, and stretching, you're not making the most of your workouts and you could be increasing your chances of injury or other complications.

The quick fix: Designate a few minutes per session for these tasks. If you're short on time, jog from the parking lot to the gym as part of your warm up, and walk slowly to your car as you continue to cool down, for example. Warming up helps lower your risk of injuries and prevent aches and pains. A proper cool-down slowly decreases the heart rate to prevent dizziness, fainting and that post-workout muscle soreness. Stretching can help prevent injury by promoting recovery, decreasing soreness, and ensuring that your muscles and tendons are in good working order.

Your time is valuable, so it's important to make the most of it when you head to the gym. By making some small changes to your cardio routine, you can maximize your results and get on the fast track towards reaching your goals!
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About The Author

Jen Mueller Jen Mueller
Jen received her master's degree in health promotion and education from the University of Cincinnati. A mom and avid marathon runner, she is an ACE-certified personal trainer, health coach, medical exercise specialist and behavior change specialist. See all of Jen's articles.

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