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The 10 Worst Cardio Crimes

By , SparkPeople Blogger
Like many women, I love me some cardio. I like to get sweaty when I work out and feel like I really accomplished something, and almost nothing makes me feel that way like a tough Spinning class or long run can.

But as a trainer (and self-proclaimed cardio lover), I've seen my share of mistakes in and out of the gym.

Cardio does a body good, but if you're guilty of these common cardio crimes, you could be putting your body at risk and undermining your efforts.

Think you're a cardio saint, innocent of any and all offenses? Read on to see if you're guilty as charged!



10 Most Common Cardio Crimes
 
Leaning on the Machine
While gripping the handles or console of a cardio machine can aid in balance, leaning too much of your weight into the handles of the machine will decrease your workout intensity and burn far fewer calories. I see this all the time in Spinning class (people leaning weight into their arms while standing instead of keeping their weight in their legs), and see it at the gym with people leaning onto the treadmill handles or console. If you're moving so fast or feel so tired that you cannot keep the pace without taking weight off of your legs by placing it into your arms, you are far better off decreasing your speed or workout intensity than by keeping the speed and leaning. Try to use the handles only temporarily, such as when you first hop on the treadmill and find your footing, or if you have to pause the machine.

Skimping on Resistance
As a Spinning instructor, I see this a lot when I monitor the students in my class. Many people fear the resistance on stationary bikes because they fear it will make them "bulk up." (This is so not true.) Similarly, I see a lot of people using treadmills and elliptical machines with little to no incline. When it comes to getting a better, more challenging workout (that also burns more calories) resistance—or incline—is essential. This is especially true on the treadmill, which propels you forward automatically and makes both walking and running easier. By bumping up the incline, you'll counteract that propelling motion of the belt and get a better workout.

Stretching before Your Workout
I highly discourage people from stretching before a workout. (Read my stretch-after-your-workout manifesto for more details.) Stretching is NOT the same thing as a warm up, although many people confuse the two. And stopping to stretch after you warm up completely negates the fact that you just warmed up. By the time you're done stretching, you're right back where you started! Your muscles are warm and your joints most lubricated at the end of your cardio session. There's no need to stretch twice, so you might as well save your stretching time for the end when you'll get the most benefit.

Carrying Weights While You Walk
Although the American Council on Exercise recently published a story saying that walking with weights in your hands isn't as risky as we all once thought, I wouldn’t rush to add them to your walks. It's generally safe if you're holding weights less than 3 pounds, but at that weight, there might not be a huge challenge or benefit for you. Hold much more and your injury risk skyrockets. Experts do agree that ankle weights are a no-no.  When it comes to cardio, I'd much rather see a person work on increasing speed, incline or resistance to increase the cardio challenge of a workout than simply add weights to a workout.

Only Doing Cardio
Cardio exercise has tons of amazing benefits for your health and weight loss. So if you're doing any cardio at all, kudos to you! But if cardio is the only form of exercise in which you partake, you are really missing out. You may even be at risk for what many people fear: becoming "skinny fat." Many people think of cardio as the key to fat-burning, and it is important. But strength training is, too. More muscle helps boost your metabolism so you burn more calories all day—and during every cardio session. Further, on a weight-loss program, you will lose muscle mass as you lose weight (not a good thing), but regular strength training will help you minimize that muscle loss. In my expert opinion, regular strength training is just as important in a fitness and weight-loss program as cardio. Pick up the weights and watch the scale go down.

Not Drinking Water
When you're doing cardio right, you're going to sweat. And when you sweat, you need to replace those fluids. Waiting until the end of your workout to drink up can be a risky practice. You're much better off keeping a water bottle with you during your workout and sipping every few minutes. Definitely don't wait until you're already thirsty to start drinking. Learn more about how much water you need to drink during workouts.

Doing the Same Cardio Workout
Most of us have a go-to workout that we love to do as often as possible. Whether it's walking, Zumba, running or the elliptical, we tend to have a mainstay cardio workout. It is important to enjoy your workouts (you're more likely to stick with them that way), but you'll get far better results by mixing up your routine as often as possible. At the very least, add 1-2 days of cross-training to your existing cardio program (if you tend to do the same thing all the time).  Mixing it up prevents overtraining and its related injuries and keeps your body guessing so that you don’t plateau.



Zoning Out
I know it's the only way a lot of us can get through the monotony of the gym, but zoning out (think reading, watching or listening to media) during cardio can really hurt your results. When we're not focusing on the task at hand, two things happen; first, we start to slack off because bouncing around too much makes it harder to read or we're simply forgetting what we're really at the gym to do (work hard). Second, because we're not paying attention, our form tends to go by the wayside. Your posture slouches, your arms and legs aren't moving through the idea range of motion, and you're not striking with your feet or engaging your core properly. It's fine to entertain yourself with TV, an audio book, or music during cardio. Just make sure to check back in every couple minutes to pay attention to your intensity and your form.

Lifting Weights Really Fast
We're all strapped for time and many of us are lucky if we get to the gym a few times a week. We all want to make the most of our workout time. However, lifting weights really quickly (as in lifting the actual weight up and down at rapid speed) in order to try to ink out a little extra "cardio" benefit is a super bad idea. Slow, controlled form is essential for weight training. Speeding up your exercises is majorly risky. If you really want to try to turn your strength training routine into something more aerobic, don't go faster. Instead, use full-body (compound) moves that work your upper and lower body simultaneously and/or get rid of the resting periods between sets in favor of circuit training. Both are safe ways to train that can amp up the cardio component of your toning program. Never sacrifice form or safety for speed.

Confusing "Activity" with Cardio
This is probably the most common mistake I see. We know how important it is to be active, and so we try to count every activity we do as "exercise" or cardio. That can be a big mistake for several reasons. While any activity is better than no activity, only those activities that meet the requirements for cardio activity really give us the health and fitness benefits we exercise in order to reap. Plus, tracking calories burned from every little thing you do is only misleading. You're only really burning "extra" calories when you're working pretty darn hard—not when you're simply walking leisurely through the mall or doing some light cleaning. Learn more about the differences between activity and exercise.
 
How do you plead to these cardio crimes? Are you guilty as charged or are you innocent?

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Comments

DRAGONFLY631 5/17/2019
Thanks for the info Report
SUSANBEAMON 3/28/2019
Working Hard means exactly what? I think you only count something as "cardio" if it's something you do extra. Of course, with my MS, sometimes just getting up is Working Hard. Report
KATHRYNGC 3/25/2019
These were really good tips. Even found out that I am guilty of a couple. Gotta stop it! Report
ERIN_POSCH 3/24/2019
thanks for the tips Report
ALEPEQUIJADA 2/20/2019
Thanks! Report
EVILCECIL 12/13/2018
Good things to think about. Thanks. Report
KITTYHAWK1949 11/28/2018
thanks for things to watch out for Report
-POOKIE- 9/4/2018
Great. Report
PLATINUM755 8/9/2018
Lesson learned! Report
SHOAPIE 8/6/2018
Thanks. Report
MBPP50 8/3/2018
Thank you Report
JEWELZEE- 8/3/2018
Good info. Guilty as charged. Report
CAROLYNINJOY1 8/2/2018
Thank you for the information. Report
SPINECCO 8/2/2018
Great information. Thanks. Report
SISTERPRETTY 8/2/2018
thanks... Report
IRONADONIS 8/2/2018
Thanks. Report
YEV1506 7/17/2018
Thanks for great article! Also can add that doing too much cardio also a bad thing. If you do it for more than 40 minutes - it will cause the insulin resistance (can read about it here: http://helsify.com/workouts/can-not
-lose-weight
/ ). And the last one will stop your weight loss process (or you can even gain some extra weight). So be careful and don`t overdo cardio =) Report
GRANDMASUSAN13 5/31/2018
Excellent info Report
JANTHEBLONDE 5/20/2018
Great article! Report
great article Report
Good to know. Report
Good informal
Report
Thanks for constuctive corrections Report
Great info. Report
Great information! Report
Great article! Report
Great article! Thanks! Report
Good reminders and now that I'm taking spin will watch that I'm not leaning too hard on my arms. Report
Appreciate the reminder! Thanks! Of course, I think it's a given that Coach is talking to those who already exercise regularly. For beginners, just increasing activity is a great start, even without the weight-loss results. Important to build slowly. Report
Great info. Report
"You're only really burning "extra" calories when you're working pretty darn hard..." My heart rate says otherwise. Working hard means working at 80% or better. Extra calories can be burned even at 60% if it is from something that is not normally done. I think telling people that only Working Hard are worth counting is detrimental to those just starting out. Report
ROBBIEY
These are all things that I am capable of doing. Report
It applies to men also? Report
I will have to vary my workouts more. I tend to do the same cardio day after day. Report
I liked this article Report
Guilty of zoning out Report
I for one (MUST) hold on to the handles as my disabilities won't allow me to do otherwise.. what would be your suggestion in this situation to burn more? Report
ALILDUCKLING
My husband has said he'd like to try ankle or wrist weights while doing his fan bicycle at home. we'll do more research on the basis of this article. I am used to do some weight carrying, usually in short intervals, while doing Leslie Sansone or Denise Austin - but it is light - 1 - 3 #'s - just because I can't handle more. Report
Great points to consider, thanks! Report
L0RRIXYZ
On the water drinking: Dehydration and overheating are not the same thing. Some of us get overheated and water does not cure the problem. So if the fan is on in the room, please leave it on so that people like me don't end up passing out (literally) from the heat. Report
I also am someone who stretches BEFORE working out. I have pain and stiffness issues, especially in the mornings (when I like to work out). If I skip stretching, and just warm up, I'm in too much physical pain to enjoy or get anything out of a workout. I talked to my doctor yesterday, telling her how everywhere I look now, it says to stretch after working out, and that before is a BIG no-no. She asked how I feel during and after a workout both when I do stretch beforehand and when I don't. My answer of having no pain post-workout with the former, she agreed that stretching before, for me, is just fine. Report
Even if I do those things, it's so much better than doing nothing, I don't need some fools saying I should feel Guilt, of all things. Get a real life, article writers. Report
I stopped leaning on the machines but found that my Nike fuel band wouldn't count my steps that way! Report
MIGGI09
i'm guilty of holding unto the rails or handbars. Ooops! Didn't know it made a difference Report
I love the tip about googling songs to find their beats per minute. I switch up between the bike (stationary and road), elliptical, and Adaptive Motion Trainer for my cardio because they do not put added weight and pressure on my knees. Report
I am only guilty of a couple of these. I like to mix things up, if not then I will get stuck in that plateau and will not see the point of me working out if I do not see any results. Report
I am actually doing pretty good! It appears the only one I may be guilty of is not mixing up my workouts enough, but that is easily fixed! Thanks for the article! Report
There are stair machines at my gym, that are so poorly designed, the only way to walk on them is to bend over and hang onto the handles. So the people who use them are putting a huge strain on their backs, as well as putting a lot of weight on their arms. They are terrible machines. Report
So pleased to see that I'm doing it right! This was a big confidence booster. :-) Report
Live and learn........... Report