With 2010 in full swing, most people have set their resolutions for the New Year and by now, many have long forgotten them. One of the most common New Year’s resolutions is to lose weight. Whether that entails dieting, exercising, or making healthier lifestyle choices, it is a tough goal to stick with. Most people find working out in a gym to be monotonous and boring. Well here are some tips to make your cardio routines more exciting, while making those endless minutes fly by.
First off, go in with a plan. It is easy to waste a lot of time while accomplishing little, when you aimlessly wander around the gym and try and throw together a workout. Whether it’s memorizing a list of the lifts or circuit you want to complete, or predetermining the length of your cardio session, you need to have a plan. There are tons of sources online that can give you guidelines and put you on the right track for success. There is information about training for a 5k, marathon, triathlon, and even for beginners just getting started in the world of fitness. One of my favorite sites is runnersworld.com and shape.com. Both of these sites programs are free and allow you to track your progress, and some even allow you to track your diet. These are great tools because it gives you a visual of your progress. We all know when you are trying to lose weight you are not going to get immediate results. Having the ability to see your progress on a chart should hopefully help in the motivation category.
Next, wet a date and a time for each workout. Choose mornings, nights, and how many workouts per week. This is easily done by choosing a show or a sports event you already plan to watch. Instead of staying on the couch and watching it while you mindlessly munch on snacks, head to the gym. Maybe you are a morning person, so plan on watching the morning news during your AM sweat session. I like to plan on watching some of my favorite primetime TV shows at the gym, because these shows engage me and keep my attention. This helps the time fly by while on the treadmill. Also, when I’m not motivated to go sweat and be active, I tell myself, “You are going to spend this hour watching this program whether you are at the gym or not, so get your butt to the gym and avoid the guilty feeling you are going to feel later!”
Knowing what type of cardio machine to use can be confusing. With all the different programs that are offered on each machine, it is hard to know which one will suit your plan best. I believe in mixing it up. This adds that surprise element to your work out that will help eliminate plateaus and your body adapting to certain routines. For beginners start out with light cardio, either power walking or jogging for 20 minutes a session, and build from there. I also suggest setting aside 15 minutes, one day a week, to try a new pre-set program on any of the machines provided at your gym. Do this after you have already done your cardio workout for the day so you are good and warmed up for this new twist. After, decide whether it was something that challenged you and whether you want to add it to your cardio mix each week.
Having grown up as a competitive swimmer, I have learned the trick to making a long, boring, mind-numbing work-out tolerable. In the world of conditioning-based sports, like swimming, cross country, and in-line skating, the valuable tool of intervals is utilized. This make reps fly by and keeps the athlete focused. I like to use this when I’m doing long runs on a treadmill. I throw in one minute intervals where I either use an incline or speed up my pace. This breaks the run up into groups, allowing me to countdown how many I have completed and how many I have left, rather than watch the clock slowly tick by, hoping I eventually make it to 60 minutes. Instead of seeing the clock as the enemy, you can use it as a distracter. You change the way you look at the clock, instead of hoping it will move faster, you find yourself hoping it moves slower, so you can stay in your comfort zone longer, before reaching that minute where the workout is going to get a lot tougher. Another way to utilize intervals is to break up your cardio session with weightlifting moves. So maybe run for ten minutes and then stop and do push-ups, squats, or bench presses. Intermixing cardio and strength training is great for fat burning because it keeps your heart rate in the fat burning zone of 50-70% effort.
Along with intervals, I like to play mind games with myself. This will help you lengthen the time of your workout without actually realizing it. First I set a time limit and tell myself, “If I run for 40 minutes I can stop after that.” Once I reach 40 minutes I find a new goal to focus on, such as I’ve burned 437 calories, I want to continue to run until I have burned off a nice rounded number like 450. Then I check my mileage, and I see I’ve run 4.6 miles and I think to myself, “what’s .4 more miles, be tough and make it an even 5 miles.” Before I know it, I’ve ran an extra 15 minutes than I had planned to. This is a great way to push yourself a little further, instead of feeding into a negative attitude and giving up early.
A way to determine whether your workout is beneficial is to use sweating as an indicator. This is the result of a good cardio session. Make it a goal to sweat every single workout. If you are not sweating that means you are not pushing yourself hard enough and therefore are not completely benefiting from the time your spending on the machine. It is also not an excuse to say that you don’t sweat, everybody sweats; except for a very, very small percentage of the population who have a medical condition called Anhidrosis. Anhidrosis is caused by under activity of the sympathetic nervous system. So, unless you have Anhidrosis, you have no excuse not to sweat!
Last, but not least, reward yourself for a job well done. This does not mean rewarding yourself after every workout, but set a reasonable interval such a monthly or bi-monthly. Choose an activity, food, or buy yourself something if you stick with your plan for the allotted amount of days. Say for every two months that you complete your weekly workout routine, you get to go shopping for a pair of shoes, or you get to splurge on a dinner at one of your favorite dinners, or maybe treat yourself to an expensive bottle of wine to share with friends. Rewards will help motivate you, but only if you are strict and honest about them. If you miss a week of workouts due to being sick, or because you were on vacation, don’t treat yourself for that round. This will help ward off those excuses that are pretty weak, and help build your willpower, which in the long run will be the best reward of all!