It feels great to get your workout over and done with in one session by combining a cardio and muscle training session at the gym.
But if you would like to burn maximum fat, get fit AND strengthen up you are better to work on your fitness and on your muscles in separate sessions rather than working them both on the same day.
That’s because research has shown overall calorie expenditure to be greater when you separate your workouts. It seems you get a metabolic boost each time you work out – and so combining sessions is counter-productive if you want to burn fat.
If you have too many time constraints to work out on separate days, be sure to carry out your weight training first while glycogen stores are highest to make better gains in strength.
Should you exercise when you don’t feel well?
There’s a general rule of thumb for minor illness which says that if you are sick from the neck up it’s ok to exercise but if you’re sick from the neck down you should take the day off and rest.
By sick from the neck up it means if you have just a head cold, a slight headache or are feeling a bit stuffed up then it should be ok to work out. Sick from the neck down means you are sick all over – you are feeling shivery flu like symptoms and you really should take to your bed, rest and stay hydrated while you recover.
Like all general rules of thumb you have to be sensible about self-diagnosing anything more than a minor cold and talk to your doctor if necessary about any illness you have. And of course, injury is a different matter entirely.
If you do exercise when you are unwell you will probably find your heart rate elevated from it’s usual level and you will reach your maximum heart rate at a gentler pace. So take care not to overdo it because you don’t want to challenge your system when it is already coping with you being under the weather. Use a heart rate monitor if possible and check your heart rate frequently while you work out.
If you just have a head cold you will probably find that you will feel much better after your workout – as well as feeling buoyed up by getting out there and just doing it despite not feeling 100%.
Interval training is the way to go if you can only manage a 20 minute exercise session but you want all the fitness benefits of a much longer session.
Why is that?
In a long session your body will make the most effort at the start of the session while it gets used to the level of exertion you are asking of it.
If that intensity doesn’t change throughout the session, your heart reaches a “steady state” after a short time and it does not have to make as much effort/expend as much energy to maintain your pace.
You are then coasting along for the remainder of the session – making an effort, of course but not really pushing yourself or using as much energy as you could.
With interval training you work at a higher intensity in intervals with a more moderate recovery pace between bursts. The bursts of higher intensity exercise can last from as little as 30 seconds to as much as a few minutes with the moderate intensity periods being just enough to recover from your high level exertion – usually about one and a half to twice as long. So you might jog for 2 minutes and then run at top speed for a minute and then recover by jogging for two minutes before picking up the pace again.
With this pattern your heart does not reach a steady state – every time you have a burst of higher intensity exercise your heart rate is elevated again and as a result you use more energy to keep your body moving throughout the session, not just during the higher intensity bursts.
If you follow this pattern for 20 minutes you will find that you use as many calories as you would in a much longer session and you will become fitter faster. As well as training your heart, intervals help build new capillaries within your cardiovascular system giving a boost to your endurance. All those new blood vessels mean that you will be better able to take in oxygen as well as deal with the waste products of exercise such as the lactic acid which causes burning and sore muscles.
1. Follow a Training Plan
If you have an effective and well thought out plan to follow (which matches your level of fitness) you are more likely to keep to it and less likely to injure yourself by doing too much too soon.
Don’t have a plan? Find one on the net like these great resources for example…
Cool Running Couch-to-5k training plan (This is the one I’m currently following – Week 6 day 2 just now)
Alternatively borrow a book from the library or pay for a session with a personal trainer to help you formulate a workout schedule for the coming weeks.
2. Vary It
Cardio can get very boring if you do the same activities and use the same machines or follow the same routes every time – and besides, if you keep on doing the same old routine it does not challenge your body as well as it could.
Make the effort to switch around your activities, equipment and environment. Vary the intensity too – some long slower sessions, some interval training, some medium intensity, medium length sessions too.
3. Entertain Yourself
Add to your enjoyment by using music or tapes while you work out. Watch TV at the gym. A long session on the treadmill can go very quickly with your favorite show. Don’t forget to focus on what you’re doing too though.
4. Protect Yourself
Keep yourself safe and free from injury by wearing the right clothes and footwear and keeping to well-populated areas. If there’s a lot of traffic go easy on the music so you can hear as well as see vehicles approaching. Let someone know where you are going.
Wait a couple of hours after eating a full meal before working out. If you are too hungry to work out a light snack such as a banana can be enough to satisfy you before your session. Also you may find you get more out of an early morning work out if you have a light breakfast first.
If you want the full fat-burning effect of a cardio workout don’t eat straight after your session but wait an hour or so before having a meal.
6. Stay Hydrated
For a normal cardio session plain water is best. Before, during (depending on the length of your session) and after. Avoid sugar loaded sports drinks – you don’t need them. Good performance requires hydration not sugar.
Don’t forget to do your stretches after your workout to avoid soreness. Doing a lot of cardio (and building muscle) can reduce flexibility – so stretching is essential. Also taking up something like yoga and practising on non-cardio days can be particularly beneficial in maintaining flexibility.
Bonus Tip : The main thing to have an effective cardio workout is just to “Do It” because chances are you will feel great whenever you do and not so great when you have avoided getting out there and getting it done for a week. Once you have a plan, log your workouts so that you can see you are making progress. A heart rate monitor too is a great tool for seeing how far you have come before you can even feel the difference.
Sedentary workers take about 2000 steps a day yet they say that 10,000 should be our aim for good health.
While you can dispute that we actually need to do that much exercise to stay fit, more walking can only do us good.
Ten thousand steps is about 45 minutes worth of walking a day. That’s not a lot but finding that spare time is a problem for most of us.
If you want to walk but you just can’t take 45 minutes out of your busy schedule to go for a long walk, try these ways of fitting more walking naturally into your life.
1. Go Further
Walk to the furthest coffee machine, photocopier, bathroom and sandwich place so that you take a few extra steps each time. And park in the space which is furthest away from the front door. If you use public transport get off a stop earlier.
2. Walk and talk
Walk around while you are on the phone. (Cordless or cellphone)
3. Get a Dog
You will have to walk more to keep your dog happy.
4. Don’t Wait, Pace
If you are waiting for a train, a bus or a friend move around rather than standing in one place. And try this at home too when you are waiting for the kettle to boil or the microwave to cook your food.
5. Take the stairs every time
Every step counts so shun the elevator and find the nearest stairwell.
6. Walk before breakfast
A 10 minute walk before breakfast will set you up for the day and boost your metabolism. Set your alarm clock a little earlier and just do it.
7. Be Sociable
Combine walking with your social life. Meet friends for a walk at weekends rather than a drink or a meal. If you enjoy country walks join a walking club. Plan active outings for your kids or make a walk after dinner a family tradition (start when the kids are young!)
8. Shop Locally on Foot
Instead of taking the car to the store once a week, support the small shops in your area and buy your food fresh every couple of days.
9. Have a Lunchtime Walk
Instead of eating at your desk, get out and about. It’s great to clear your head for the afternoon too.
10. Get a Pedometer
A pedometer will let you see how many steps you are taking and encourage you to take a few more each day. Start just by measuring how many steps you take in a day and then aim to increase the number by 20% each week until you reach 10,000.
The most accurate pedometers are digital such as the ACCUSPLIT AE170 Pedometer which accurately measures distance and calories burned as well as steps but if you’re not worried about being very accurate you can you can also get very cheap pedometers costing only a couple of dollars (these make great party presents).
1. Plan Ahead
Always have your exercise kit ready and available. Have enough workout clothing so you can get a fresh kit together right after your workout while you’re still feeling good about having gone out for a run or to the gym. And keep it in a handy place at home ready to grab and go or store it in your car trunk so it’s always with you.
2. Follow a Program
Follow a work out program which is suitable for whatever stage of fitness you have reached. If you follow a pre-designed program you never have to think about what to do today – it’s all worked out in advance. If you are more experienced, you can create your own workout plan making sure that you don’t go too far too fast to avoid injury and over-training.
3. Get the Intensity Right
Use a heart rate monitor in conjunction with your program to ensure you are working at the right cardio intensity. You will also be able to follow your progress by seeing a reduction in your resting heart rate and the rate for any particular cardio exercise as you get fitter.
4. Schedule Your Exercise
Make an appointment with yourself as if you had a personal trainer turning up and expecting you to be ready to work out. Write it in your diary and schedule the rest of your life around your exercise sessions so that you make time for them.
5. Stay Healthy
Good food, plenty of sleep, proper hydration and avoiding cigarettes and too much alcohol and will make the job of keeping fit a lot easier than if your life is filled with late night booze sessions and junk food. If you do feel ill, give yourself a break from exercise and don’t force your body to work when it needs rest and recuperation. You’ll get back to full strength a lot faster.
Sometimes kids soak up so much time that it’s difficult to find time for fitness – you end up having so little time for yourself that working out can be the last thing on your mind.
But if you are determined enough, there are ways to carve out bits of time here and there so that you can be as fit as your friends who don’t have family responsibilities.
I remember writing about a tip a while ago that I thought was a good idea – and on Saturday I tried it out (yes, I do follow my own advice – well, at least most of the time 🙂 )
My 10-year old had an hour-long tennis lesson in the morning and instead of taking him and waiting around with the other parents reading the newspaper and drinking coffee, I dropped him off and then went for a run.
I got my work out done. He had fun. I felt very productive…
You do have to be a bit more creative if you have very small children – there seemed to be years when all I could do was to snatch a few minutes exercise at home or to walk and walk for miles pushing a baby in the stroller.
But it can be done – so don’t give up! And it’s great to be setting your kids a good example.
And remember you can always get my Fitness in No Time program if you only have a few minutes a week to work out 😉
Photo by twenty_questions
Anyone who has ever climbed to the top of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris or the Statue of Liberty in New York will tell you that stair climbing is not an easy exercise but you have to admit it’s something that you can easily fit into your everyday life.
Stairs are everywhere and you may as well make use of them.
In fact, keen exercisers in cities as far apart as Boston and San Francisco are starting to use skyscraper stair-climbs as their workout of choice – a 15 minute stair climb offers the same workout as 30 minutes running on flat ground and with less impact.
Even those of us without access to a nearby skyscraper can benefit from the stairs at the office, in the home or at the shopping mall. Every flight you climb counts – a Harvard University study found that men who climbed an average of at least 8 flights a day had a 33% lower mortality rate than men who were sedentary. And research in Northern Ireland has also shown that walking upstairs for just 6 minutes a day will make you 10 to 15 percent fitter.
Climbing stairs will firm your butt, your legs and your stomach – one reason why stair climbing machines at the gym are becoming more popular and why they are taking off as home exercise equipment. Just look at the range of stair climbers and steppers you can buy these days. They take up less room than a treadmill and don’t sound like a jet engine taking off in your basement or spare room – well worth considering if you are looking for home equipment.
But even if you don’t have a gym membership or space for a stair climber at home, you can integrate stair climbing into your day. Just remember when you see a sign for the elevator to look for the stairs instead and get firm and fit without taking up your precious free time.
And if you are looking for a new home don’t look at stairs as a disadvantage – that top floor appartment may be just what you need 🙂
If you’re feeling under pressure then its easy to say you don’t have time for exercise but even a brief walk or run in the fresh air will help clear your head and mean you get more done overall.
A slightly longer exercise session where you put in a bit of effort releases endorphins – those feel-good brain chemicals that make you feel wonderful and is an even better stress-reliever.
Any exercise with a rhythmic pace such as running, walking or swimming can be quite meditative in itself – especially if you do it alone and let your thoughts go wherever they want. If your thoughts are in turmoil however, calm yourself by focusing on your movements and your breathing.
Far from tiring you out or being a time-killer, exercise can mentally and spiritually rejuvenate you so much, you definitely don’t want to miss out.
And a crisis point, the very time when we tend to shun exercise the most – is the time when we most need it.
Photo by Darren Copley
Did you know that on average every 20 steps you take you burn another calorie?
Use that as an incentive to
- get off your butt
- get moving today every chance you get
- make it a habit every day of your life.
How many steps would you take if you “lost” your remote control and stopped asking your kids or your other half to fetch and carry things for you.
In fact, see it as a favor they are doing you if you end up fetching and carrying for THEM instead of feeling like a martyr.
If you move around while you’re on the phone, while you brush your teeth, every time you get to take a breather or a water break at work you’ll use calories.
And if you actually do all those old tricks like parking further from the front door and getting off the bus one stop before your destination you’ll burn even more.
Just 10 calories a day and you’ll lose a 1lb in year without even trying and you could easily clock up ten times as much….
Just think about that when you’re too busy to get to the gym.