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Rachel Cosgrove

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Stop Wasting Energy During Your Workout

Posted: 08/16/2011 12:23 am

The question I want to ask so many times when I head out for a run or to the stairs to do cardio intervals: What are you doing? Some of the people I have come across, to whom I'm dying to ask this:

  • The guy who brought teal dumbbells with him to pump out some bicep curls between stairs climbs
  • The girl doing butt squeezes "toning" her butt as she climbs the stairs.
  • The woman doing incline push ups on the guard rail between stair climbs when she doesn't seem challenged by them and can clearly do real push ups.
  • The lady I saw going for a walk holding pink dumbbells

What are you doing? What do you think you are accomplishing? Are you doing a cardio workout? Are you doing a strength workout and trying to build muscle right now? Is the goal to get your heart rate up? What is the goal of this workout? Because right now you are getting nothing done.

Again, what is the goal of your workout? Ask yourself that each time you set aside valuable time to get a workout done. Time is our number one non-renewable resource, so the last thing you want to do is waste your time when it comes to your exercise and when you try to do too many things at once, you end up accomplishing nothing.

Another example that is hot right now: yoga-cardio-kickboxing classes or yoga-Spinning classes. I'm not a yoga expert, but one of the goals of yoga is to center your self with meditative movements, stretching and breathing (from what I understand.) I have a feeling you lose that when you are mixing it with kickboxing or spinning. Why not just do yoga, focusing on one goal, getting everything out of what yoga has to offer? Then plan to do your cardio workout another time instead of doing both half as good as you could -- or should.

Your workouts should usually fall into one of the following three categories and therefore have a specific goal in mind. Again, what is your goal? What are you doing?

Strength Workout
The goal: To build lean body mass, putting a demand on your muscles that they are not used to, while burning calories and creating an after-burn effect (also known as EPOC).

How it works: To "tone" and shape your muscles you will need to use exercises that are demanding, challenging your muscles to build strength. Each time you do a strength workout, you should get stronger and be able to lift more weight, perform more reps or increase the difficulty of the exercise. A full body strength program, where you put new demands on your body each time you workout to build strength and get the shape and definition you want, needs to be a priority workout two or three times a week, and needs to be done separately from your cardio. You can do your cardio workout after you finish a strength workout, but pick one for that time and focus on it.

What are you doing? Trying to mix in strength exercises ineffectively to your cardio workout doesn't work. Doing push ups on the guard rail or pumping out bicep curls with teal dumbbells is doing nothing to increase your lean body mass, especially when it is done between cardio intervals when you are tired and not going to be able to challenge your muscles effectively anyway. In addition, squeezing your butt between stairs is not going to build definition or tone because your butt muscles can already perform multiple reps, you are just taking a break from pushing your intensity.

This is part of the reason people in boot camps hit a plateau. When you have limited equipment and a limited number of ways to put a demand on your body, you can only really do a cardio workout.

Also keep in mind -- to build strength, your reps should not be more than 15 to 20 reps per set, and for most people closer to eight to 10 reps. Usually, alternating these rep ranges will give you the best results. Once you are running up a full set of stairs, you are doing cardio -- not strength training.

Cardio/Interval Workout
The goal: The goal of any cardio workout is to elevate the heart rate, work your cardiovascular system, burn calories and, in the case of an interval style workout, get a boost in your metabolism from the EPOC. If you are training for an endurance event, you may have a goal of running a certain distance or keeping a specific pace for a period of time.

How it works: Heading out for a run or stair climbing should be a cardio workout focusing on the goal of getting your heart rate elevated and working your cardiovascular system while burning calories and creating EPOC.

What are you doing? Again, trying to mix in strength-training into your cardio workout decreases the effectiveness of it. Leave the teal dumbbells at home, forget doing the butt blasting toning squeezes and focus on pushing the intensity by getting your heart rate up during the work interval to at least 80 percent of your max. If you are doing intervals, you should not be able to hold the intensity for longer than a couple of minutes.

Recovery/Regeneration
The Goal: To get your blood pumping and your body warm, but not put too much of a demand on your system. The main goal is to move, stretch and keep your body in balance recovering from your other workouts.

How it works: Long, steady-state cardio can fall under this category, along with stretching, foam rolling and yoga. Since when is going for a walk considered a tough workout? Instead, use a walk to clear your mind, move around and help your body regenerate from your other workouts.

What are you doing? The lady walking with her pink dumbbells should have already done her strength workouts and her interval workouts that week. She could leave the pink dumbbells at home and just go for a walk.

From now on, when you set aside time in your schedule to get a workout done, aim to include one to two of each of the above types of workouts, focusing on one goal at a time. Get focused and get everything out of it and always ask yourself: What am I doing?

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