Whether you’re new to the gym or a seasoned veteran, I’ve seen all kinds make at least one of the mistakes on this list. As those bathing suits get loaded on the racks at your favorite store, it is clear, the season for fat loss is upon us. I will start my Fat Loss 101 series with the Do’s and Don’t of cardio, because these are some of the things that I find myself telling my clients most.
1. Holding The Treadmill
2. Getting Too Comfortable
If You Are Bored, So is Your Metabolism
3. Taking Small Strides
Make Every Step Count!
4. All MISS, No HIIT
Don’t Forget High Intensity Training
High intensity training is great for a couple of reasons: it’s time efficient and it’s muscle sparing. After you have developed a strong aerobic cardio foundation, you should definitely consider adding HIIT cardio.
High intensity interval training is when you perform an activity using max effort. Your heart rate reaches 86-95% of your max heart rate (Easy calculation of max heart rate = 210 – your age). Once you have performed this activity, say sled sprints, for 15-30 seconds, you rest for 60-90 seconds to allow your heart rate to lower. Repeat these work/rest intervals for the prescribed number (5-15) to burn as many calories as MISS (moderate intensity steady state) cardio in up to half the time.
The beauty of HIIT is what’s called EPOC: Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption. EPOC is basically a term referencing the increase in calories burned after you’re completed the high intensity cardio. Your heart rate and body temperature remains elevated for a much longer period after high intensity training compared to MISS.
5. Hours of Daily Cardio
More is NOT Better
Every time you train, it is vital to think about what your ultimate goal is. Are you trying to run a marathon? Great! Hours of cardio is going to be in your training program.
Are you training purely for aesthetics, muscle gain, overall health? Maybe reconsider wearing the sole of those running shoes thin.
When you are in a caloric deficit, the aim is to use as much stored fat as possible to replace the fuel that your food intake would have provided. Unfortunately, when you create too much of a deficit, your body will use whatever fuel it’s most efficient to get. A lot of the time that mean taking some of your stored muscle away.
Ladies, even if your goal is not to be toned or have visible musculature, you still want curves, right? What excessive cardio means, aesthetically, is that your curves (mostly muscle) are going to flatten out.
Now let’s talk about the metabolic replications that excessive cardio training can have. Your metabolism will increase for a period of time, however your body will require that daily cardio to continue to be efficient. Once you stop, your metabolism takes a nose dive and holds onto fat like a leach. Additionally, once you start to burn all that muscle as fuel, your RMR (resting metabolic rate) takes another hit.
I suggest not going in excess of 45 minutes of MISS for 5 days a week or 20 minutes of HIIT 4 days a week, unless you are being coached by a professional to do more.
6. Cardio Before Lifting
Weight Train Warmed Up, NOT Worn Out
Stepping up to the weight rack to attempt squats right after a 30 minute jog…is it safe to say your performance will suffer? Yes.
When you are trying to perfect your form on a lift, or gain muscle and/or strength, those lifts need to be done before you are fatigued from cardio. Whether it be less weight lifted or poor form, typically a compromise will need to be made. This is especially true with compound lifts, such as squats, deadlifts or benchpress.
What’s more, you will be using up all of your pre-workout meal to energize cardio, which typically will require much less fuel to perform. Use that fresh batch of carbs and protein in your blood stream to fuel your strength training before you plow through all of it on the elliptical.
7. Staying in the “Fat Burning” Zone
It’s All About the Deficit
A lot of people think that the fat burning zone is a magical place where fat just melts off your body. Unfortunately, there is no such place, it all comes down to caloric deficit. The fat burning zone is 60-70% of a persons maximum heart rate.
While it said this heart rate zone uses fat as fuel more than food stores or lean tissue, that’s not necessarily the case. Low intensity training has it’s place. Especially if you are injured or new to endurance type training. This type of cardio just takes much longer to burn a ton of calories with. This type of cardio is what I consider great for warming up and cooling down.
Now, go forth and do your cardio confidently and informed. If you have any questions regarding these common fallacies or you have one of your own to add to the list, please comment below!