A well-rounded fitness routine should consist of resistance training, proper nutrition, and supplemental cardio. Learning how to effectively incorporate cardio into your gym routine is an important step on the road to achieving your goals.
However, there are so many different beliefs about cardio, it can be an overwhelming amount of information to sort through.
How do you choose the cardio that is best for you, or know how much is too much cardio?
We’ve broken down a few of the do’s and don’ts when it comes to cardio to help you navigate through the chaos.
Do: Find Cardio Methods You Enjoy
Just because the latest fitness magazine recommends the stair master as the best butt blasting cardio doesn’t mean you have to hop on the nearest one and start stepping. Even though all of your friends are taking spin class at 7am every morning, that doesn’t mean you need to reserve a bike too.
Not everyone will enjoy the same types of cardio, or exercise in general, so it’s best to choose an exercise routine that works for you.
If you start a workout program that you don’t genuinely enjoy, you’ll find it much harder to commit. When you look forward to your workout, you can get excited about every session.
If you love to dance, try a zumba class. If you find running peaceful, the treadmill may be right for you.
There are countless ways to cardio, so don’t feel trapped in the latest trend, but rather find what you enjoy and you’ll be happy to keep it up!
Don’t: Think Running Is Your Only Option
There are tons of cardio methods, yet many people see running as their only or best option. Becoming a marathon runner is an admirable goal, but if you’re not truly interested in running, know that it’s not the only way to get in shape.
In fact, running long distances can actually hinder muscle building goals. Although running burns a lot of calories, so do plenty of other cardio routines.
Walking on an incline is equally as effective, and significantly easier on your joints. Kettlebell workouts combine weights and cardio to provide a high intensity, muscle-building fat-burning workout all in one. You can also push a weighted sled, flip a tire, sprint up a hill, row, the list goes on and on.
If you love running, run on, but if you’re simply doing it for fitness benefits, try to explore other cardio options until you find one you can truly fall in love with.
Do: Use Cardio As a Fat Loss Tool
Incorporating cardio more frequently into your training routine can help you to shed unwanted fat without dropping calories too low or too quickly.
By increasing your cardio frequency, you can increase your daily calorie expenditure and keep your fat loss moving. An extra 20-30 minutes 3 days a week can really add up and make a difference in achieving your goals!
Don’t: Overdo It
Relying on cardio for fat loss, or spending countless hours each day slaving away on a treadmill can actually do more harm than good.
Over exercising can cause muscle breakdown and excess fatigue. Muscles and strength are built with weights, not on the elliptical. Finding a balance between resistance training, proper nutrition, and supplemental cardio is important for achieving goals.
Do: Ease Into It and Recover Properly
If you’re new to the gym, take your time building up endurance and strength. Transitioning from an occasional light stroll to running miles on the treadmill is a process, and jumping up your workout intensity too quickly can result in soreness, or even injury.
You don’t need to leave the gym crawling after your first workout, but rather take time to stretch, warm-up, and ease into a challenging, yet manageable, cardio session.
Also, make sure you rest and recover after every gym visit. Stretching after an intense bout of cardio and giving your body a day or two to rest afterwards is a necessary step in progressing.
Don’t: Forget To Weight Train
Building a strong, sculpted, and healthy body also requires resistance training. Utilizing weights in their various forms (free weights, barbells, machines, cables) allows you to challenge your body, build muscle, burn fat, and even boost your metabolism.
Without a solid base of muscle, it can be difficult to achieve the “toned” or defined look that many people seek.
Resistance training has been shown to increase metabolic rate post-workout, meaning that your body will continue to burn calories hours after your training session ends! Enjoy a balance of weight training and cardiovascular exercise, and you will be on your way to achieving your goals.