Recently a Foxy Bodies client asked me, “How hard should I workout? How do I know if what I’m doing is effective?”
That’s a great question and I realize this can be challenging, especially when you’re working out at home or working out alone. Not to mention all the different messages about cardio you may hear from other fitness gurus or fitness companies.
It can be frustrating wondering if what you’re doing is effective or if it’s going to give you the results you desire, such as that thinner waistline or leaner thighs.
Wouldn’t it be amazing if you were confident that your workouts were effective and fat burning? If you knew all that hard work would lead to the body and results you desire? If so keep reading…
What Others Say
Some will tell you to stop and check your heart rate every 10 or 15 minutes. I say this is a waste of time and not the most effective way to determine how hard you’re really working.
Others will say, “Working slow and steady will burn more fat!”
So ok, maybe it utilizes more fat for energy rather than those carbs, but in the long run you DO NOT burn more overall calories nor do you end up burning off more bodyfat.
Then there are those hard core people that say you should work so hard you vomit or nearly pass out from exhaustion. Well that’s certainly not healthy, nor something you should strive for, unless you want to injure yourself or feel exhausted for the rest of your day.
How Hard You REALLY Should Be Working
Ideally, you’re going to be somewhere in the middle.
If you want to get the most of your workouts, meaning burn the most calories, save the most time, do it in a healthy way, and gain muscle tone and definition, your goal is to challenge yourself.
The goal is to focus on intensity during your workouts.
I want you to sweat and get out of breath. I want that heart pumping!
Let me explain in a little more detail…
What About Weight Training?
If you’re weight training this means moving right from one exercise to the next. Don’t stop in between sets or even between circuits unless you need to.
Why waste time taking a break if you don’t need one?
Or on the other hand, why pace yourself, not working as hard as you could be, so that you can make it to your next break?
Instead, only take breaks as needed and only long enough until you feel ready to give it your all again.
Breaks shouldn’t be at some set specific schedule for some specific length. So whether you need lots of breaks or just a few breaks it doesn’t matter. If that break is for 20 seconds, 30 seconds, or a minute, it doesn’t matter. Only make it as often and as long as necessary.
You’ll naturally increase the intensity and work harder just knowing you can take a break anytime you need to. Additionally, you’ll get through your workout even faster.
So forget structured breaks or sitting on a machine in between sets doing absolutely nothing. This is just a waste of time that’s keeping you in the gym longer than necessary.
Think of it this way: Your goal should be to work hard enough that you NEED a break.
Yes, this means challenging yourself, pushing yourself, and when you get overly winded, take a breather.
So why not give it a try? Select a workout you’ve done in the past and complete it with a different spin. This time make it your goal to work hard enough that you need to take breaks, but only when you need to for only as long as you need to.
The Truth About Cardio Training
Now, I’m guessing you’re also wondering about cardio. Cardio is a little different.
If you’re doing intervals, which I suggest choosing over regular steady state cardio when you can, then you’re going to follow the same plan above.
Work as hard as you can during your “interval” or “sprint” and take a break just as long as needed until you’re ready to push hard again.
See you want to be able to give that interval your all. That’s where you will get the most benefit and the most calorie burn.
On the other hand if you’re plan is to do some steady state cardio, then to get the most out of that workout you’re going to want to pick up the pace.
First, cardio shouldn’t be done for any longer than 30-40 minutes max. Going over this time frame is stressful on the body and can lead to injury or overtraining. And long cardio, especially on a machine, can be SOO boring. Do you really have time for that when there are more effective and efficient ways to get your workout in?
Likely the answer is NO. You’re busy and you have better things to be doing, so don’t waste your time!
The truth is those long, marathon cardio sessions are NOT the most effective way to lose weight AND are not even that great for your health.
If you want to lose more weight and have a more toned and defined body, you’re actually better off sticking to weight training and interval training when you can.
Now I’m not saying you can’t ever do cardio training. That’s not what I’m saying at all.
Cardio is great if you’re trying to build endurance or if you have a particular activity you enjoy. It is also ideal for those days where you don’t want to workout as intensely.
For example, I’ll occasionally get out for an hour long mountain bike ride. I do it because I love it and enjoy it. I do it because I get to spend time with my boyfriend, family, or friends, not because I feel like I HAVE to to get fit or to get leaner.
What I am saying is that cardio shouldn’t be the main focus of your workouts. If anything they should be the last piece of your workouts, if you have the time or if you have an activity you want to enjoy.
So ask yourself. Are you REALLY working hard enough during your workouts? Where can you pick up the pace or push a bit more?
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