They think of mile after mile on a treadmill, while staring at that annoying smudge on the mirror. They think of endlessly running towards that smudge while waiting for the fan to swing back their way.
Cardio is short for cardiovascular exercise… to exercise the cardiovascular system… so that’s any exercise that gets your heart pumping… so that’s anything, right?
Well, yes, that is right, but to most people, cardio is all about burning fat. The trick to burning fat isn’t just raising the heart rate, it is to raise it consistently and to the correct degree. To understand this, we need to take a quick chemistry lesson.
The three main types of energy molecules (macronutrients) the body can use are carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.
Proteins are only generally used for energy as a last resort. The body’s preferred energy substrate, carbohydrates, are just made up of chains of their constituent parts, sugars. These parts can be cleaved off and used as almost instant energy. Fats, however, are a far more complex molecule, requiring more lengthy chemical processes before being processed as energy. So, if you are exercising at too high an intensity level, your body simply won’t have time to use these fats. Instead they turn to stored glucose in the muscles and liver. The optimal exercise intensity to burn fat is a moderate one. Low enough to allow body fat to be processed, but high enough to seriously up the number of calories burned.
It is believed that fat is mainly burned at exercise intensities between 40 and 70% of your maximum heart rate, should be between 55 and 65%. The best way to maintain this intensity is by using a heart rate monitor. You can set most monitors to bleep when you stray from your target range, helping to hone your fat burning workout. A useful type of heart rate monitor to use is a wristwatch type, which allows you to monitor your intensity whatever the activity. If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, 55-65% of your maximum heart rate doesn’t feel that hard. You should expect to be breaking a sweat, but certainly not getting out of puff.
The answer: One that is easy to regulate and uses the most muscle groups.
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Here is a list of 9 great cardio ideas that don’t involve hours of mind-numbing treadmill torture…
Swimming is an excellent form of cardio, it uses every skeletal muscle in the body without any impact on the joints. In fact, if you’re a strong swimmer, it might just be the ultimate form of cardiovascular exercise. However, if you swim like a drunken giraffe, you might want to avoid it as it’s highly unlikely you will maintain the correct intensity.
Doing lengths using different strokes can really mix up the all body workout you get from swimming while making it more fun. Alternatively, take a dip in a sea, lake or river, if you have one nearby.
Kayaking is another activity that uses most muscles of the body. Like swimming, you need water, but this time you get to take in the views. Kayaking can take you to some beautiful places, many you simply can’t reach by any other means. Once you’ve mastered the technique (it doesn’t take long), you’re off. Remember to stop and stretch out now and then to avoid lactate build up. Kayaking can be deceptively tiring.
Cycling is probably the easiest form of cardio to regulate. If you fall below your target heart rate, you just up the speed. Similarly, if you find yourself getting out of breath, you can change gear and sit up a little. Cycling can also take you to some fantastic scenery. The U/S. is packed with great mountain bike trails. Get on your bike, get some fresh air, and burn that fat.
Find a nice, flat route and keep your heart rate steady if you want to toast that fat. Alternatively, throw in some hills to help push your anaerobic threshold back and improve lactate clearance.
And spinning clubs have become extremely popular over the last decade or so. There will almost certainly be a club near you.
If there is one down point to spending hours and hours squatting and deadlifting in the gym, it is that it trains your body to be very one dimensional. Performing all of those linear movements can lead to your body forgetting what it’s like to move sideways!
Racket sports are a great way to get a big cardio workout while getting your body moving in all directions. Sports like tennis can improve balance and coordination as they get the blood pumping.
If you’re not used to racket sports, take it easy the first few time you play, you might be a little sore in places you forgot existed!
World class rowers are perhaps the ultimate athletes. They possess huge aerobic capacities, massive amounts of strength, endurance, and power, and can stay in the red for insane periods of time. That’s because rowing uses the entire body. It is also an easily regulated activity.
If you don’t have access to the real thing, you can always use the rowing machines in the gym. Modern rowing machines give you everything from your heart rate to your power output. Taking Sheer Strength Labs Sheer Alpha Testosterone Booster is a smart way to shed those extra pounds, while gaining muscle. Testosterone is a potent anabolic hormone that causes the body to gain muscle and strength while burning body fat.
Take one look at just about any professional boxer and you will see a physique honed to perfection. That is achieved through hours and hours of cardio in the boxing gym, as well as many miles out on the roads. Don’t be put off boxing if you’re not a natural fighter, boxing training is far more than that. Most sessions at the boxing gym start off with some circuits to warm up. A bell might sound every minute or two telling you to move to the next station. A typical circuit might move through… skipping… heavy bag punching… sit ups… then speedball punching.
If this still doesn’t sound great to you, why not just grab a skipping rope. Skipping provides an excellent cardio workout while improving balance, coordination, and agility.
If you hate running on a treadmill, call your mates and do some cardio circuits together in the gym. Stations could include: Treadmill (sorry), rowing machine, cross trainer, stationary bike, crunches, step-ups/step-master… use your imagination…
Often overlooked, a good, brisk walk will put you in the perfect heart rate zone for fat burning. You don’t need any fancy equipment, you can do it virtually anywhere, and it’s a great way to unwind.
If you work a couple miles from home, why not walk it?
That’s half an hour of brisk cardio, and you don’t have to contend with the rush hour traffic right before your stressful day.
Alternatively, you can do intervals of jogging and walking. Maybe even throw in the odd sprint.
Yep, sex. The oldest form of exercise going. Skip wearing your heart rate monitor to bed, but sex is a great workout. Sex also eases stress, helps you sleep, boosts your immune system, and raises testosterone levels. Now that sounds a lot better than the treadmill, eh?!
So, there you go, use your imagination and get moving. Cardio doesn’t have to be boring, and it doesn’t have to be repetitive. Just remember if you’re trying to burn fat, keep the intensity moderate.
If you struggle with energy levels and motivation, try using Sheer Strength Labs Pre-Workout Powder before your cardio sessions. This excellent pre-workout supplement is jammed full of natural ingredients designed to give you a massive energy boost and improve blood flow to your muscles giving you a more effective workout.
Jonathan Warren is a national level physique competitor and personal trainer with multiple certifications including NASM, NCCPT, and IKFF. His specializations include mobility training and corrective exercise as well as contest preparation.
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