Getting back on your exercise program is usually a top priority after the holiday season. However, seizing the motivation to "hit the ground" running always seems challenging. Fitness can only be maintained if it becomes a lifestyle that is incorporated into one's daily life. Everyone knows that cardio is important in the fat burning process. It burns calories and spikes the metabolism.
But the thought of doing it everyday gets boring and redundant and some may even find themselves having the winter blues. It may be time to try something alittle unconventional to get you inspired. With resistance training, there are body part splits and numerous exercises to create variety in a program and change things up.
The same variety can be found in cardio programs and can help prevent chronic injuries that occur because of overuse in certain activities. Trying something new will make you work harder to adjust to the exercise.
You have a better chance of burning more calories, which in turn will help you with the fat burning process. Remember, cardio is not just about running and using cardio machines, it is about participating in ideas that get your heart rate up. Let me provide you with some CARDIOlternatives to enhance your cardio workouts.
If you exercise regularly, incorporating variety into your cardio plan will help you avoid plateaus in your progress. Your body gets conditioned if it does the same exercise over a period of time and loses its effectiveness in burning calories.
In this article, we will explore different modes of cardio. However, changing the duration, frequency, and intensity will also help you avoid plateaus in your results.
- Interval Sprints
- Cardio Circuit Training (CCT)
Most of these programs involve aerobic activity that will target your lower body more effectively than others because it will directly tone your glutes and thighs. And who out there could appreciate toner glutes and thighs!
Before any of these programs, you'll want to start with some basic stretching.
Example Stretching Routine:
- Begin with stretching the neck, then rolling the shoulders.
- Next move your torso from side to side slowly and then stretching out the lats by reaching one arm over your head and leaning to one side at a time.
- For the lower body, move into the squat position and stand up in a slow motion and repeat about ten times.
- Move your body into a lunge stretch with one leg forward and bent and the other stretched straight behind you.
Your goal is to stretch each body part before the start of the exercise to ensure that your body is loose and ready to begin.
If you enjoy running of if you love working fast twitch muscles, this will be a challenging workout! The amount of calories burned varies and depends on the activity and intensity. Sprinting in intervals is a great way to diversify your cardio regimen. Interval sprints incorporates alternating high intensity sprints with a lower intensity recovery for an equal or longer period of time.
The body stays engaged in constant motion. If you are easily bored with long duration cardio, this workout will definitely spice up your cardio routine. This is a great way to challenge your aerobic fitness while burning body fat. In addition, sprinting will tone your quads, glutes and core.
You can run sprints outside on a straight road or track. You can use mailboxes or trees as markers for your intervals. Always begin with a set of jogging to warm up the body. Pick an interval distance that you are comfortable with. It needs to be a distance that will be challenging for you to maintain a sprint. Sprint to the first landmark or marker, and then travel back the distance while resting in a brisk walk to allow your heart rate to come back down. Sprinting is an advanced exercise. It is done at 85% to 100% of your heart rate maximum.
If sprinting is too intense, use speed walking or running to replace it. Just remember to alternate the periods of hard work with low intensity recoveries. Do this for a 20-30 minute session. Remember to use your arms to pump powerfully during your sprint and keep your head up and looking straight.
You should lean forward slightly to keep your center of gravity balanced in the forward direction to help increase speed. Many people do cardio at a set pace for a long period to burn calories. The real secret, especially in sculpting the lower body with cardio is to shoot for intensity not duration.
As you build your speed and endurance with interval sprints, you will feel a great sense of accomplishment. Christ gives us the strength to do all things. Phil 4:13. As you get ready to do your next sprint, and you may feel like you're too out of shape or can barely catch your breath. Breathe deeply and be encouraged that the Lord will provide you with the mental and physical strength to keep your body fit and healthy.
You can also incorporate interval training on a treadmill or other cardio machines. Just alternate a minute of brisk walking with a minute of running or sprinting. Here are two example programs you can follow if you decide to stay indoors and use a treadmill.
Sample Indoor Programs:
- Start with a warm up run and then begin sprinting for 30 seconds.
- Slow down to a run for the next 30 seconds.
- This is one set.
- Repeat this for 10 sets, then slow down to a moderate run for 5 minutes for a longer recovery.
- Then do 10 more sets of sprints and cool down with a brisk walk for the last 5 minutes.
- For beginners, try alternating moderate intensity running for 2 minutes and then slowing down to a brisk walk for 1 minute.
- Repeat this for 10 sets and cool down with a slower walk.
Important Safety Tip:
Running is very effective at shedding and reducing hip size but may be tough on the joints and can cause overuse injuries. This activity is not recommended for very overweight people because of its impact on the joints. Instead, try alternating brisk walking with a slower walk for recovery.
The next workout is great for those who seldom bike and for those who enjoy riding the recumbent bike. Spinning became popular in the late nineties. It is most popular for is it's unique concept of taking a journey during the workout. It promotes a mind/body connection (similar to yoga) that becomes the core to reaching one's fitness levels.
This is important to appreciate spiritually because the Lord is our strength in every way. And if you can have a connection with Him while you are working hard to achieve your physical goals, He will fuel you with the needed energy, motivation and endurance. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus" Phil 4:7.
Achieving this peace in your daily life is something we all strive for. We all have different ways in which we pray to receive this peace. I have experienced the exhilaration of this peace during many spiritual journeys involving exercise.
I always thought that riding a stationary bike was boring but my first spinning class proved a very different experience. It utilized mental training techniques, motivation along with avid cycling techniques to achieve the best workout. Spinning is a serious aerobic workout that won't put as much stress on your joints.
You will also be able to tone those hard to hit areas like the hips, glutes and thighs because those muscles will be targeted during the exercise. You'll be amazed at how much your conditioning improves. A 40 minute program is recommended and the program welcomes all fitness levels.
The spinning bike (ie; Schwinn) is a customized fit, sleek racing bike with fixed gear drive and true cycling componentry. It provides one of the smoothest and safest rides available. Most gyms are now equipped with Schwinn bikes and spinning classes.
A typical spinning class or workout will incorporate intervals in its intensity as well. It is a simulated program using flats and hills as terrains throughout the journey. There are two positions used on the bike; standing and sitting. These basic terrains and riding positions will combine to create a cycling situation on the road for the rider.
The room is usually dark to help provide that mental connection for the exercise. I often use this ambiance to help me connect with the Lord and allow His spirit to fuel my energy.
If you are not being led by a spinning instructor in a class, try using these important tips throughout your program:
- When riding on flats, you want to use little to moderate resistance.
- Resistance is controlled by the knob attached to the handles on the bike.
- Climb hills with increased resistance. Standing up in the seat can give you extra pushing power by adding your bodyweight to the stroke of the pedal. This will be useful when stimulating a steep hill.
- Standing in the flat "zone" simulates running.
- Pedaling at an increases pace for a limited amount of time simulates sprinting.
- Try to keep your pedaling cadence high. This will reduce the amount of force you need to exert.
Do you get a better workout when you're feeling aggressive and strong? Try punching and kicking your way into shape. You've seen it on TV with Taebo, developed and created by Billy Blanks. This is an intense cardio kickboxing workout that motivates you to be strong and feel empowered.
In addition to burning calories, it will promote power, endurance, balance and coordination, not to mention confidence. Taebo and kickboxing involve kicking drills that will target your glutes and thighs in a fun and aggressive way that will keep your mind challenged as you focus on your form.
The upper body and torso will get conditioned from staying tight and twisting into the various kicking and punching motions. It is important to keep the abs contracted and the upper body muscles tight in order to receive the best conditioning. Your stamina and speed should be a focus during the workout. Pay attention to your breathing and your ability to maintain your speed through a set of drills while maintaining good form.
This will develop your cardiovascular endurance. Since you will be kicking with one leg at times, your body will have to work to stabilize and will enhance your core balance. Maintain a good stance to keep your balance throughout the workout.
At your neutral position, you should place your left or right shoulder forward at a 45 degree angle and your hips should be square with your abs tight. Keep your elbows tight at your side with your hands face level at your chin and palms facing each other.
The pace of this exercise needs to be moderately intense to burn the most calories. If you've never done kickboxing before, I recommend that you take a kickboxing class or use the Billy Blanks Taebo to receive proper instruction.
If neither of these options are available to you, try this series of drills for your own kickboxing cardio workout:
Right & Left Hooks - Twist upper body and jab with the arm
You can alternate or do repetitions with the same arm.
Front Jab - Quick punches forward of the body
Also incorporate jumping into the drill.
Upper Cuts - Punch towards the ceiling
Speed Bag - Rolling of the fist
Knee Raises To The Hips - Wth body in slight lean away from knee
Side Kick - Kick parallel to the ground
Alternating Side & Front Kicks
Kickboxing encompasses the same effects as interval training. You'll be doing small bouts of high intensity drills from a combination of the above punches and kicks and then followed by brief moments of recovery. Kickboxing can help release tension and frustration from a tough day.
Sometimes in our Christian walk, we find ourselves in situations where we are quick to anger and feel that we are not setting the example in our responses to others. We must try to remember that we serve as the salt and light of the earth. Matthew 5:13-16. Kickboxing would be a great way to redirect that energy and put it into your body.
Cardio Circuit Training
Are you limited in the time you can devote to your exercise program? This may be the best cardio option for you! Cardio circuit training (CCT) is basically aerobic weight training. Think of it as cardio on the go! The idea is to elevate your heart rate to 60% - 80% of your max heart rate depending on your goals. If your goal is to burn fat, strive for 60% max, if your goal is fitness, shoot for 80% max.
How should you design your own CCT workout that will be custom fit to your gym, home or resources? Begin picking one exercise for each major body part zone. There are the upper, middle (core) and lower zones. Perform each exercise for a period of time (ie. One minute each) and use light weights that bring you near failure towards the end of the set. Move to the next exercise with little to no rest. Rest about 30-60 seconds btw sets.
Go through this cycle of exercises about 8 - 10 cycles. You can change up your exercises in each giant set to keep things interesting and challenging.
Here is a list of recommend exercises for each zone:
Sample Workout Program
Pushups - View Exercise
Pushups are great for developing the muscles of the chest, triceps and shoulders. For beginners, make sure your hands are positioned wider than your shoulders, letting your elbows flare outward on the descent. I suggest never going to failure when doing pushups in this workout.
Keep your heart rate up, but don't exhaust all your energy in the first set. The same goes for the other exercises. If you can do a maximum of 40 pushups in one setting, limit yourself to 25-30 each time, just enough to give your muscles a nice pump.
Dips - View Exercise
These work the triceps and chest. Place your hands on the edge of a bench and place your legs (bent) on the floor. Dip your body down until your elbows make a 90-degree angle and drive back up.
Forward Crunches - View Exercise
These work primarily the upper and middle abs. They can be performed with the feet on the ground or in the air. Keep the knees bent to remove stress on the lower back and tilt the pelvic upward. Crunch slowly by bringing your upper body up while keeping stress on the lower back. Avoid pulling the neck toward the chest when crunching.
Bent Knee Leg Lifts - View Exercise
These work the lower abs. Lie flat on the ground, placing the hands beside the lower back. Bend the knees in a 90-degree angle, and crunch by bringing the knees toward the chest while keeping your upper back flat on the floor.
These exercises are self-explanatory. Choose an exercise and execute it in cycles of 1 minute each before moving to the next exercise.
* Shown with barbell.
Cardio circuit training is fun and a great way to measure your fitness level. Over several
weeks of incorporating CCT into your cardio plan, you should see improvement in your
cardiovascular fitness, endurance and some overall body fat loss!
Now that you have some ideas for CARDIOlternatives, go forth and start doing some cardio! With these new workout ideas, you should be motivated and excited to get started! Remember, the holiday season is meant to be enjoyed. Be encouraged to keep
balance in your life by making fitness a part of your lifestyle and not a "Quick Fix" plan.
The most important aspect of a balanced life is the gift of having a relationship with Christ. The Lord wants us to have a continuous relationship with Him. He wants more than to just be there during the hard times. He wants to be the foundation of our lives. When that happens, our life will truly be blessed. "I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life" John 8:12.
90-degree angle and drive back up.
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