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Page 2 - Making the Most of the Machines
As you can see, all cardio machines have their good and bad points. They all emphasize different
muscles - a stationary bike engages one set of muscles a certain way while a treadmill utilizes others.
To avoid overtraining, and to keep boredom at bay, it's best, really, to change up the machines you
are using. Do a stair climber one day, a treadmill the next. The third day, give that rowing machine a
try. On some days, skip the machines completely and go walking, running or cycling out of doors. Variety
is the key to overall fitness. Here are some other tips on getting the most out of your cardiovascular
(Article continued below.)
- Change up the intensity of your workouts
Just as doing the same machine day in and day out will decrease the effectiveness of your workout,
so will using the same intensity all the time. Pump up the incline on that treadmill, increase the
resistance on that elliptical, try the "Hill" program on the stair climber. Was yesterday's workout a
killer? Then take it easy today. One great way to change up your routine, and something you should do
periodically if you are an experienced exerciser, is practice interval training - work out hard, at
the high end of your target heart rate for anywhere from 30 seconds to two minutes (whatever it takes
to wear you out), then recover for a couple more minutes by backing off on the speed and/or resistance -
then repeat for half an hour or 45 minutes (remember to warm up and cool down!). This really kicks your
metabolism into high gear.
- Ignore the "calories burned" function
Let's get it straight once and for all - no cardio machine can accurately tell you how many calories
you have burned. At the most, the computers inside these machines ask for your weight, but they don't
ask for your height, your fitness condition, the way your weight is distributed, or whether you've eaten
breakfast or dinner yet - all this can effect the amount of calories you are burning while working out
on any given machine. Just work out to the best of your ability and know that you are burning the amount
of calories you need to burn. If you are sweaty when you're done and you feel tired but good, you have
burned enough calories, period.
- Don't ignore the programs
One way to vary your routines when it comes to cardio machines is to punch in one of the preset
programs that most of them have. There are hill programs, interval programs, "fat burning" programs,
race pace programs and even programs where they don't tell you what's coming next. You can also vary
your own workout on the spot with the help of the manual button - crank up the intensity if you want!
Make your own hill program! Make up a never-before seen program and give it your own name - be creative!
- Remember - there are other forms of exercise out there!
Exercise is about much more than just cardio. Cardio is great for your heart, lungs and endurance,
but it does not keep you strong - that's what resistance training does. Cardio also does nothing for
flexibility or core strength, so you should look into Yoga, Pilates or, at the very least, a good
stretching program. In addition you should have fun with exercise - playtime can be a workout. If
you're the sporty type, get together with friends to shoot some hoops or play a game of volleyball.
If you're into dance, pick a style that you enjoy and hit the dance floor, or try some aerobics classes.
Your body has infinite ways of moving; your exercise routine should be equally infinite.
- If all else fails, bring a magazine
True, you should focus on your workout but sometimes you're just bored out of your skull, or you're
short on time and you have a choice between reading the paper or an interesting magazine article and
working out. Although it's not optimal, it's okay to combine the two. Toss the paper or the magazine
on the Stairmaster or the bike and go for it. Many gyms also have televisions to relieve the tedium.
If you find you're constantly bored, though, you really should be trying interval training, or playing
around with the programs on the machine, or switching over to a different machine for a while - or
trying other ways to get your cardio exercise. It bears repeating - your exercise routine should be
infinite, and it should keep you interested.
So what's the best cardio machine? All of them, so grab one and go!
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