As the cold weather hits and the season changes, one of the biggest shifts in behavior I see in the gym is a decline in cardio activity and an increase in weight.
Believe me, I understand. Its hard to drag yourself to the gym to do 30 minutes of cardio on a cold snowy day when all you want is to be nestled up with a nice big blanket surrounded by your favorite holiday comfort foods like chocolate chip cookies and peppermint mochas.
To ensure you don’t fall into the winter doldrums and keep the weight off for the holidays, here are some easy tips on keeping your cardio exciting during the holiday season.
Keep moving. While this may seem like a very simple tip, it proves to be very effective for losing weight. Recent studies have found that the more you move during non-exercise physical activity the more calories you can burn in a day. So what’s non-exercise physical activity? Try dancing while putting away the dishes or folding laundry. When on a work conference call or talking to a friend on your cell phone, stay standing or walk around the room. When leaving or entering your apartment building opt for taking the stairs instead of the elevator.
Do intervals. Intervals are a fantastic way to drop weight in a short amount of time. According to the “Journal of Obesity,” doing 90 minutes of interval training (interspersing various activities with rest periods) a week is the equivalent of doing five hours of cardio at the same speed and time (static cardio). Therefore, you should try doing 20-25 minutes of interval training four days out of the week. What’s even better is that almost all cardio machines come with the interval training option built in. All you have to do is find the option on the machine, set it and go.
Use your body weight. Who says you need a cardio machine to have a great cardio workout? Using your own body weight is one of the best, if not the best tool you have in the toolbox for losing weight. Why? When you do exercises that involve your body weight, you and end up engaging a variety of different muscle groups and planes of movement, which in turn makes your body have to think more and burn more calories at the same time. I love a body weight workout I created called the “J” workout. It includes exercises with word “jump” in. I do four sets of each of the following exercises at one minute per exercise with no breaks in between — jumping jacks, jump rope, split jumps and box jumps.
Change your cardio machine. One of the worse patterns that I see people fall into at the gym is doing the same cardio machine for the same amount of time at the same speed every day. After about three or four weeks, your body’s muscle memory pattern adapts to what you are doing and in turn, you burn less calories and fat. Therefore, you should try doing a different cardio machine every day for a week. For instance, I did the stair master, elliptical, row machine, treadmill, ski urg and stationary bike last week. Try them all on different days.
Slow and steady wins the race. This a great bit of advice for anyone who is building up to do a 5K or half marathon over the winter months. Increase both your time and speed in small increments everyday for 30 days. For example, try starting at a base speed of 4.5 and a time of 15 minutes. The next day increase to a speed of 5 and a time 16 minutes. Everyday increase the speed by .5 and the time by one minute. This approach will keep you focused and fit during the winter months.