Treadmill and elliptical machines, running outdoors, and even dance fitness classes all have their place in any workout regimen. However, doing too much or too little cardio can prevent you from getting the results you want and can even compromise your efforts with other styles of training. Making sure you are hitting a certain level with every cardio routine and making time for rest are critical to your success.
Make sure you’re steering clear of these five mistakes with your cardio workouts:
#1: Doing cardio for more than an hour. If you really challenge your body and focus on your movement, you shouldn’t need to do more than an hour of cardio at a time. Ideally, you want to get it done within 20 to 30 minutes at the right level of intensity. Cardio routines that last longer than an hour won’t help you burn fat and may even cause some muscle loss.
#2: Overtraining. Increasing your cardio workouts in a given week in an effort to burn more calories can backfire – and leave you feeling drained, miserable, or even depressed. Don’t put yourself at risk for overtraining by scheduling cardio workouts every other day or every few days.
#3: Neglecting to stretch. Stretching is critical before any type of intense cardio routine because you need to increase circulation to the muscles and get focused. Skipping the pre-workout and post-workout stretching and warmup routine can increase your risk of injury on the treadmill, stepmill, or other cardio machines and also compromise the benefits of the cardio session.
#4: Forgetting to eat properly before the workout. Even though some people do prefer to do cardio on an empty stomach, you shouldn’t be pushing yourself through extended cardio sessions without some type of pre-workout snack. Your pre-workout meal is your fuel for the workout and needs to be something that your body will burn through easily. Forgetting to eat properly before an intense cardio session can affect your performance and may also cause some muscle loss.
#5: Doing the same routine every week. It’s very easy to get stuck in a routine with cardio workouts because many exercises are so repetitive. Be more mindful about your workouts so that you are always increasing the intensity, challenging your body with intervals – yes, even on the elliptical machine – or trying something completely new that will increase your range of motion. For example, you could try a kickboxing class instead of hitting the treadmill one week. Or, you could go swimming instead of getting your cardio fix from the elliptical machine. Changing things up – even every week – will make you work harder and can make cardio workouts that much more interesting.