Plodding away on the treadmill can be an uninspiring experience for many people at the best of times. And although maintaining the same steady pace will definitely help your endurance fitness, it won’t necessarily burn the calories you want and this is where interval training comes in. The secret of success lies in alternating periods of effort on the treadmill, exercise bike, elliptical machine or whatever your preferred exercise. High intensity periods of exercise are followed by low intensity recovery segments in a repeated pattern, which can be structured or improvised, which will increase fat and calorie burning. A study at the University of Colorado found that those participants who incorporated intervals into their cycling on an exercise bike, burned 200 calories more than those who didn’t. Plus it breaks up the monotony of your workout, as well as keeping your muscles constantly on their toes.
Turn up the resistance
If you’re having one of ‘those’ days and you feel a little lethargic, it’s so tempting to turn down the resistance on the exercise bike or keep the treadmill on the flat rather than an incline. The trouble is you know it isn’t as effective. Just by adding a gear or two on your bike in the spinning class, adding a little extra weight to those dumbbells in the gym, or by cranking up the treadmill incline, you will enhance your workout and make it more efficient in terms of calorie burn.
A lot of people shy away from weight training because they worry they will bulk up or add too much muscle mass. But weight training actually does the opposite. It burns fat and calories for fun during and after your workout, because the additional muscle you build boosts your metabolism (so you continue to burn calories after your session). If you are thinking of trying weights, then have a look at the kettlebell. It offers a full body movement workout which helps strengthen all the major muscle groups, increases flexibility and injury prevention and offers major calorie burning potential. Indeed according to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), people who use it burned around 20 calories a minute which equates to 1200 calories an hour. Now that is not be sniffed at.
Pump up the volume
Now this is an intriguing piece of research, which found that music can make you work harder, go faster and go on for longer. A study conducted at London’s Brunel University found that a workout done in the company of your favourite fitness tunes, can help you increase the length of your workout by up to 20 per cent. The research concluded that the right music can make you feel euphoric, less tired, keep pace with the rhythm and enjoy your exercise more. So go on. Pop on that iPod and play some Celine Dion hits…
Go faster outdoors
Adding a little momentum to your workout can make the world of difference. For instance if you pump your arms a little more when you walk or run it can add another 15 per cent in terms of calories burned. And if you swap the gym for the great outdoors researchers have found that you can add an extra 10 per cent in terms of effectiveness of the workout, because your body has to accommodate the effects of wind and uneven terrain. You see. All that fresh air really does make a difference.
High intensity interval workout (HIIT) Tabata style
This is slightly different to interval training in that the burst of activity is extremely intense and very short. In fact the workout is only four minutes, yes four minutes long. But if it’s done properly, ideally four times a week, it’s reportedly the equivalent of an hour of jogging and cycling. It was devised by Professor Izumi Tabata and the idea is to crank up your heart rate to its absolute maximum with a series of exercises and intense activity for four minutes. It hurts a lot, but some people swear by it and its benefits.
Find a workout buddy
Working out with someone who is faster, stronger, leaner and meaner than you will help you find your inner fitness tiger. There is little doubt that the competitive juices begin to flow freely when you’re confronted by an opponent rather than a machine. So phone a friend and see your performances improve and your calorie burn go through the roof.