Better Cardio Secrets
Cardio workouts are deceptively simple. If you want to jog, all you need to do is put on a pair of running shoes and head out. It's easy. But like any form of exercise, there are subtle differences between what a beginner does and an experienced athlete.
Here are a few of the training tips I teach my clients that can help make your workouts safer and more effective. If you're engaged in a cardio program, consider incorporating these techniques into your next workout.
START - Don't lean forward; it won't increase your speed. Don't lean back; it can strain your back. Stand up straight without arching your back. Relax your jaw to release tension in your neck. Just before you start walking, shrug your shoulders once to relax them. When you walk, the heel of your foot should touch the ground first and you should roll your weight forward.
PRO HINT - Every step you take, your arms swing forward. If your arms are straight, they have to swing further and can slow down your pace. If you want to walk faster, keep your elbows bent. Punch your arms forward and back instead of across your body for a more intense cardio experience.
START - You should take in as much air as possible, so practice something called "belly breathing." With each breath you take, push out your stomach while pushing down and out with your diaphragm. Your goal is to have your lungs expand as much as possible to take in the maximum amount of oxygen. Breathing this way also helps some people avoid "side stitches."
PRO HINT - To run further, try the "run/walk" method. Run for a mile, then walk for a minute. The break will give you time to evaluate how your body feels and catch potential injuries early. Run/walk can help you break through training barriers.
START - Check your seat positioning. You have to adjust the horizontal and angular positions. The horizontal should be set so that at the bottom of every stroke, the front of your kneecap is directly above the pedal axle. The seat angle should begin level, then adjust it until you feel like the bones in your rear provide the most support. You shouldn't feel like the seat is pushing you forward or back.
PRO HINT - Keep your heels down, don't point your toes. You want your glutes, calves and hamstrings to do the work, not your quadriceps.
START - Don't slouch. Stand up straight with your hands at your sides or resting lightly on the handrails. Don't lean on the handrails or you risk straining your shoulders. If you get so tired you can't go on without leaning, slow the machine down until you catch your breath and you can resume using proper form.
PRO HINT - Keep your feet flat to work your entire leg, don't stand on your toes, or you're primarily working your calves.
START - Stand up straight and tighten your abs to reduce strain on your lower back. To avoid shoulder strain, keep your elbows in at your sides, pointing straight back.
PRO HINT - Train in reverse. One of the big advantages of an Elliptical is that you can go backward without straining your head and neck to see what's coming up behind you. When you train moving forward, you're working your hip flexors and quadriceps. Moving backward, you're training your glutes and hamstrings.
What are you waiting for? Get up and sweat a little!
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