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If You Hate Exercise, This Will Probably Change Your Mind

Warning: Reading this article may make you start exercising. If you really hate exercise, then you should not risk reading further. If you do hate it, but wish you didn’t, then read on. You may soon feel satisfied with yourself for actually taking care of your body, rather than feeling guilty for not exercising!

Here’s how to tackle each one of your exercise excuses, get into action, and give your body the attention it craves.

1. “I need to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day to get results.”

Most of us have a number that we think we should “hit” in order to exercise “enough.” For some people, this is the daily recommended minimum of 30 minutes. For others, it’s 45 minutes of weight-training plus another 45 minutes of cardio.

I’m not going to put up a fight with your number here. What I am going to do is challenge your idea of starting with that number right away. You see, even though 30 minutes a day might not seem like a lot, 30 minutes a day for the next 5 years is actually too much for your habitual brain to process.

So yes, everyone can do 30 minutes of daily exercise for one week. But how many people can do that for the next 5 years?

Exactly. Starting small–like really small, maybe 5 minutes or less–has the advantage of bypassing your brain’s fight-or-flight response, the mechanism that make you sabotage yourself when you are trying to do something that seems “big” for too long.

This way, instead of mindlessly starting with an exercise program, you focus on building the habit first, and then once you are exercising a little bit every day, you are ready to expand how much exercise you do.

2. “I don’t want to have to force myself to do it.”

If you have to force yourself to do it, then there is a 90% chance that you are doing it wrong and you will never stick to exercise.

“Buuuut,”you might say, “I have friends who have made that happen.”

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Yes, some people are motivated by challenges and others pushing them. Others hate it.

If you are one of the people who hate it, stop trying to change yourself. And of course, stop treating yourself as if you were one of those people who are motivated by challenges and being pushed. The more you use this approach on yourself, the more you’ll hate exercise and of course, the more you won’t do it!

Instead, change the way you approach exercise. Stop falling into what I call the “Happiness Paradox Trap.” Instead of starting with what you think you “should do,” start with what feels good.

This video from Exercise Bliss, a 10-week course that helps you make exercise a daily ritual, shows you what to do:

3. “I’m not motivated enough.”

We think that motivation is the answer to sticking to exercise. If only we wanted it enough, then we would make it happen.

However, that is not true. Motivation is always there. If you feel you wish you exercised more, then you are motivated to exercise. If you are not doing it, it’s not because you are not motivated. It’s because something stops you.

It might be the activated fight-or-flight response we talked about in #1. For example, when you feel that you have too much to do, the fight-or-flight response kicks in, and you do nothing. Does this ring a bell?

People who have already made exercise a daily ritual, don’t depend on boosting their motivation to get off the couch and exercise. They just do it, naturally, without debating it with themselves, desperately trying to get themselves into action.

Again, motivation is not the real issue here. It’s something else that holds you back. Maybe you think you need to devote 1 hour and you don’t know how to do that. Or, maybe you think you need to suffer to get results. Whatever the real reason is, find it. Only then will you be able to figure out a way to remove the obstacle that is on your way.

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4. “I don’t need exercise. I only want to lose weight.”

Many people just care about their weight, nothing else. Yet, our bodies are naturally wired to feel good when we move. Here is a quick list of the benefits of exercise:

  • Decreases the risk of various diseases and bad health conditions, like high cholesterol, diabetes, stroke, certain types of cancer, arthritis, cardiovascular diseases.
  • Increases longevity. According to a Taiwanese study, just 15 minutes of daily exercise prolong life by three years. Not bad, huh?
  • Improves mood. Exercise does not just help depressed people, it helps everyone. A quick workout or walk stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed.
  • Increases your energy levels. Regular physical activity boosts your endurance, and helps your heart and lungs work more efficiently. And yes, that means more energy available for you. It seems that if you feel “too tired” to exercise, then you must exercise!
  • Improves sleep. Yes, regular physical activity can help you sleep better and fall asleep more easily, as long as you don’t exercise a couple of hours prior to bedtime.
  • Improves sex life. Erectile dysfunction? Lack of libido? Just lack of energy? Exercise may help with all of that.
  • Helps you better control your weight. Exercise helps you burn calories, plus you build muscle that generally burns more calories than fat. Exercise is a great add-on to a diet, or weight maintenance plan.
  • Gets you better lab results, even if you are fat. Did you know that an obese person who is fit, i.e., exercises regularly, will show better lab results than a thin person who never exercises? That’s right. The weight does matter. But fitness matters even more.

Do you still think that exercise won’t help you?

5. “I need ‘all my ducks in a row’ before I start thinking about exercise.”

Maybe you are currently busy. Or, you are planning a trip next week. Or, your child just got sick. Shouldn’t you just wait until you can give exercise 100% of your attention?

This rationale once again sounds plausible, but just like the “I don’t have time” excuse, is it really true? Is not starting because you are not “ready,” the best thing for you right now? Is neglecting yourself and your body for a few more weeks/months/years a good strategy?

Finally, how many months or years will you spend before you get “all your ducks in a row?”

6. “I find exercise boring.”

I feel for you. Sometimes I find it boring too. Especially when I attend fitness classes that last for an hour or an hour and a half. Yet, is really moving your body for 5-10 minutes boring?

I could go on and say to find something that you actually like. Yet I know that for most people, exercise itself is rarely the issue. Having to do it for “too long” is the issue.

That’s why I said that if 30 minutes are boring, try 5 or 10.

Now if this idea of starting small stresses you out, let me remind you the wisdom of tip #1–the fact that you may want to be exercising one hour daily, doesn’t mean you have to start from one hour right away! You can start small, and as you feel more and more comfortable build your way up!

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7. “I have negative past experiences.”

I understand that you came last at the sprint race when you were at school. I understand that you may feel embarrassed when you attend fitness classes. Luckily, your past does not need to define your future.

A client of mine wanted to start jogging. She started by walking around the neighborhood. Yet, she found out she felt really uncomfortable feeling that her neighbors were watching her.

She accepted that, and worked her way around it. Instead of walking around her own block, she walked around the block next to her own block. Ta-da! Problem solved. A few months later she was already jogging 2 miles a couple of time a week.

8. “I dislike the whole package of exercise, but not exercise itself.”

If you think you need to exercise for an hour, take a shower, and drive to the gym and back, then you have two hours gone, just like that.

You might like moving your body, but you certainly don’t like having to spend all this time working out! Who could blame you?

Luckily, exercise that gets you results doesn’t have to take all this time and scheduling brainpower.

1. Do something that takes less time – e.g., exercise at home.

2. Automate. For example, if you go to the gym after work, make sure your gym is bag is ready from the day before, so you don’t have to deal with that as well during your busy morning.

9. “I don’t have enough time to exercise.”

I love this one. Even though we know people busier than us, who actually exercise, we keep saying “we are busy.”

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Have you ever thought that being “busy” is actually a lie? If there are busier people than you who make it happen, then so could you. Yet even though we acknowledge that, we still believe that yes, “we are too busy to exercise”.

What is even better is that the people around us also believe us. You see, they too use the “I don’t have time” excuse. Maybe not for exercise. They may do with cleaning, de-cluttering, or something else. If they spoil it for you, then you will be able to spoil it for them.

So admit that time is not an issue. It’s probably something else. Maybe you don’t like it. Maybe you are afraid you’ll have to give up something else in favor of exercise. Whatever the real reason, you need to find it if you want to give your body a chance to thrive!:)

10. “I have so much to do, and exercise will have to take time from things I don’t want to give up.”

Now you might indeed be worried that exercise will take too much of your time. Time that you are not sure you should “sacrifice” in order to take care of your body.

Well, here is what seasoned author Susan Miller of Astrology Zone said about this:

And before I go, let me tell you this.

You are not helpless. If not taking care of your body makes you feel guilty, then know that you can change that. You can become one of those people who exercise regularly and like it. There’s even a course that teaches that.

I believe in you.

Now make a strategic exercise plan and remember: you don’t have to start with something big. Instead start with what feels good. That’s the best recipe for success!

mindbodygreen

I failed to achieve my six-pack abs AGAIN this summer. But maybe because I didn’t really think about about how my stomach looked until I was already at the beach! Why did I suddenly have this extra blob of fat hanging over my board-shorts?

I’m 37 years-old and for most of my life I’ve been genetically blessed in such a way that I could eat whatever I want. I did little to no exercise and somehow managed to still look lean. I was that annoying person who slathered whipped cream over his bowl of frosted flakes every morning and never gained an ounce. As a result, I never developed good fitness habits.

I hate exercising and I never got into sports. I saw myself as a musician, an intellectual and a meditator — certainly not a jock or a gym rat. But over the last few years, it’s become obvious to me that I need to change my assumptions and behaviors about fitness.

There is no contradiction between being a smart, spiritually-attuned, creative person and being fit. I’ve probably been short-changing myself by having such a bad attitude towards fitness, but I’m getting better.

Here is my daily checklist to get over biases and procrastination about fitness and start moving your body:

1. Do 10 super-lousy pushups with really bad form right now.

Exercise experts are cringing, but hear me out.

The trick to changing a habit is to just get started. You can’t let perfection be your #1 enemy! So if you are insecure that you can’t do a proper pushup, try lowering to your knees first while you build up arm strength. If your arms are weak or your shoulders are sore, try 10 squats or 10 situps instead. Don’t worry about doing them poorly, because no one is watching. Go ahead, do it now. I’ll wait.

2. Do the same set of exercises tomorrow that you did today.

If you want to change your life, you only need to change ONE thing — it’s that simple. The catch is that you need to repeat that one thing each and every day for lasting change.

You might be wondering, isn’t there some sort of complex formula for exercising the upper and lower body on alternate days? Don’t I need to drink a special blend of creatine and amino acids within thirty minutes of finishing exercise?

Let’s worry about that formula later. For now, we just have to begin to teach ourselves to love this hateful activity.

3. Embrace the idea of doing a little bit and then building on that success.

We all know that New Year’s resolutions hardly ever work. So if you would rather make a sustainable change in your life, start small and work up to the big change later. If you start doing ten lousy pushups every day, then by next January, you might actually be ready to do more and stick with it in the long run.

4. Let go of how you want to look and focus on how you want to move and feel.

One aspect of the fitness world that I always find disheartening is the obsession with looking inhumanly perfect, or like some idealised hot celebrity.

Try asking yourself instead: How would I like to move, play and have fun?

I’d like to be able to dance for hours, do awesome handstands, have great sex without getting tired, surf big waves and have more energy to play with my kids. So I’m pretty sure that with consistent exercise I can achieve all of these things! In the end it’s less likely that I’ll look like Chris Hemsworth when I take my shirt off, but ultimately, I’m okay with that.

5. Move for your body, not someone else’s body.

This is the big lesson I learned from Michael Taylor. I have long lanky arms, and double-jointed elbows and knees that sometimes act up when I run long distances. There is no such thing as perfect form and you should learn and become aware of your own body’s range of movement, flexibility and strength, and move with ease. This is also a great way to avoid injury.

6. Eat more vegetables!

There is so much controversy about the right diet for optimum health and fitness and it seems like the rules are constantly changing. So I’ve broken each diet down for you to make it easy:

Low carb: Don’t eat sugar or bread and eat more vegetables.

Paleo: Eat tons of meat, don’t eat grains and eat more vegetables.

Calorie counting: Don’t eat too much crap and eat more vegetables.

Mediterranean: Eat more vegetables, olive oil and occasionally fish

Macrobiotic: Eat more vegetables and grains, avoiding animal products and processed foods.

Ayurveda: Eat more vegetables in accordance to your Dosha.

Vegan: Eat more vegetables and then even more vegetables.

I happen to know really healthy and fit people who follow ALL of these diets, based on what works best for them. The truth is that they are all variants of the “eat more vegetables” diet, which in my opinion, is the only diet that has ever been proven to really work.

7. Once you start to feel good doing minimal exercise, expand on that.

It turns out that some of these fitness experts actually know what they’re talking about. Who knew? If you want a great place to start I recommend Krista Stryker’s app “12-Minute Athlete” for doing high-intensity impact training (HIIT).

There are many workouts that are scientifically proven to be super effective that can only take 12 minutes or less! I still hate doing them but I’m beginning to fall in love with the feeling I have afterwards.

That’s it for now, folks. I’ll see you in the spandex aisle!

How to Finally Start Working Out (Even If You Hate It)

Hating exercise isn’t the same as being lazy. Exercise motivation is a complicated subject, but if getting off the couch is the hardest part for you, we’ve got you covered. Here’s how to finally start working out, no matter how much you might hate it.

There is actually evidence to suggest that your innate enjoyment from exercise may be determined by your genes. Relatively recent research from The Journal of Physiology selectively bred mice based on their predisposition to exercise. After a few generations of breeding (or shall we say inbreeding like Lannisters), brain activity showed that one group of mice found exercise to be rewarding—and thus voluntarily exercised more—while the other group did not.

But of course, people aren’t mice—Peter Pettigrew aside. There plenty of reasons exercise may bore you. Still, it’s hard to discount the fact that genetics play a role. For the unlucky individuals in this pool, this can quickly spiral out of control if you put on weight as a result; you hate exercise, and gaining weight compounds the difficulty of getting started.

More importantly: hating exercise isn’t a moral failure, as many would have you believe. Hell, the treadmill was originally created as a torture device, and you’re no more to blame for hating it than you are for…well…any other torture device.

But as I’ve said before, culpability and responsibility are not the same thing. You can’t help your innate feelings or preferences, but you’re damn well responsible for doing something about it. I’ve found that if there is a laziness of sorts preventing people from exercising, it’s not a physical one, but a mental one—it’s the laziness of considering alternative explanations rather than reducing the problem to sheer “laziness,” showing yourself some compassion, then committing to an actionable plan.

So get yourself in the correct mental headspace, and move forward with the following plan.

Pick the Correct Exercise Discipline for Your Goals

I’ve found this is where people make the biggest mistake. The default activity for anything health related is to start running or commit to an event such as a marathon. “I need to lose weight…I should start running!” “I need to improve my flexibility and back issues…I should join a marathon!” “Man, this rash still isn’t going away…I bet there’s a treadmill sale somewhere!”

There are natural reasons that running is the default exercise of choice. Not only is it super accessible, but society has a bit of a “just do it” mentality, which further implies that you should “just suck it up” and get started. But this is the wrong mindset. It implies that there are few nuances to adhering to your regimen, and failing means that you “just couldn’t do it.” Translation: you obviously “weren’t tough enough” to do something so simple.

In reality, because most people start exercising for purposes of weight loss, running might actually be the worst route to go. It can be a painful endeavor for those considerably overweight and—along with other forms of exercise that focus on the caloric burn—yields a low return on your investment.

This is not to say that running is bad. Do start running if you truly love it (or can honestly see yourself loving it), if weight loss isn’t your main focus, or if you explicitly want to improve your endurance. However, if weight loss is your priority or you just can’t stand running, consider other forms of exercise. Those who are overweight and sedentary will benefit from starting off by walking instead. Even better, consider investing some time into strength training in the gym (if finances permit) or using your own body weight.

Find the Most Important Measurement for Creating That Habit

The best apps are famous for getting users to stick and create habit around using them every day. One of the ways that they do this is through a concept known as activation—the magical “aha” understanding that causes someone to start using a product repeatedly. For example, Facebook’s “activation” is getting seven friends in the first ten days, whereas Dropbox’s activation is uploading your first file.

Thinking of exercise as “sticky” will do wonders for adherence, and luckily we can apply these same concepts to fitness.

When you pick your exercise of choice—be it yoga, running, strength training, boxing, or something else—find the one improvement that will excite you the most. If you take up strength training, this might mean being able to do more pushups in one total set or increasing your favorite exercise, like a dumbbell shoulder press. If you want to get better at running, this might mean a better one-mile time or a better time on your sprint. If it’s difficult for you to come up with a metric, consider using “perceived exertion” on a scale of one to ten. For example, if you start walking more, consider using the total amount of time that you’re walking at a brisk pace until you feel a 7/10 in terms of fatigue.

The concept of activation explains why many group classes, despite their cult-like hype, aren’t effective when it comes to adherence. It’s harder to find your personal definition of “activation” doing something like SoulCycle, or a similar cookie cutter class. Furthermore, you are forced to move at the pace of others in the group, rather than your personal one.

Whatever your choice for “activation,” realize that the improvement might be miniscule at first—an extra rep on your set of push-ups or a few seconds on your mile. But make no mistake, activation is important because it makes exercise “sticky.” It’s not enough to just feel good that you did something. That’s fine at first, but it will only last for so long, especially in those who inherently dislike exercise. Don’t trick yourself into thinking that you’ll eventually love it one day. Hell, even I still don’t.

Activate and Improve

Once you’ve figured out your metric for activation, measure your baseline. Using the examples above, that means seeing how many pushups you can do in one set or how long it takes you to run a mile. Make sure that you use a reasonable amount of effort.

Next, embark on a well-vetted beginner’s program, rather than going off on your own. For strength training, I suggest Starting Strength, Lifehacker’s body weight program, or the Minimum Viable Fitness program that I wrote. For running, I’ve heard many great things about Couch to 5k. Reddit’s /r/fitness subsection has a good selection of beginners programs. Make sure that the program that you select incorporates your metric and exercise for “activation.” Better yet, pick an activation metric that’s already in the program of your choice if you can.

After a week, measure against the baseline that you set, using the exact same conditions. In all likelihood, you’ll see an improvement—if not, treat fitness like an objective problem and figure out what went wrong. This as a concrete win…you improved. This didn’t take weeks or months, but close to a single week. Make sure to celebrate and appreciate that as a newbie, you’ll continue to make week-to-week improvements. Eventually, you’ll realize that success isn’t about following shallow mantras like “just do it”, but rather, moving beyond that mentality.

Title image remixed from Frans Dono ().

How I Learned the Importance of Cardio the Hard Way

When I am training clients the first time, I often hear this one sentence: “I don’t want to go jogging today, I don’t want to lose my muscles!” This is a deadly misconception. It is completely irrational, unhealthy and unscientific.

As Will Smith said, cardiovascular endurance training is one of the keys to a great life,

The keys to life are running and reading. When you’re running, there’s a little person that talks to you and says, “Oh I’m tired. My lung’s about to pop. I’m so hurt. There’s no way I can possibly continue.” You want to quit. If you learn how to defeat that person when you’re running, you will know to not quit when things get hard in your life.

While jogging might not be the most fun activity to do. At least for most of us. It is nonetheless crucial to implement cardio training in your workout schedule. Not doing cardio is an excuse, to not deal with the pain of running long distance. The fear of losing your muscles is simply an excuse to not go for that hard, yet so important activity.

More often than not, cardio training can actually improve your prospects of gaining muscles. Partly by helping your body build muscles faster but also by increasing your life span. Increasing your life span is a big part in achieving muscle growth. Because one thing is for sure: If there’s a person that definitely can’t build muscle mass, it’s a dead one.

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Learning The Importance Of Cardio – The Hard Way

I was never a big fan of doing cardio training, until I felt an unexpected and grave urgency to start doing so. Let’s go back two years.

At that time I was at a seminar for cardio training. We were asked to do a lactate test. This is a test where you run on a treadmill while getting your blood tested several times. After a certain period of time, about two minutes, the speed of the treadmill gets increased. The goal is to find out how much lactate your body is producing at a certain speed. The more lactate your body is producing, the more stress your body is currently dealing with. Also the more likely you are for having problems with heart disease or other underlying diseases.

We were starting out at about 7 kilometers per hour. This is an easy jogging tempo considered from today’s standpoint. But back then, this was exhausting. I was starting to sweat heavily after only three minutes of running with that speed. After the first blood test, we had to reduce the speed on the treadmill. I was expected to have a lactate level at about 0.8mmol/l. My lactate levels were about 2.5mmol/l. My stress levels were already going through the roof.

At that time I was also founding my business and my youtube channel. Sleep loss, tons of stress, plus my complete neglecting of cardiovascular training has taken its toll. Me, a fitness trainer, completely healthy looking and muscular, was at a risk of heart disease. I felt like a scam-artist.

While it’s true that most of the top long-distance runners are really thin, cardio training is nonetheless important for many other key aspects of your life. Such as dealing with stress and improving your heart health. It even improves your blood circulation of your brain, which has been linked with increased intelligence.

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Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish. Cardio training is important to live a long and healthy life and performing at your highest level, both professionally and in your private life.

The Benefits For Muscle Growth

The number one reason I was afraid to go jogging or ride a bike on a continuous basis, was that I was afraid to lose my muscles. This meant that a completely biased and unscientific belief was preventing me from living my life to the fullest.

Just recently I ran 26 kilometers straight for fun. I think at this moment, I’m at one of the best shapes of my life, both physically and mentally. I am able to work long hours as a facility manager, online coach and content creator, plus I’m still able to train hard.

While it’s true that a calorie surplus is needed to gain muscles and cardio training is burning calories, this is an easy shortcoming to make up for. Having to eat more is a privilege. Most people in this world struggle to eat less.

Doing cardiovascular training on a regular basis can even help you to improve your muscle growth. Cardio training can reduce the time needed for recovery. Endurance training improves your blood circulation. Blood circulation is important for transporting nutrients to your cells and removing toxins. Put cardio training in combination with a vegan diet and you’re absolutely boosting your results in the gym.

The downside of cardiovascular training for muscle growth is therefore easy to manage. The downsides of not doing cardio, are harder to deal with.

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Not Doing Cardio Is Slowly Killing You

A professor of mine once told me that while weightlifting helps you deal with stress, cardio training helps you to relax. Low intensity cardiovascular training is crucial when it comes to increasing your vagal tone.

An increased vagal tone, the measure of the activity of the longest and oldest nerve in your body – the vagus nerve, is linked with better control over your emotion and less likelihood to acquire stress.

Cardiovascular disease is the number one risk factor for death and disability in the US. While multiple factors are playing a role in the creation of this disease, such as nutrition. Cardiovascular endurance training is a good way to prevent and even cure that sickness. Jogging or even walking on a regular basis can improve your blood cholesterol and triglycerides level, indicators that help you live a long and healthy life. Doing endurance training seems to be a good price to pay then.

If exercise could be purchased in a pill, it would be the single most widely prescribed and beneficial medicine in the nation. – Robert H. Butler

How To Implement Cardio In Your Schedule

To combat my high lactate levels, I was implementing sprints into my workout schedule. This is not good. I did not know that this form of high intensity training can even lead to more stress.

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If you’re already an avid weight trainer, make sure you’re training cardio at separate days of your workout programs. Try to put as much time between your weight training and cardio training. This way your body has enough time for recovery and can focus on the build up of the two different training entities, increased muscle growth and blood circulation.

Implement cardiovascular training in your schedule, by following this exact order. Following this scheme is crucial for your long-lasting success:

  1. Train as often as you can.
  2. Train as long as you can.
  3. Train as fast as you can.

Implement cardiovascular training in your daily life. Walk to the grocery store instead of taking your car. You don’t have to go for a jog if you can’t do it. Instead just go for a walk. There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you can’t – you’re still beating everyone that is sitting at home on the couch. The duration or the speed of your training don’t matter at the beginning. Try to do this for 3-4 times a week, you’re trying to create a healthy habit. I recommend doing cardio in the morning, when you’re still uninterrupted. The before or after breakfast discussion is trivial, you have to see what works for you. The most important thing is, to just get into the habit.

If you’re walking 3-4 times a week, you can increase the duration. Aim for 30-60 minutes each time. Day by day, try to walk a little bit longer each time. I like to use an audiobook or listen to good music. You can also find a good workout partner, this will even make it more likely for you to stick to the schedule.

If you manage to walk 3-4 times a week for 60 minutes, increase the speed of your exercise. Try to incorporate small jogging intervals in your walking. Don’t push yourself too hard. Make your training sustainable and enjoyable. At least for the beginning. With some time you will learn to appreciate the pain, in a non-masochistic way of course.

Featured photo credit: Pexel via pexels.com

Reference

^ NCBI: Be smart, exercise your heart: exercise effects on brain and cognition.
^ NCBI: Effects of exercise training on coronary circulation: introduction.
^ NCBI: Improvements in heart rate variability with exercise therapy

Can You Stay In Shape If You Hate Hard Workouts?

Corbis Images

Hey there, it’s me! The girl in the back row of bikes, hiding from the instructor. The girl picked last in kickball. The girl who enjoys wearing exercise leggings, but only because they’re super comfortable and often stylish.

I do feel great when I’m working out, but my preferred workout is yoga. Yoga every day. I’m signed up for ClassPass, which means I have hundreds of New York City classes at my disposal, but I just keep taking different variations of namaste. Friends regularly invite me along to grueling classes-boot camps, rowing, running, spinning-but I always reject.

I hate feeling like I can’t breathe. I hate feeling like my heart is going to take leave of my ribcage. I hate that my pale skin turns eggplant purple within four minutes of cardio and stays that way for hours afterwards, like I’ve just gone through labor. (FYI: Post-Workout Muscle Soreness Hits People at Different Times.)

Am I wasting my time, though, by only going to yoga? Yes, I get the zen benefits of stress relief and deep breathing, but it’s possible I’m doing jack squat for my body. So I reached out to discuss the matter with a few experts: Daniel V. Vigil, MD, a professor at UCLA’s David Geffen School of Medicine, and Felicia Stoler, a nutritionist and exercise physiologist.

Right off the bat, both doctors were careful to say I shouldn’t knock yoga. Studies show It’s OK to Work Out at a Lower Intensity. And scientifically, yoga has some pretty clear perks. Some are easy to measure-losing weight, increasing strength-“but then there’s better energy, confidence, and other clear mental benefits,” Vigil says. (Ahem, like these 6 Health Benefits of Yoga.)

Also, it’s not quite fair to suggest that all cardio lovers are automatically paragons of health. It depends on your body, the type of cardio, how hard you’re working, and so on. “The fact is, you can do few hours of exercise a week, but if you spend the rest of the time on your rear end, that’s as detrimental as smoking,” Stoler points out.

Okay, point taken. Practicing yoga is certainly better than not doing anything at all. But by skipping intense workouts, my heart isn’t getting any healthier. “You’re not working on your cardiorespiratory system,” Stoler explains, and the benefits of cardio are obvious. “Lower heart rate, better blood glucose levels, lower cholesterol, stronger bone density, and the maintenance of muscle mass,” she rattles off. And those are just a few. (Worth noting: You Don’t Have to Run Far to Reap the Benefits of Running.)

I know cardio is necessary. I know it’s essential for a healthy body and longer life. So why is it so rough on my body, and why does it make me hate my life (for those forty-five minutes, at least)? Seems counter-intuitive.

Vigil blames “metabolic pain.” “What that means is, when you’re working really hard, you hit your lactate threshold, or the the point when the lactic acid in your muscles starts to burn.” Of course, it’s also a sign that you’re getting a solid workout in, because your muscles are changing. “When it builds to a high level, it’s unpleasant,” Vigil admits. “You definitely know the feeling.” Indeed. (But You Can-and Should-Push Through the Pain During Your Workout.)

The key is typically to learn to love-or at least tolerate-that burn. “Some people just feel so uncomfortable, so out of breath, because they’re so unconditioned,” Stoler says. Luckily, that can change. “The most morbidly obese person can still learn to run. The wonderful thing about the human body is that it can adapt. It can learn,” she says. To up your endurance, you should be logging three to four and a half hours at the gym per week.

I set out to learn how to love it, by forcing myself to do a whole bunch of activities that I loathed. Loathed. My internal monologue at a Pure Barre class was something like this: I hate this. Why do women do this to themselves? This is everything that’s wrong with the female experience. Why do we torture ourselves like this? Barre is not for me.

Spinning still isn’t, either-I gave it a whirl (sorry) for the first time since 2011, when I almost puked in a class. The subsequent Soul-ification of the sport (think pulsing music and strobe lights) isn’t any less nauseating, at least not for me.

Of course, Beyoncé is for me. I took a dance class where we learned the choreography to Queen B’s “Countdown.” Then I went to a Bollywood situation where we banged batons in rhythm on the ground. Then a hybrid class that was thirty minutes of aerobic moves like jumping jacks, followed by thirty minutes of yoga-style stretches. Can this much fun actually have an impact on my health?

“You should be working so hard that you can’t keep a conversation with your workout partner, but easy enough you can contribute short sentences,” Vigil explains. You’re working too hard if you can’t speak, get lightheaded, or feel like your heart is going to explode out of your chest. Luckily, none of my new classes made me feel that way-but I could certainly tell I was getting a workout with that talking test. It also made me realize why instructors keep asking, “HOW ARE WE DOING?” They want to make sure you are still able to reply!

After trying these new methods, I didn’t suddenly become obsessed with sweating my hair out. I’m not converted, not yet. My new routine is 80 percent yoga and 20 percent dancing, and it’s completely guilt-free. I’m just proud of myself for moving. (Can you relate? Check out Why the Gym Isn’t Just for Skinny People.)

If losing weight was just about burning as many calories as possible, you’d probably be doing straight cardio every day. The truth? Cardio is important, but if weight loss is the goal, it may not be necessary on a daily basis. Doing nothing but cardio day in and day out is not only boring, which can make it hard to stick with long-term, but it’s also inefficient compared with more diverse workout routines. So what is the right ratio of cardio workouts to see weight loss success? Should you make cardio a daily habit? POPSUGAR talked to two experts to find out.

© Getty / stock_colors Here’s Why Daily Cardio Isn’t Helping You Lose Weight – and What Experts Say to Do Instead

Should You Do Cardio Every Day to Lose Weight?

It’s true that the more cardio you do, the more calories you’ll burn. That’s helpful for that bottom line of exhausting more calories than you consume, said Tom Holland, MS, CSCS, an exercise physiologist and fitness adviser for Bowflex. “That being said, strength training is a powerful and important component of weight loss,” he told POPSUGAR. “So solely engaging in cardio workouts is not the most effective approach.” Strength training might not burn as many calories in the moment, but building muscle boosts your metabolism, which means you burn more calories even when you’re resting.

If you have the time, you certainly can do cardio every day, said Austin Johnson, NCSF, a certified personal trainer at Gold’s Gym, but it shouldn’t be your only source of exercise. “For my clients with weight-loss goals, I want them doing a combination of cardio and resistance training like weightlifting. They are both important to the reduction of body fat,” Austin told POPSUGAR. Try this four-week workout plan for weight loss for a good balance of both.

You don’t necessarily have to go for a run, swim laps, or hit the elliptical for your exercise to qualify as cardio, either. “If there are days when you can’t make it to the gym to get in a structured cardio workout, then going for a walk or jog around the neighborhood is certainly better than nothing,” Austin said. As long as you’re doing it for long enough – 30 minutes is a good place to start – and getting your heart rate up to at least 60 to 70 percent of your maximum, Austin told POPSUGAR, walks or slow, casual jogs can help you lose weight. (Here’s how to calculate your maximum heart rate.)

Slideshow: How Alicia rebounded from GERD and put on 25 lbs. of muscle (Provided by PopSugar)

  • 19 Social Security “Aids” That Every Retiree Should KnowAd Microsoft
  • 1/7 SLIDES © Alicia Rancier

    After Getting Sick With GERD, Alicia Recovered and Gained 25 Pounds of Muscle – Here’s How

    When Alicia Rancier, 30, (@alicewolves on Instagram) went away to college, she fell off her healthy habits. Previously an athlete, she traded in her weightlifting sessions for study sessions and turned to fast food for all her meals. Not only did this cause her weight gain, but her health took a turn for the worse.

    After being diagnosed with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Alicia’s weight dropped significantly, and not in a healthy way. Determined to get her health back on track, she started weightlifting and slowly but surely built 25 pounds of muscle. Now, Alicia is a certified personal trainer who is using her experience to help others. Click through the slideshow above to read her inspiring story.

    2/7 SLIDES © Alicia Rancier

    Alicia’s Health Takes a Turn For the Worse

    Alicia admitted she had unhealthy habits in college, but it wasn’t always that way. She was athletic growing up, and in high school she played volleyball and ran track. Her parents constantly went to the gym, and their habits rubbed off on her. She started lifting weights her junior year of high school and after that she said she was “hooked.”

    But when she got to college, her healthy habits fell by the wayside. “I stopped doing all sport-related activities and weightlifting due to my busy schedule as a student and being under tons of stress,” she told POPSUGAR. “When I first got into college, I was a healthy 140 pounds and it declined to 170 pounds after three years.” She said she constantly made unhealthy food choices and ate fast food for nearly every meal.

    These unhealthy habits caught up to her. By her senior year of college, just days before graduation, she started to feel incredibly ill: sour stomach, nausea, heartburn, and a headache. Her mom rushed her to the doctor where she was diagnosed with GERD and found out her weight had gotten up to 170 pounds. “I was in tears,” Alicia said. “I was embarrassed and disappointed in myself that it got to this point.”

    She also had ulcers in her stomach, which made it painful for her to eat. The combination of ulcers and GERD led to her dropping down to an unhealthy 120 pounds. Alicia was miserable and depressed. Luckily, her mom gave her the push she needed. “My mom encouraged me to get back into the gym to help better my life, my body, and my mind,” she said.

    3/7 SLIDES © Alicia Rancier

    Alicia Starts Making Healthy Changes

    “When I was diagnosed with GERD back in 2012, I wanted to make serious changes,” she said. “I made a promise to myself that after I graduated from college, I would get back into the gym and start making healthy choices again.”

    Since her GERD and stomach ulcers made it difficult to eat, Alicia took everything slow. She added more whole foods into her diet and dropped the processed foods and drinks.

    She researched how to build muscle with weight training. “I started a basic training program that also included cardio. Month after month I started to see changes in my physique,” she said. “I started to gain muscle and my GERD was finally cured due to my clean eating.”

    Over the past couple of years, Alicia went from 120 pounds to a healthy 145 pounds and has maintained it. “My mental health has improved over the years as well,” she said. “I’m no longer diagnosed with depression, and my mindset has become stronger.”

    4/7 SLIDES © Alicia Rancier

    Alicia’s Eating and Training Schedule

    Alicia’s training schedule is broken down into groups. On Monday through Saturday, she does at least 30-35 minutes of cardio. For weight training, this is what she focuses on:

    • Monday: back and biceps
    • Tuesday: chest and shoulders
    • Wednesday: legs
    • Thursday: triceps and biceps
    • Friday: light legs
    • Saturday: just cardio
    • Sunday: total rest day

    She said her favorite workouts are her back and bicep days. “I perform a lot of compound movements, drop sets, and giant sets which makes it even harder,” she said. “I love challenging not just my body but my mind as well. Bent-over rows, hammer curls, side dumbbell lateral raises, and flat bench press are some of my favorite exercises.”

    As for her food, Alicia doesn’t count calories or macros, unless she’s training for a women’s physique competition. She does intermittent fasting and eats only two or three times a day. She typically breaks her fast at 9 a.m. after her gym session with three scrambled eggs and steamed red potatoes. She has her last meal between 5 and 7 p.m., which is usually one-and-a-half cups of mixed salad, one cup of Jasmine rice, and one spicy black bean burger patty. She only drinks water, coffee, and black unsweetened tea.

    5/7 SLIDES © Alicia Rancier

    Alicia Is Committed to Gaining Muscle the Old-Fashioned Way

    Alicia competes in women’s figure and physique competitions, and said consistency is key. “Being in the fitness industry I have been tempted by all sides to take the quick route of enhancement drugs,” she told POPSUGAR. “I choose to not partake and instead I wanted to gain muscle the old-fashioned way by staying consistent with both diet and training.”

    She said she has seen improvements in her physique every year since she started her journey six years ago. “I have found a system that really works well with my physique,” she said. “Being a natural figure and women’s physique pro is what keeps me motivated, and I want to prove it can be done without drugs.”

    6/7 SLIDES © Alicia Rancier

    Her Nonscale Victories and What’s Next

    Sure, Alicia has seen gains on the scale, but her new fitness lifestyle has impacted all facets of her life. She noticed that she could fit into clothes she wasn’t able to before, and her skin started to clear up.

    “My energy levels improved, I could sleep normally, I felt more confident, I felt stronger, and my mental health improved tremendously,” she said. “I used to suffer from deep depression and being able to overcome that was one of the biggest accomplishments.”

    As for what’s next, Alicia said she wants to prep for a powerlifting competition and maybe another figure competition. As a certified personal trainer, she wants to help others achieve their specific goals, whether that’s losing weight, gaining strength, or improving their overall well-being.

    7/7 SLIDES © Alicia Rancier

    Alicia’s Advice For Others

    Alicia said setting her goals, accomplishing them, and creating new ones keeps her motivated every day. “The support of my friends and family also helps me stay motivated in and out of the gym,” she said.

    She is using her experience to motivate others. “Never give up! It’s all about being consistent,” Alicia said. “This isn’t a overnight success, this is a year-round lifestyle. It will be hard at times. You will fail a lot. But with a positive mindset anything is possible.”

    She also wants people who are suffering from depression to know they aren’t alone. “Surround yourself with people who want to see you succeed and who are supportive,” she said. “All it takes is for one person to believe in you and the rest is history. But in order for everything to work, it all starts with you.” How inspiring!

    7/7 SLIDES

    You can even break that cardio up throughout the day, Tom added. “Research shows that exercise does not have to be done all at the same time,” he said. “Breaking it up into shorter, manageable bouts throughout the day is an effective strategy, especially for the time-crunched.” Taking three brisk 10-minute walks throughout your day can get you up to a full half hour of low-intensity cardio. Done consistently, this kind of daily cardio, though it may not feel like a “workout” per se, can help you lose weight over time.

    Add Intervals to Lose Weight Faster

    To up your calorie burn, Tom recommended incorporating intervals into some of your cardio workouts. “The more you mix up your workouts, the greater the physical and mental benefits,” he told POPSUGAR. “For maximum results, your cardio workouts should include a mix of steady-state sessions, interval work, and hills.” Interval workouts should be shorter, around 30 minutes, making them perfect for weekday cardio sessions; try this outdoor workout for walking or running to start. When you have more time, such as on the weekends, you can cruise through a longer, lower-intensity run, walk, elliptical workout, or cycling session.

    If you’re just starting, Austin recommended working your way up to intervals over time. Though it’s great for burning fat, he said, “interval training is much more intense and puts a strain on your body.” Start with steady-state workouts to build up your cardiovascular endurance. After a few weeks, experiment with adding in short intervals twice a week.

    How Often Should I Do Cardio to Lose Weight?

    Let’s go back to that balance of cardio with strength training. If your goal is to lose weight, you’re going to want to include both in your weekly routine. You can do both on the same day, Tom said, especially through a high-intensity interval circuit. If you’re just starting out, try this 20-minute beginner’s HIIT workout and see how you feel.

    However, combining strength and cardio on the same day definitely isn’t mandatory; you can lose weight by splitting them up throughout the week as well. If you’re a beginner, Austin recommends this schedule to help you build up strength and endurance:

    Monday: Resistance training, like this six-move weightlifting workout

    Tuesday: Cardio, such as walking, jogging, swimming, or cycling

    Wednesday: Cardio

    Thursday: Resistance training, like this beginner’s dumbbell workout

    Friday: Cardio

    Saturday: Rest day

    Sunday: Resistance training, like this 20-minute bodyweight workout

    That’s a mix of three days of steady-state cardio workouts, 30-60 minutes long, and three days of full-body resistance training using lighter weights. (Here’s a guide to choosing the right weight.) Once you start building strength and endurance, you can mix in a day or two of interval training into your cardio.

    The bottom line is that you can do cardio every day, if you really love it, but don’t push yourself so hard that you’ll injure yourself – and definitely don’t skimp on resistance training in favor of cardio. A balanced schedule is key for weight loss, not only because building strength helps your metabolism, but also because variation keeps things interesting, which helps you to stay consistent.

    “Realize that your goal is to not only lose weight but to create new healthy habits to keep it off long-term,” Tom said. “So your plan needs to be fun, manageable, and for a lifetime.”

    Video: Having a desk job has led the average person to gain this much weight (Courtesy: Buzz60)

    Best Cardio For People Who Hate Cardio

    Cardio is always the exercise people dread the most, no one is born loving cardio. Forgive me if I’m wrong, but I’d definitely rather lifting some weights than be on a cardio machine for 40 very long minutes. Why do cardio machine minutes feel even longer than microwave minutes? 20 more minutes… that’s just 4 times 5 minutes.
    Honestly what I’ve come to realize is that you have to find the least painful one, there’s got to be something you’ll enjoy over the other options.

    Best Cardio Workouts For People Who Don’t Like Cardio

    There are different things you can do to get the same results, you don’t have to spend long quantities of time on a machine to improve your fitness. Plus, as I’ve mentioned before, it’s the combination of weights and cardio that is really going to give you the results you want. Cardio is just the extra push, don’t make cardio the only thing in your workout routines, all you’ll do is lose muscle instead of gaining.

    1. Go out for a run (not the treadmill)

    I used to be one of those people who hated running, well of course, who doesn’t hate running on a treadmill looking at a wall? I started seeing that a bunch of people were into running and decided I had to try it out. Running outdoors is definitely not even comparable to running on a treadmill. When I realized running outdoors wasn’t as bad as I thought, I made it one of my goals to start making it a thing. I started slow, a few kilometers per day and started waking up early to run. Then started running 5KM per day, then tried 10 and sometimes 15. Although 15 was pushing it, by training my body to run little by little I was able to run that far of a distance.
    I’m not telling you to run 15 KM, but I’m telling you if you pace yourself and start running little by little daily or a few times a week, running will not be that bad anymore. At first it will be a pain but it’s all about learning how to breathe and building up your resistance. Now I don’t run that often, but I like going out on Sundays and running 10KM, even though I don’t run everyday anymore, I have more endurance and find it enjoyable. I like running outside because it’s a time to be alone and think and listen to music. You can use it as your meditation time.

    2. HIIT

    We’ve all heard of High Intensity Interval Training. As much as the treadmill may sound painful, doing HIIT workouts is a bit more entertaining. Less time and more work while burning more fat. The point of HIIT is to elevate your heart rate for a brief period and then rest for another brief period. You can do it by sprinting 30 seconds at the fastest pace you can, and rest for 30 or sprinting for 30 and resting for 1. There’s a bunch of combinations you can do, the key is going at your maximum effort during sprints. You can do these intervals for 15-20 minutes and burn the same or even more calories than if you were just running for 40-60 minutes. Intervals tend to burn fat at a faster rate and continue to burn calories after your workout is done. Do HIIT workouts a few times a week and you’ll be set on your cardio.

    3. Walking on incline

    Yes, walking… for the lazy ones! This is literally my go-to cardio exercise when I’m feeling lazy, AKA most of the time. Walking on incline increases your heart rate and fat burn compared to walking on a flat surface. You activate most of your leg muscles so it does have some strength training benefits. I tend to walk for around 40 minutes each time and I usually burn more calories than I would in any other machine. I find walking less tedious than running on a treadmill. You can even watch a show while doing it without getting dizzy. I’m not one to watch shows though, usually I listen to music and think

    4. Stairmaster

    My favorite machine of all time, also the most exhausting. I usually get off this machine dripping sweat like crazy, imagine going up 100 floors of a building running… YEP! I love this machine because you can also do HIIT and do some leg exercises while on it. It’s like a two in one combo you can’t miss! Definitely a good option and a nice way to switch it up. You also don’t have to be on this machine as long, since you burn calories faster and you workout them legs while you’re doing it!

    5. Spinning

    I used to hate spinning because my legs hurt like WHAT? Isn’t that the point? Recently I decided to start giving it another try. Now I’m obsessed with it! You have to have a good combo of music and a good instructor or else it will be a pain, but otherwise you’ll have the best time! A spinning workout builds muscle, increases endurance and burns tons of calories. Spinning classes consist of intervals so you’ll be raising your heart rate a lot throughout the 45 minutes. It’s also a low impact exercise so you don’t put as much pressure on knees and joints as other aerobic exercises, perfect if you have any injuries.

    6. Rowing

    My least favorite but also the BEST one exercise wise. whether you like the rowing machine or not really depends on the person. I always push myself to do it because rowing works all the muscles in your body and helps build and tone them. You also burn calories pretty fast, 5-10 minutes doing it and you’ll be exhausted. Throughout the years I’ve been working out, rowing has helped me tone my back and arms, also amazing for the core if you engage it.

    These are some alternatives to your regular cardio routines. Combining any of these into one cardio session is pretty much how I do it. Spending 40 minutes doing the same thing isn’t necessary, you can do 20 and 20 and still have accomplished a nice cardio workout. So many different combinations, ditch the elliptical and start trying new things, there’s gotta be one that you’ll love the most!

    Unless you’re some athletic psychopath who runs marathons on Sunday mornings, we can all agree that cardio is the worst. It’s a chore, like giving a blow job getting a root canal or your monthly Brazilian. Even though you know it’s worth it, you still sit in the European Wax Center waiting room trying not to cry in public. In fact, I don’t really care what people say about post-workout endorphins. They’re really not worth the hype. Like, I don’t have a husband to shoot anyway, so what’s the point? Oh right, my physical appearance general health and well-being. Cardio sucks, but like any chore, you’ve gotta get it done every now and then, so you might as well find a way that works for you. For all the anti-runners, spinners, and jump-ropers (seriously what are you) try this cardio workout.

    1. Bodyweight Squats

    Most cardio workouts start out with jumping jacks or jogging in place as a warm-up, but we’re gonna be nice and let you skip that bullshit. A lot of people don’t realize that doing bodyweight toning moves can actually get your heart rate up as much as classic cardio moves do, so bodyweight squats are a great way to warm up without wanting to head home before the workout even starts. Stand with your feet shoulder width apart and place your hands behind your head or out in front of you. Then, flex at your knees and hips, sitting back with your hips until your butt is in line with your knees or thighs. Get as low as you can, and then stand back up. Do 20 reps at a fast pace, but make sure you’re getting your butt low every time. Half-squats don’t count.

    2. Jump Squats

    Now that you know how to do a squat, you’re going to jump at the top of the movement every time, so instead of standing straight up, you’ll pop up from the bottom in an explosive movement, and then land back in your squat again. The idea here is to burn calories while burning out the same muscle groups we were just using. Try to hit 20-30 jumps without stopping. Your thighs may burn, but then again, just be thankful you’re not in a 60-minute Flywheel class being asked to turn the Torq up five notches with the Fall Out Boy soundtrack blasting in the background.

    3. Forward & Backward Lunges

    The squat moves we just did were all about the butt muscles, so now we’re doing lunges to focus on other muscle groups in your legs, like your quads and hamstrings. The reason we’re doing a ton of leg movements is because your legs have some of the biggest muscle groups in your body, so you actually burn the most calories when you do lower body movements. Standing with your feet hip width apart, lunge your leg backwards into a 90 degree angle, and then stand back up and alternate. Do 10 steps backwards and then 10 steps forwards before switching to your other leg.

    4. Mountain Climbers

    Nothing sounds worse than climbing a mountain, but this move doesn’t involve a Camelbak or a Clif bar, so bear with me. Mountain climbers engage your core while you move your legs, so you kinda forget you’re doing cardio because it’s also an ab move. And if you haven’t heard, abs are like, really trendy right now. Start with your hands on the ground, keeping your shoulders over your wrists and your abs engaged. Then, jog your knees into your chest without letting your butt raise upwards. Think about staying in a plank position with only your legs moving. You’ll feel the burn in your core while burning calories with your legs. It’s a win-win.

    5. Battle Ropes

    If your gym has battle ropes available, now’s your time to use them. Battle ropes will target your arms while getting your heart rate up, so you’re basically giving your legs a break while your arms do all the work for a minute. They might feel super thick and heavy, but once you start whipping them around, you’ll see how good of a workout they can give you. Keeping your elbows as close as you can to your body, flick your hands up and down, or hold onto the ropes with both hands and slam them until your arms feel like noodles (whatever those are). Try going for 30 seconds straight, and then rest for 30 seconds, and then do another 30 seconds of work.

    6. Froggers

    If you’ve ever been to a workout class, you’ve probably been forced to do burpees, which are the fitness equivalent of getting punched in the face. However, there’s a reason they burn so many calories, and it’s because they get every muscle in your body working at once. If you hate cardio, you can skip the burpees for today and do froggers instead, which are basically burpees without the standing up and jumping part. The idea is to start in a “frog” looking position, squatting down with your hands in between your thighs. Put your hands on the ground and jump your feet straight back until your body is in a high plank. Then, jump your feet forward, raising your hands off the ground. Do 10-15 reps total.

    7. Plank Hold

    Holding a plank isn’t exactly a killer cardio move, but if you’re doing it right, you should be engaging all the muscles in your body, and your body could actually burn more calories this way than you would by just running around. Plus, ending your workout with a plank hold is ideal because your body is already in the fat burning zone, so you’re toning your muscles while keeping the fat burn going. With your forearms on the ground and your legs out behind you, think about keeping your body in one straight line while drawing your belly button in toward your spine. Squeeze your abs, butt, and your back muscles, keeping your whole body tight the entire time. Try to hold for a minute, and if you want more of a challenge, elevate your feet onto a block or medicine ball. Also, people tend to hold their breath here, so don’t make that mistake. It would suck to stop breathing after you’ve already come this far.

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    This article was written by Alex Zakrzewski and provided by our partners at Men’s Health.

    Cardio haters, rejoice. The four-minute calorie-torching wonder known as the Tabata protocol lives up to the hype, according to an Auburn University study.

    Participants performed eight 20-second rounds of jump squats separated by only 10 seconds of rest. Each round was done at an all-out pace with the participants working as hard as possible from start to finish. While they burned an average of 13.4 calories per minute during the workout, they also doubled their post-exercise metabolic rate for at least 30 minutes afterward.

    “You would have to do five times the amount of moderate-intensity exercise—like power walking or light jogging—to burn the same amount of calories as you did in just four minutes,” says study author Michele Olson, Ph.D. “Even more if you want to achieve the after-burn benefits, too.”

    Since it requires energy to help the body recover post-workout, the higher the intensity of your sweat session, the longer your metabolism stays elevated afterward, says Olson. In this case, the participants worked up to 95 percent of their maximum capacity (read: as hard as they could go), so it took a long time for their bodies to return to normal, even though they were resting.

    Want to try a Tabata-style workout for yourself? Check out the Bodyweight Cardio Burners—a high-intensity fitness DVD that will give you the workout of your life in just 20 minutes.

    More from Men’s Health:
    Make Your Workouts Fun Again
    The 2-Minute Body-Fat Detonator
    You Could Be an Olympic Champion, If You Have the Right Birthday

    You rarely hear anyone say, “I just love cardio!”. But it’s a necessary evil for staying healthy, losing weight, and/or maintaining a healthy BMI (not to mention a whole host of heart benefits). How to deal? I’ve tested a gazillion workouts as part of my job, and I’ve found that the best way to squeeze cardio into your routine, especially if you loathe it, is to disguise it. If you’re having enough fun, you might not even realize how hard you’re working!

    Part of my job involves trying new workouts, so I’ve tested out my fair share of cardio; some types have been enjoyable, but others have been downright brutal. I’ve found the best way to squeeze cardio into your routine, especially if you loathe it, is to disguise it: If you’re having enough fun, you might not even realize how hard you’re working.

    Here, some cardio workouts that are way more fun than the treadmill:

    Dance classes. I’m a big fan of cardio dance classes (Here in New York City, 305 Fitness, Body by Simone, Tracy Anderson Method, and AKT InMotion are super popular, and many offer DVDs or online streaming workouts). You can also take a class at your local dance studio (trust me, keeping up with the pros will have you breaking a sweat!) or just put on a killer playlist and freestyle it in your living room. Calorie burn varies based on your weight and how hard you work, but if you take an hour-long dance class, you can expect to burn several hundred calories.

    HIIT. The beauty of high-intensity interval training, or HIIT, is that it elevates the heart rate quickly and allows your body to burn calories long after your sweat session. HIIT workouts do not need to include running or other typical “cardio” exercises to be effective (but heads up: they’re likely to include jumping jacks and burpees!). The short bursts of movements make your heart rate spike and contribute to the after-burn effect. If you don’t have a local gym offering these types of classes, create a HIIT workout yourself by completing a few short rounds of high-intensity moves (burpees, jumping jacks, high knee runs), with a very quick break in between each one. Here’s an example.

    Rowing. This old-school workout might have you sitting the whole time, but it’s actually a great form of cardio because it can increase your heart rate just as much a treadmill or elliptical. Bonus: This high-intensity, no-impact machine is very easy on the joints. To get the max amount of cardio from this machine, make sure you have enough resistance to feel challenged, and don’t move at a leisurely pace: try to spring back quickly and avoid “sitting” at the front of the machine each time you come forward.

    Weight lifting. Yes, you read that correctly! Numerous studies have proved that lifting heavy weights is a great way to get cardio. Even though you’re not running, jumping, or bouncing, the effort it takes to lift heavy weights gets your heart pumping. For example, doing shoulder presses with 5-pound weights might feel comfortable to you, but upgrading even just to an 8- or 10-pound set could make a huge difference (and is shown to burn more calories). In order to ensure you stay safe, ask a trainer at your gym to help you pick an appropriate weight, and always make sure to maintain the proper form—if you can’t do that with a heavier weight, go back to the lighter set and try doing more reps instead.

    More from Glamour:

    Cardio is an absolutely necessary part of any serious lifter’s toolkit. Cardiovascular health will not only help you live longer in the long run, but can also help your lifting by improving your ability to recover between sets and thus perform a higher volume of training in the long term.

    While pseudoscientific statements like “cardio kills gains” are starting to be debunked and smart lifters are realizing that you can efficiently combine cardio and heavy lifting, the reality is that many lifters haven’t heard the news or still refuse to change their ways.

    Worse, there are a lot of other lifters out there who won’t do cardio, not necessarily because they don’t think it’ll be useful, but because they just don’t like doing it.

    Now that’s fine and all, but it’s a self-defeating attitude. Sometimes, the thing you want to do the least is precisely the thing that you need to do in order to improve.

    In a previous post, I covered how I used to adore Bruce Lee, and I how learned from him a valuable cardio secret: how useful cycling is as a form of cardio that minimizes impact and blends well with heavy lifting. This is one of the methods I recommend for people who hate cardio, but since then I’ve added in a lot of other methods as well.

    Here are some less well known (or non-traditional) cardio methods that you can use if you’re a meathead who hates cardio but still needs to get their sweat on:

    • Cycling – As mentioned in the above post, cycling is much less stressful on the joints, and it can even cause a bit more hypertrophy than your standard cardio if you crank up the intensity a bit.

    • Incline Walking – Hop on a treadmill, crank up the incline, and keep the speed low. Like cycling, this can even cause a bit of hypertrophy due to the added resistance, plus it’ll really hammer your calves, and is also minimal on impact. You can also add resistance via a weighted vest or something similar, for bonus points. This is one of my absolute favorites.

    • Weighted Carries/Yokes/Sleds – Walking with some added weight is a time-honored way to get in some cardio while still keeping the intensity high enough to stimulate a bit of muscle growth. Dragging sleds, carrying sandbags or rocks, walking with a weight on your shoulder, even pushing a heavy wheelbarrow – these are all ways to get your heart pumping.

    • Intervals – Interval training is an effective way to make a short cardio workout still pack a hefty punch. However, it’s no magic bullet, and the high intensity of these workouts can be considered either a blessing or a curse, depending on how much you like that kind of activity. If nothing else, being able to get your cardio over with quickly is usually worth it for lifters who don’t want to make a long cardio slog.

    • High Rep Sets/Circuits – High rep sets and circuits are probably my least favorite option. While you can still get your heart rate up with this kind of work, it’s usually a) less than you can do with traditional cardio, b) not as effective as you might think for building much size/strength, and c) likely to cause potential injury or recovery issues. That said, there are still many cases where this kind of training can be used effectively as cardio. For example, I have many clients without much gym equipment who would be better suited to doing some high rep bodyweight work. This option may not be the greatest, but if nothing else works, it’s still a solid fallback.

    • Going For A Walk – If nothing else, consider going for a walk a few times a week. Toss on a podcast or an audiobook. Listen to some music. Schedule a phone call and walk around your neighborhood while you talk. See if you can walk somewhere instead of driving, or skip a leg on public transit. Take the stairs. It’s not ideal because it would take a real long time to get a serious cardiovascular effect, but the little stuff can still add up.

    Running is often cited as a great go-to form of cardio. And, yeah, OK, it is. But the truth is that a lot of people don’t like running. Some may even say they hate running. Honestly, I’m a runner and sometimes I’m not so hot on it myself! Other people may avoid it because they have an an injury or mobility issue that makes running uncomfortable or painful. The good news is, it’s not really necessary to slog through it to get a decent cardiovascular workout. You could opt for other cardio workouts, like biking or rowing. Or, you could do a quick HIIT (high-intensity interval training) workout, which often packs a big cardio challenge into a small time frame.

    “A HIIT series is a great sub for running or other steady-state cardio,” Juan Hidalgo, a certified trainer and group fitness instructor based in Los Angeles, tells SELF. Simply put, since a HIIT workout involves bursts of high-intensity cardio and strength work peppered with short periods of rest (so you can recover before the next intense push), you’ll get the heart-pumping benefits of a run in a shorter amount of time. And if you’re someone who hates running, you may find this form of cardio exercise way less daunting. Which is great—after all, the best workout is one you’ll actually do and stick with.

    Hidalgo created the four-part HIIT workout below as an alternative to running or other forms of cardio. It focuses on short work intervals—during which you should be pushing yourself to give an effort of about 7-9 on a scale of 1-10—and brief rest periods. “Short intervals should allow for you to push yourself as long as you are maintaining good form, engaging your core, and protecting your lower back,” Hidalgo says. So while pushing hard and fast is the goal here, always remember that correct form is paramount and if that means you need to rest longer than the allotted time, that’s totally OK. (And, as always, it’s a good idea to talk with your doctor before starting this or any other new workout to make sure it’s safe for you.)

    The workout combines Tabata circuits, where you’ll alternate 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest for 4 minutes; and an AMRAP circuit. AMRAP stands for “as many rounds as possible,” so the goal there is to run through the exercises (with the listed number of reps) as many times as you can in 4 minutes. This setup allows you to get a full-body workout “without taxing one area to the point that proper form cannot be maintained in order for each exercise to be performed safely,” says Hidalgo. He suggests adding this workout to your routine twice a week.

    Ready to get started? Check out all the details below—and don’t forget to do a quick warm-up before!

    Demoing the moves is Crystal Williams, a group fitness instructor and trainer who is certified in Spinning, Schwinn MPower Indoor Cycling, TRX Functional Training, and Urban Rebounding. She teaches at residential and commercial gyms across New York City, including Body Elite Gym and West End Health and Fitness, as well as boutique fitness studio KORE New York.

    The Workout

    Moves

    • Jump Squat With Heel Tap
    • Walk Out
    • Mountain Climber
    • Plank Shoulder Tap
    • Lateral Lunge Into Runner’s Jump
    • Burpee Into Tuck Jump

    Directions

    Part 1: Tabata

    • Do Jump Squat With Heel Taps for 4 minutes, alternating 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.
      Rest for 1 minute.

    Part 2: AMRAP

    • Walk out to plank, then do 20 Mountain Climbers and 20 Plank Shoulder Taps.
    • Walk back up to standing.
    • Complete as many rounds as possible of the above for 4 minutes.
      Rest for 1 minute

    Part 3: Tabata

    • Do Lateral Lunges Into Runner’s Jumps for 4 minutes, alternating 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest. Alternate the lunging leg each round.
      Rest for 1 minute.

    Part 4: Tabata

    • Do Burpees Into Tuck Jumps for 4 minutes, alternating 20 seconds of work and 10 seconds of rest.

    Here’s how to do each move:

    How to exercise when you hate it?

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