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Cardio, Fat Burning, and Getting Stuff Done

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When I first started out trying to lose weight, I hate hate hated cardio.

What can I say? I like to have nice hair, and cardio seems to go out of its way to push against that. Boo hiss.

But as you probably already know, one of the biggest parts of the exercise plan I’ve been following is the low-impact cardio that you do, three or four times a week, for between an hour to an hour and a half. Which seems like a hell of a lot, if you’re new to exercising – and if you’re used to the kind of exercise that involves a killer workout that makes you sweat and ache all over, it probably seems counterintuitive.

However, there are a lot of reasons this way works. Over to Matt:

“When you’re working at high intensity your working muscles need readily available fuel in the form of glucose – non-essential bodily functions like digestion can wait until the period of exertion is over. When you’re exercising at a lower intensity these demands aren’t present, so your body and its functions are in balance – and this allows your body to use the fat stores as a fuel source.

Research shows that low intensity training over a period of 60 – 90 mins may use fat reserves for 65% of all calories burned. Additionally, with the excretion of enzymes which reduce total blood lipid levels for people whose goal is to lose fat, this is the approach to take to get real results.  With high-impact cardio, people get demotivated when the effort they put in isn’t rewarded with the results they are expected – they’re fitter, but they aren’t losing weight! This exercise programme, though, is designed for fat burning – and yes, it does get you fitter, but we aren’t looking to run a marathon – that’s a completely different workout!”

Aside from all that, if you’re a busy woman like yours truly, there are some extra perks to working out at a more relaxed pace. Namely, that you can multi-task. Pretty much every post that makes it on to this blog is conceived and drafted on my iPad, on the treadmill. I’ll admit that takes some practice – but I’ve pretty much got it down to a fine art.

See?

Evidently taking photos on a treadmill is something I’m less skilled at… But you get the idea.

So… Here are a few creative things you could do on a treadmill (or stationary bike, or whatever your exercise spot of choice is…) – feel free to add your own ideas too!

1. Plan out your meals.

Working out what you’re going to eat over the course of a week massively improves the chances of you succeeding at keeping your nutrition in check. Fail to plan, plan to fail – you know the drill. For bonus points, if your gym has wifi and you have a smartphone, you could even do your grocery shopping online – and given you’re doing it while on a treadmill, you’ll probably be considerably less inclined to pack cakes and crisps into your virtual basket. Double win.

2. Read.

This takes practice too – but if the journey to self-improvement is mental as well as physical, reading more is an excellent way to make that happen. I do a lot of the reading for my PhD on the treadmill, but as a pro-tip: if you plan to read anything heavy, start reading a couple of pages before your “starting point” to give yourself time to get into the rhythm. I can say from experience that the only way to read Benjamin’s Arcades Project on a treadmill is by warming up the old’ brain muscles first.

That said – I’m also not going to judge if you want to read Heat magazine or something of that ilk. Go nuts. Just promise me you won’t take the celeb body snarking seriously.

3. It’s good to talk.

Either get yourself a buddy in the gym itself, or get online – I find a huge amount of my motivation to work out comes from Twitter, Pinterest, or other healthy living blogs and communities that will keep you motivated. If nothing else, I’m always ready to offer a virtual high five to anyone on a treadmill, any place, any time, anywhere – so feel free to tweet me and let me know what you’re up to during your workout!

4. Make the ultimate workout playlist.

This is a pretty obvious one – but great tunes can really make a workout fly by. I love coming up with a new playlist that goes from the sublime to the ridiculous – and as another top tip, I think EVERY workout playlist should include at least one Rocky theme, and a couple of 90s dance numbers (It’s Like That, anyone?)

5. Think happy thoughts.

Being busy is a blessing and a curse. I wouldn’t be without any of the projects I’m juggling at any given time – because I like to be constantly doing something. But sometimes, you just need a bit of you time. That’s why I got into yoga – because the whole point of that is that you’re not multitasking. You’re focused and relaxed at the same time.

Over the last few weeks, though, I’ve been resting up a knee injury that rules yoga out for a little while, and as a result, I’m pretty certain I’ve been slightly more wound up, and less focused, because I don’t have that time dedicated to clearing my head.

However, I have been making a conscious effort to take at least one of my walks outside, without bringing music, or distractions of any kind along with me. Just me and the open road, if you can call it that when you’re a city dweller that doesn’t drive. And it’s definitely helped – there’s something about getting your body moving and your mind relaxing that is just amazing for your wellbeing.

Even if you can’t get out into the big wide world, it’s a good idea sometimes to just reflect on the fact that you’re making a positive change to your life – so while you’re stomping away, think about how far you’ve come, and how much further you’ll get if you keep it up.

So those are my tips – how do you stay entertained during a workout?

Two Years and 120lbs Down
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Comments
  • comment avatar Toni 26 August, 2012

    Great post.

    I have an album that has become my workout buddy for cardio sessions; AC/DC Iron Man 2 soundtrack. Absolutely brilliant pacing for my fast walk, cross-trainer, rowing and boxing sessions.

    I also like the Avengers Assemble ‘Music from and inspired by’ album for the gym.

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 27 August, 2012

      That sounds like a great choice – might give that a try myself!

  • comment avatar Jill 28 August, 2012

    Just coming across this today! What are your tips for sticking with it? I get moving and slowly and sreadily slack off till I’m not working out at all again! And my big issue is I’ve never eaten enough

  • comment avatar Sohail Nasir 17 September, 2012

    Hi

    Just seen an article about you in The Sun and inspired. In regards to this I personally use high tempo music while doing weight training and slow music while walking on the treadmill. When i’m feeling lazy and or unmotivated I use high tempo music to give me a boost. I also am a firm believer that weight loss is strongly linked with ones mental state of mind, so it’s important you relax your brain at times to give it a rest so it dies not make rash decisions and that will help you control your diet. Sorry for rambling on (bad habit lol).

    • comment avatar fatgirlphd 18 September, 2012

      Haha, you’re not rambling on, don’t worry! I completely agree on the high tempo music front – sometimes if I’m not in the mood for the gym, I’ll pop some on my headphones before I’ve left the house and it usually gets me going pretty well :)

      You’re also completely right about relaxing your brain – I think the one of the reasons a lot of diets fail is that people put themselves under too much pressure to be ‘perfect’ and so the second they cheat, they beat themselves up about it. It’s just not sustainable, so that’s a great tip – thank you!

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