By Holly Pennington, PT, DPT/Outpatient Physical Therapy
‘Tis the season for treadmills, trainers and trips to the gym. When cardio machines dominate the off-season, funny things can happen. Even the most enthusiastic triathletes burn out on riding and running to nowhere. New aches and pains leave mindful athletes scratching their heads. And when Interval programs on the elliptical don’t add up to faster mile splits on the road, frustrated runners wonder how many winter hours were wasted at the gym.
With these three indoor training tips, you can make the most of your winter gym workouts and hit the rainy spring pavement fitter and faster than ever before.
Pay more attention to how your body feels than what the machine says.
Research studies reveal up to 40% discrepancies in either direction when it comes to actual calories burned vs. machine readings on treadmills, stationary bikes and ellipticals. Multiple factors contribute to inaccurate calorie counters. While traveling recently, I started my treadmill workout in the hotel gym on three different machines before settling on one that didn’t feel like I was running through an earthquake and had a functional incline feature. Equipment calibration and maintenance affects more than user experience – if buttons aren’t working, calorie counters probably aren’t either. Additionally, actual calories burned depends on factors such as weight, age, gender and fitness level. While you may be able to enter the first three variables before you start exercising, the typical stationary bike does not inquire about your aerobic capacity or body fat percentage. Finally, even the smartest and most calibrated ellipticals and treadmills don’t know how you are using them. Increasing the intensity while resting your upper body on handrails will artificially inflate computerized readings.
A better way to assess your workout? Pay attention to how your body feels. If you need numbers, try the old-school Rate of Perceived Exertion (0-10 scale where 10 is maximal exertion) or monitoring your heart rate.
Start with why.
Take this leadership principle to the gym - you can take the book of the same name by Simon Sinek with you too (a great read, by the way)! When you’re staring down Jacob’s Ladder and imagining yourself conquering 50 flights, ask yourself, “Why?” If your answer has “training for the Firefighter Stairclimb or The Big Climb” in it, then hop on! Otherwise, think again. Mastering three different sports is more than enough, and your muscles have memories. You don’t need to confuse your body by teaching it to climb ladders at a 45-degree angle. And when was the last time you rode a bike with your legs stretched out in front of you or ran-stepped while moving your arms back and forth? If your goal is overall fitness, recumbent bikes and ellipticals can be your friends. But, if you want to become a better swimmer, cyclist and runner, you have plenty of indoor options to help you get ahead during the colder months. Keep the function in your fitness by taking your pick of multiple versions of upright stationary bikes, spin classes, CycleBar studios, online cycling workouts, fancy treadmills and creative ways to train in the pool instead of settling for the latest cardio craze. Your muscles will thank you for the memories when race time comes.
Mix it up.
Sticking with the same routine keeps you, well, the same. If you find comfort in plans and predictability, falling into plateaued fitness levels can happen before you know it. When I was a working in the clinic full-time with two young children at home, I did my favorite 20-20-20 workout in my home gym a few times per week (20 minutes on each the treadmill, elliptical and stationary bike). Exercising at all during those years felt like an accomplishment and doing the same workout over and over again worked for me – for maintenance. But if you want to change something about your racing, make the most of indoor training by mixing up your workouts. Take a detour from your 2-hour workouts with 2-3 shorter High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) sessions per week. Challenge yourself to do a new workout every Friday. Download a new cycling app or join your local cycling studio. Create your own 12-week training schedule to ramp up your indoor mileage or speed through the winter, and spring will be here before you know it. And, bonus: varying your routines on One Size Fits All cardio machines will also decrease your chance of experiencing those never-felt-before aches and pains!
Trust your body, ask yourself why and mix things up as you move your workouts inside during the cold months ahead, and set yourself up to race your best in 2018!
Still not sure what cardio equipment is best for you? Call any Outpatient Physical Therapy clinic to schedule your free consultation (no fee, no prescription or referral needed) with a licensed Physical Therapist. Find a location near you at www.outpatientpt.com
Next month: In Part 2 of How to Make the Most of Your Indoor Workouts, we’ll explore resistance training.
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