The 10 Worst Cardio Crimes

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By: , SparkPeople Blogger
4/17/2013 6:00 AM   :  133 comments   :  599,517 Views

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Like many women, I love me some cardio. I like to get sweaty when I work out and feel like I really accomplished something, and almost nothing makes me feel that way like a tough Spinning class or long run can.

But as a trainer (and self-proclaimed cardio lover), I've seen my share of mistakes in and out of the gym.

Cardio does a body good, but if you're guilty of these common cardio crimes, you could be putting your body at risk and undermining your efforts.

Think you're a cardio saint, innocent of any and all offenses? Read on to see if you're guilty as charged!



10 Most Common Cardio Crimes
 
Leaning on the Machine
While gripping the handles or console of a cardio machine can aid in balance, leaning too much of your weight into the handles of the machine will decrease your workout intensity and burn far fewer calories. I see this all the time in Spinning class (people leaning weight into their arms while standing instead of keeping their weight in their legs), and see it at the gym with people leaning onto the treadmill handles or console. If you're moving so fast or feel so tired that you cannot keep the pace without taking weight off of your legs by placing it into your arms, you are far better off decreasing your speed or workout intensity than by keeping the speed and leaning. Try to use the handles only temporarily, such as when you first hop on the treadmill and find your footing, or if you have to pause the machine.

Skimping on Resistance
As a Spinning instructor, I see this a lot when I monitor the students in my class. Many people fear the resistance on stationary bikes because they fear it will make them "bulk up." (This is so not true.) Similarly, I see a lot of people using treadmills and elliptical machines with little to no incline. When it comes to getting a better, more challenging workout (that also burns more calories) resistance—or incline—is essential. This is especially true on the treadmill, which propels you forward automatically and makes both walking and running easier. By bumping up the incline, you'll counteract that propelling motion of the belt and get a better workout.

Stretching before Your Workout
I highly discourage people from stretching before a workout. (Read my stretch-after-your-workout manifesto for more details.) Stretching is NOT the same thing as a warm up, although many people confuse the two. And stopping to stretch after you warm up completely negates the fact that you just warmed up. By the time you're done stretching, you're right back where you started! Your muscles are warm and your joints most lubricated at the end of your cardio session. There's no need to stretch twice, so you might as well save your stretching time for the end when you'll get the most benefit.

Carrying Weights While You Walk
Although the American Council on Exercise recently published a story saying that walking with weights in your hands isn't as risky as we all once thought, I wouldn’t rush to add them to your walks. It's generally safe if you're holding weights less than 3 pounds, but at that weight, there might not be a huge challenge or benefit for you. Hold much more and your injury risk skyrockets. Experts do agree that ankle weights are a no-no.  When it comes to cardio, I'd much rather see a person work on increasing speed, incline or resistance to increase the cardio challenge of a workout than simply add weights to a workout.

Only Doing Cardio
Cardio exercise has tons of amazing benefits for your health and weight loss. So if you're doing any cardio at all, kudos to you! But if cardio is the only form of exercise in which you partake, you are really missing out. You may even be at risk for what many people fear: becoming "skinny fat." Many people think of cardio as the key to fat-burning, and it is important. But strength training is, too. More muscle helps boost your metabolism so you burn more calories all day—and during every cardio session. Further, on a weight-loss program, you will lose muscle mass as you lose weight (not a good thing), but regular strength training will help you minimize that muscle loss. In my expert opinion, regular strength training is just as important in a fitness and weight-loss program as cardio. Pick up the weights and watch the scale go down.

Not Drinking Water
When you're doing cardio right, you're going to sweat. And when you sweat, you need to replace those fluids. Waiting until the end of your workout to drink up can be a risky practice. You're much better off keeping a water bottle with you during your workout and sipping every few minutes. Definitely don't wait until you're already thirsty to start drinking. Learn more about how much water you need to drink during workouts.

Doing the Same Cardio Workout
Most of us have a go-to workout that we love to do as often as possible. Whether it's walking, Zumba, running or the elliptical, we tend to have a mainstay cardio workout. It is important to enjoy your workouts (you're more likely to stick with them that way), but you'll get far better results by mixing up your routine as often as possible. At the very least, add 1-2 days of cross-training to your existing cardio program (if you tend to do the same thing all the time).  Mixing it up prevents overtraining and its related injuries and keeps your body guessing so that you don’t plateau.



Zoning Out
I know it's the only way a lot of us can get through the monotony of the gym, but zoning out (think reading, watching or listening to media) during cardio can really hurt your results. When we're not focusing on the task at hand, two things happen; first, we start to slack off because bouncing around too much makes it harder to read or we're simply forgetting what we're really at the gym to do (work hard). Second, because we're not paying attention, our form tends to go by the wayside. Your posture slouches, your arms and legs aren't moving through the idea range of motion, and you're not striking with your feet or engaging your core properly. It's fine to entertain yourself with TV, an audio book, or music during cardio. Just make sure to check back in every couple minutes to pay attention to your intensity and your form.

Lifting Weights Really Fast
We're all strapped for time and many of us are lucky if we get to the gym a few times a week. We all want to make the most of our workout time. However, lifting weights really quickly (as in lifting the actual weight up and down at rapid speed) in order to try to ink out a little extra "cardio" benefit is a super bad idea. Slow, controlled form is essential for weight training. Speeding up your exercises is majorly risky. If you really want to try to turn your strength training routine into something more aerobic, don't go faster. Instead, use full-body (compound) moves that work your upper and lower body simultaneously and/or get rid of the resting periods between sets in favor of circuit training. Both are safe ways to train that can amp up the cardio component of your toning program. Never sacrifice form or safety for speed.

Confusing "Activity" with Cardio
This is probably the most common mistake I see. We know how important it is to be active, and so we try to count every activity we do as "exercise" or cardio. That can be a big mistake for several reasons. While any activity is better than no activity, only those activities that meet the requirements for cardio activity really give us the health and fitness benefits we exercise in order to reap. Plus, tracking calories burned from every little thing you do is only misleading. You're only really burning "extra" calories when you're working pretty darn hard—not when you're simply walking leisurely through the mall or doing some light cleaning. Learn more about the differences between activity and exercise.
 
How do you plead to these cardio crimes? Are you guilty as charged or are you innocent?





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Comments

  • ROBBIEY
    83
    I am guilty on a lot these especially the doing the same cardio and zoning out. I can not help it I like routine. - 4/17/2013   8:27:09 AM
  • 82
    Interesting article. I am guilty of some of the things mentioned. I think I tend to zone out on my stationary bike but I 'm starting to use that resistance a bit more now. - 4/17/2013   8:09:14 AM
  • 81
    Loved these informative tips! Loved em! - 4/17/2013   8:01:19 AM
  • 80
    terrific blog - 4/17/2013   7:57:43 AM
  • SWTLULU2007
    79
    I was very guilty of neglecting weight training when I lost 50 pounds and now I have been doing 15-20 minutes of weight training each time I work out. I would encourage to also so weights BEFORE cardio. I took a class on health and doing weights first is more effective. - 3/7/2013   3:00:55 AM
  • 78
    Guilty as charged! Will start distinguishing between activity and cardio. I'm always focused on getting my 10,000 steps and wearing my pedometer all day has been my back-up excuse if I dont get a work out in. - 1/6/2013   10:45:28 AM
  • 77
    Yeah, I'm guilty of a couple of these too! But I don't really care that my running/walking is the only cardio that I do. I LOVE MY RUNS/WALKS!!! I never get bored with them and I do change my routes - A LOT!!! Not going to change that one and I will continue to keep my runs/walks as my only cardio.

    However, I will give my ankle weights and dumbbells some serious consideration. - 12/27/2012   2:55:36 PM
  • JRZ4929
    76
    I'm mostly innocent here, but it is a huuuuge pet peeve of mine when people lean on machines. I also hate (don't know if it's an effective workout or not) when people walk on a huge incline on the treadmill but hold on to the top of it. Kind of defeats the purpose, yes? - 9/4/2012   2:28:59 PM
  • 75
    guilty---I'll try to do better! - 3/27/2012   1:11:32 AM
  • 74
    Great article, I learned a lot of things. I will put some of these suggestions into practice. - 3/25/2012   2:56:27 PM
  • CSLCHEF1
    73
    Very informative article. I make it a point to have some water with me while I'm working out. The problem is doing cardio and not doing weights. I tend to do the same routine instead of mixing it up. I think I'm gonna try some of the suggestion and see what happens - 2/27/2012   2:33:22 PM
  • 72
    I am guilty of a few of these....I am a creature of habit so I do the SAME 30 cardio routine every day!!! I've also been neglecting the weights....Yikes!! I have some changes to make! :O) - 2/25/2012   4:13:16 PM
  • DOSPALMAS_RED
    71
    I recently changed up my cardio routine to allow for a few cross training days. I find I enjoy my workouts much more. - 2/25/2012   1:43:07 PM
  • 70
    As a 76 year old, I thought I was doing well with 120 minutes of exercise about 5 days of the week. But I just walk, do strenuous water aerobics, and sometimes ride recumbent bike. Not convenient to go to gym. What else is recommended for me??? - 2/24/2012   10:37:33 PM
  • SUPERREDBIRD
    69
    So, I dont have a treadmill persay...its an air-walker that has no tension adjustment. I usually do that for 1/2 hour every day and in the morning I do one of Jillian Michaels "Ripped in 30" workouts. They are only about 20 minutes per session but combine cardio, weights and abs. Is that enough? I dont have time to go the gym and I dont have any room for bigger equipment. - 2/24/2012   10:22:58 AM
  • MSMOBY
    68
    I am so tempted to print this out and post it at my gym. I've actually had someone tell me I was doing the stairmaster machine wrong because I WASN'T leaning on it.

    I do listen to audiobooks while doing cardio, but it's always books I've already read, so I don't get so caught up in them that I forget to pay attention to what I'm doing. - 2/24/2012   4:32:47 AM
  • 67
    ummmmmm, I think I need a lawyer! I do believe I have the right to remain silent... lol... good article! Thanks for posting. :) - 2/23/2012   9:18:34 PM
  • 66
    I cringe every single time I see people leaning on the machines. Women seem to be the worst culprits, even laying their entire top half on them. I want to scream "totally ineffective and your back is going to HURT later!"

    Although I do have to admit that I fall in the cardio rut sometimes. I enjoy cardio so much more than strength training, and I will fall in love with a particular type and not want to do much else. I have to actively remember to cross train! - 2/23/2012   9:17:33 PM
  • 65
    Very good article. I am innocent of this crime. I learned from my physical therapist that leaning on any of the cardio machines is a herinated disc in the lumbar spine a diaster waiting to happen. I stand up straight, and make a conscious effort to hold my abdominal muscles in to complete my workout. No back pain! - 2/23/2012   8:57:38 PM
  • 64
    I thought I was doing something right :) monday bodypump tuesday swim and yoga wednesday spinning yoga walk then an activetrak workout, thursday cardiosculpt then either walk swim or eliptical depending how I feel. Friday is a swim day and saturday is bodypump and yoga sometimes a swim. Too bad classes make a little of it routine. - 2/23/2012   8:39:05 PM
  • 63
    informative! - 2/23/2012   8:22:58 PM
  • 62
    Very informative article, thank you! - 2/23/2012   6:09:04 PM
  • 61
    guilty of zoning out - 2/23/2012   2:49:59 PM
  • BIGBLACKGAL
    60
    I am very guilt of all of these! - 2/23/2012   12:21:37 PM
  • 59
    I'm hoping with SM-ARTGIRL that research will soon discover that yoga builds strength. Guess I'll have to lift again until then. (I adore leaning on the handles in spin class--I mean used to adore it.) - 2/23/2012   9:49:34 AM
  • BROCCOLIROSE
    58
    Good blog post.....my worst crime is neglecting strength training....I loath it. It just doesn't give me the same feeling of "yeah, I am sweating like crazy and I know I really worked out". It's a yawn for me...I would much rather FEEL like I exercised. That being said I have started adding 30 minutes of strength training 3x a week and generally do it after 30 minutes of cardio. I haven't found a DVD that I "like" yet though but I'm working on it.....I did find out that I prefer working with a resistance band vs actual hand weights (I have a bad shoulder and the hand weights aggravate it). - 2/23/2012   9:47:16 AM
  • 57
    I guess the only thing I might be guilty of is the resistance. I don't do an incline or resistance on the treadmill or bike because I go for so long and push myself that I am all worked up doing it. I feel like I don't need worked out more. I start sweating pretty quick.

    I hold my 3 C water bottle when I walk/jog and sometimes my phone in the other hand and switch hands. I don't use weights.

    I don't leisurely walk the mall, I'm going at about a 15-17 min/mi and do it for about 45-60 min. So, it's no Sunday stroll.

    Thanks for the article. - 2/23/2012   9:43:24 AM
  • 56
    I'm not guilty of any of these "crimes" today. I consider myself reformed ! LOL!

    However, I am guilty of leaning on the handles of a stairmaster, way back when. - 2/23/2012   8:57:50 AM
  • 55
    Great article, the points are well made and documented. Guilty on leaning on machines though. - 2/23/2012   8:33:17 AM
  • 54
    I am guilty of two things: not changing my cardio routine often enough and zoning.

    Although, in reality, I don't zone out, I zone in....I get so into how my body feels and moves that I am in my own space, regardless of the TV, food channel is always on when I am on a machine, and I never use music as it distracts me. - 2/23/2012   8:20:27 AM
  • 53
    Guilty as charged on two counts: Doing the same workout (I LOVE to run, do it every day) and not doing enough strength training. I've learned my lesson; weights in, too much running out. Bicycle weather is coming! - 2/23/2012   8:02:43 AM
  • 52
    If loving stretching before working out is wrong, I don't want to be right. It feels sooo good! - 2/23/2012   7:13:50 AM
  • 51
    Heart health is important but strength training gives you the most bang for your buck, so to speak. THrough ST I have gone down 2 sizes and some inches without losing any pounds. And I feel so much stronger.
    Good article. - 2/23/2012   6:32:38 AM
  • BOBINVA
    50
    I think most people missed the part on strength training. So many of my spark friends complain of plateaus or an inability to lose any more weight. When asked what they do for exercise they walk or do the treadmill.
    Doing the same exercise works the same muscle group in the same way and your muscles remember and it gets easier. Walking is better than sitting on the couch, but a balanced routine of strength and cardio training is key to getting the results you want. Don't worry about weights. There are many exercises you can do with your own body as the resistance. - 2/23/2012   6:12:17 AM
  • 49
    The only two I'd possibly plead guilty to are zoning out and not using incline.

    Zoning out - I read when I can, but the workout is first, the book is second. I make sure I'm keeping my heart rate in the zone before I worry about turning the page. I would go mental if I stared at a screen for 45 minutes watching numbers change slowly.

    Not using incline - I'm not using the treadmill right now while allowing a hurt foot to heal completely. On the bike, I push the resistance to the point I'm struggling with it, then drop it one level. On the elliptical, I'm already at my cardio heart rate without any incline. Once I get more efficient on it, I can use some incline, but for now the resistance alone is sufficient.

    ===============

    For those who have to hang on due to balance issues, there is a difference. To maintain balance, the hold can be relatively light and the body weight is primarily supported by the legs. The so-called crime has to do with "leaning too much of your weight" - as if your legs wouldn't hold you up if you let go. Key word is lean. Keeping stable may take a firm grip, but doesn't require the torso bent forward over and pressing down on the hands and arms. - 2/23/2012   3:46:46 AM
  • 48
    I like many above have a serious balance issue and must hold on at times so I don't fall. I have no feeling in the right leg and fall often because of this. I don't give up because of it, but alter how I do things. Still get in my cardio and many other exercises, with a Dr.'s approval of course. - 2/23/2012   2:39:01 AM
  • 47
    I have a problem with some of these suggestions. First, because I have balance problems, there is no way I would go on a treadmill without holding on. According to my doctor and physiotherapist, the yoga and Pilates that I do under supervision, in addition to walking and canoeing, are perfect for my physical limitations. Make sure you know what your body needs before jumping into heavy cardio. Age, physical limitations, and health considerations should for the basis for your exercise/active lifestyle if you want to avoid injury. I would like to see these articles stress the dangers of a "one size fits all" program. - 2/23/2012   1:14:18 AM
  • 46
    Just as a point of clarification from one who has serious balance issues herself... the words in the article are as follows:

    "While gripping the handles or console of a cardio machine can aid in balance, leaning too much of your weight into the handles of the machine will decrease your workout intensity and burn far fewer calories."

    Nothing is said about not holding on for balance.

    - 2/23/2012   1:06:34 AM
  • 45
    Thanks Nicole for the reminders,
    Most of the time I am good, but I am guilty as well.
    Especially on the water. I tend to forget it altogether and wait until afterwards.
    I saw a video today that reminded me I need to drink up while doing the cardio.
    So will start to do that!
    I also tend to do the weights a little too fast. So I am going to follow you on your videos and remember to slow down!

    Thanks again! You had some great tips here! - 2/22/2012   9:40:16 PM
  • 44
    Thanks Nichole, this article has certainly "sparked" people to respond!
    I run outside pretty much, esp Autumn and spring, so hills and ground changes all the time. I do not like running with water so hydrate before & after, or during if I pass a water font. At the gym & yoga I carry & use a water bottle.
    I am not confident at the gym & generally DO hold the handles, I am scared of just "zoning out", which I have a tendency to do, & flying backwards off the treadmill (which I have done I kid you not!).
    Running with weights, ewe, uncool look in MHO.

    My biggest "crime" is inconsistency with weight training. I am easily distracted, I hate looking at myself to check my form, and I still feel very unsure about what I am doing with free-weights. I keep hoping that research will confirm my greatest wish that yoga is a strength training activity.
    - 2/22/2012   8:35:37 PM
  • 43
    I totally agree with Helsinkinknights, post #40. Each person should do according to what is best for them , and ask their doctor before they start exercising - 2/22/2012   6:24:45 PM
  • 42
    sounds a lot like me.... - 2/22/2012   5:43:15 PM
  • 41
    Hmm. - 2/22/2012   5:24:59 PM
  • 40
    Another one size fits all article. If you have balance problems, do not even consider not holding on to your equipment. This could lead to a fall and a dangerous injury. You don't have to have a death grip, but letting go because someone else thinks you should is ridiculous. And everyone's body is different. If I stress myself while doing cardio by adding an incline or speed, my cortisol levels head for the ceiling and I gain weight. If I keep a nice steady pace for a reasonable amount of time each session, the weight falls off. The bottom line: do what is best for your own body.

    I love the tips and advice in these articles, but please, please add disclaimers the this information does not fit everyone. - 2/22/2012   4:00:03 PM
  • 39
    Informative, thanks! - 2/22/2012   1:47:01 PM
  • 38
    Wow, you know what, I think I'm actually OK all of these.

    I do have a set routine but it has a variety of activities in it, so unless this doesn't count as cross-training, then I'm OK:

    Monday: Tae Kardio & Body Pump
    Tuesday: Spin
    Wednesday Tae Kardio & Body Pump
    Thursday Tae Kardio & Spin
    Friday Rest
    Saturday & Sunday White water kayaking and Snowboarding or Sea kayaking - 2/22/2012   1:34:33 PM
  • 37
    I am guilty of doing the same cardio workout and zoning out. I get an elliptical workout at least 3 times a week utilizing various program settings and weight training at least 3 times a week. I guess it's time to find ways to get my cardio in. - 2/22/2012   1:18:00 PM
  • 36
    whew, none of the above :) - 2/22/2012   1:07:09 PM
  • DEBBIE-WEBBIE
    35
    I have a co-worker that constantly tells me to stretch before Now I have an answer for her. - 2/22/2012   1:03:08 PM
  • 34
    Great blog! I see these same mistakes ALL the time. I see them every time I am at the gym just about. Sometimes I just wanna walk over to them and say, "Hey I just thought I would tell ya..." I hope people will remember what they have read. I shared a link to your blog for my team. Keep up the good work! - 2/22/2012   12:59:19 PM

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