Fitness can become an old, tired game if you aren't playing your cards right. And even worse, your body could just get used to your fitness routine and stop using as much energy (read: you'll stop seeing results). To avoid the infamous fitness plateau, check out these 12 ways to burn more calories during your workout from Women's Health.
DURING ANY WORKOUT
1. Avoid zombie mode with intervals. Whether you get your cardio fix by hopping on the elliptical, treadmill, or strength training, try going for a positive work-to-rest ratio, says Mike Wunsch, C.S.C.S., coach at Results Fitness in Newhall, California. That means working at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate for 30 seconds and resting for 30 seconds at 70 percent of your max heart rate. (Use the sensors on the cardio machine or a wearable monitor to check in on your beats per minute.) When you train at a steady pace, you often put in a medium amount of effort in order to pace yourself through your workout. But when you use intervals, your heart rate goes much higher and spikes your calorie burn.
2. Limit your rest. Since burning calories is all about keeping your heart rate up, long rest periods are not your friend. Try to catch your breath during a 30- to 60-second break, says Kernen. Set a timer on your phone so you know exactly when it's time to push it again.
3. Don’t use the machine's pre-set “weight-loss” program. The programs on cardio machines can take the guesswork out of your sweat session, but choose your program wisely. The “weight-loss” or “fat-loss” programs keep your heart rate at around 55 percent of your max, while the cardio program keeps your heart rate at around 75 of your max, says Kernen. That could be the difference between burning 200 calories or 400 calories, he says. The higher your heart rate, the more oxygen your body uses, and the more calories you burn.
ON THE TREADMILL
4. Hit the hills. Sprinting isn’t the only way to get your heart rate up on the hamster wheel. Try increasing the incline on the treadmill between three and five percent instead of the cranking up the speed, says Kernen. The higher the incline, the more calories you’ll burn, even without going any faster. Plus, by taking your incline up a notch, you engage different muscles than you do on a flat road, which adds an extra challenge. As you get comfortable walking (keeping the speed below four mph) or jogging (with your speed between five and six mph) at that incline, you can gradually increase it. But look out for signs that you have the machine set too steep, he says. If you need to hold onto the treadmill, notice you’re falling farther back on the belt, or feel like you’re leaning too far forward, you need to bring the incline down a bit.
5. Stop being basic. You could slow the treadmill down to a brisk walk during your rest intervals — or you could try taking your speed way down (like between one and two mph) and performing walking lunges. Since lunging requires your quads, glutes, and lower back to exert much more force than they would while walking, you'll burn more energy during your break, says Kernan.
6. Engage your arms. If you’re just resting your hands on the elliptical handles, you're only working your lower body. But by pushing and pulling them with every stride, your muscles will suck more oxygen out of your blood stream, which forces your cardiovascular system to use more energy, says Wunsch. That means you’ll crush more calories.
Want more calorie-burning tips? Click here to read the original story from Women's Health.