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Your Personal Trainer: A Lesson in Cardio

Let’s talk cardio.  It may be one of my biggest pet peeves to see a girl spend 45 minutes on the elliptical, even more so when her resistance is set to something around 5.  Not ok.  You’re just wasting your time!  So stay tuned, read up, and I’ll give you some helpful hints on how to have an effective cardio workout. 

So how can you properly use this crowd-pleaser of a machine?  Simple.  Set the resistance up to something like 7 or 8 (or even 10!).  Sure, you won’t be able to go as fast, but the point here is to challenge yourself by adding on resistance, making your quads, hamstrings, and glutes really work.  Once your base resistance is set, there are a few options you can consider, one of which is not to stay at this resistance the entire time!

The first option is a type of interval training.
  I like to pick a song that has a really upbeat refrain, then, whenever said refrain comes up, I push myself extra hard for its duration.  When verses return, I let myself go back to my original pace, and allow my heart rate come down a bit as well.

Another idea is to increase your resistance rather than your pace.  Do an eight-minute warm-up on say, level 8, or something that is just challenging enough that you feel your muscles working (rather than flying through the machine).  Then up it to the next level for five minutes.  If you’re doing a 30-minute workout, do one more increase in resistance at 15 minutes, right as you hit the middle of the cycle.  To finish, allow yourself to ease out of the resistance, lowering it as you hit the 20 or so minute mark.  If five-minute increments of increased resistance are too much to handle, try bouts of one or two minutes and work up to the longer bouts.  Soon you’ll become stronger and find your original starting resistance too easy!

But you’re the type who thinks 30 minutes on the elliptical is boring?  Well, you’re not alone, and I have a fantastic solution:  cross-training.  This is my cardio of choice.  It’s great not only because it keeps you interested, but also because it provides different exercises that will keep your muscles working and train them in different ways.  My two favorite machines are the stairmaster (often referred to at the Plex as ”the Beast”) and the spinning bike. 

Try the stairmaster first.  A good setting is “fat burner plus,” which incorporates interval training, alternating bouts of fast-paced climbing with a slower recovery climb.  At setting 12, you can burn 200 calories in just under 13 minutes.  

After your 10-13 minutes on the stairmaster, take a break, do some weight training work for about 10 minutes, then hop on the bike.  As with the elliptical, try and pick songs that allow you to pick up your pace at the refrain, which not only makes it much more fun, but also helps you to challenge yourself.  Stay on the bike for about 10 minutes, or longer if you choose, pushing yourself and cranking up the resistance as you ride along.  In about 15 minutes you can burn off another 200 calories!

According to the American Council of Sports Medicine, 25-30 minutes of moderate intensity cardio is good enough for one day (five days a week).  However, if you’re feeling extra motivated, hop on the treadmill, take a run around the track or Res, or even get on the elliptical for 10 more minutes!  You’ll find yourself much more motivated when there are only 10-15 minutes of work in front of you, rather than a daunting 30. 

Another key to cardio is getting in an ample warm-up and cool-down.  Whichever type of cardio you choose, give yourself at least a good five-minute warm-up period, allowing your heart rate to adjust before you go into your higher intensity sections.  Similarly, allow yourself time to cool down and let your heart rate recover after your workout as well. 

When all is said and done, don’t forget to stretch!  Stretching after every workout is very important for your muscles and will help prevent you from limping around campus the next day!

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Julianne is an Ohio native studying communication at Boston College with a concentration in journalism. She got involved with Her Campus BC when the chapter launched in December 2010. She began as an editor and contributing writer, and since has moved up the ranks to Campus Correspondent. Aside from working for Her Campus, Julianne is a certified personal trainer at Boston College's Flynn Recreational Complex and teaches group fitness as well. During her sophomore year, Julianne was a part of the Arrupe Program at BC and traveled to Guatemala, learning about the culture, political, social, economic, and religious issues of the country. Her goals post graduation include writing for a health and fitness magazine or working in communications for college or professional athletics. As for now, however, she is enjoying life at the University she loves so much! An avid hockey and football fan, one can always find Julianne in the stands rooting on BC and the Boston Bruins! Other hobbies include running, yoga, cooking, baking, and photography.
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