5 Ways to Improve, Love and Get Results with Your Cardio Workout
Talking about fitness is a conversation in which everyone will engage. You don’t have to be a meathead, ultra-marathoner or avid tennis player. In fact, you could be a bride discussing her wedding–goalsize, a woman who got shit as a teenager in P.E., or a stroke survivor whose doctor hasn’t given the “return to normal activity” clearance. Fitness, body image and social standards creep into our lives whether we find it annoying, irrelevant, vain, or not.
Even though I have a muscular build and receive many compliments (thank you, friends), I sometimes become red-cheeked and embarrassed over the attention. It’s not because I’m not proud of my strong body and its abilities–but rather, the assumption of others that my primary goal is to LOOK GOOD or be a size 4…or (my most dreaded word) … “ripped” or “jacked.” I fucking hate those words. It’s like the ultimate “I’m at the lake, bro. Bring the beer and bitches” term. Gross. Never call me “ripped” or I’ll call you “Delicate, Little Flower.” Just think how awkward that would be. “Let’s catch up, Delicate Little Flower! Hit me up on Facebook!”
“Getting ripped” just means losing body fat. Ok, Delicate Little Flower? It’s just another way to showcase your muscular endurance and work ethic. I wish I could tell you the exact number of times I’ve heard or read, “This exercise will tone your abs. Great ways to tone your butt…” In all honesty, the best way to tone anything is to reduce that beautiful, warm layer of lard that naps on top of your muscles.
That statement sounds pretty harsh, doesn’t it? Especially coming from some petite blonde who looks lik
e she came out of the womb as Miss Fitness America. Don’t worry, I’ll let you kick me in the shins later. However, I would like to remind you to pry your head out of your ass and out of People Magazine. Pictures of celebrities like Tom Brady’s wife and model, Giselle, who lost the meager 18 pounds gained during pregnancy in 3 weeks is unrealistic and pure fantasy for most normal women. That bitch probably has a 24-hour, live-in Vegan nutritionist, as well as an on-site bungalow for her Pilates instructor. Most of these spoiled, extravagant perks just aren’t available or realistic for most women.
If you don’t have millions lining your piggy banks—that’s okay! I’m going to tell you 5 less-expensive secrets to being a lean, mean, cardiovascular, green-machine. Actually, that is my Incredible Hulk mantra I utilize when I hit a wall. However, if you really want to increase your love for cardio and be able to show your 12-year-old who’s the real boss in freeze tag—read ahead.
Find a cardio outlet that you absolutely LOVE to do.
If you don’t have an activity you love—what makes you think you’re going to do it? How about the stair climber? The treadmill? Or the rowing machine—so fun! Not interested? Neither am I. I won’t do them and I’d rather get my teeth cleaned. It’s like forcing yourself to eat a food that makes you gag and then convincing yourself it tastes good. Once you plateau, or stop seeing and feeling results, you’re going to drop that cardio like an ugly one-night stand.
What is the one thing you loved as a child or an activity that made you feel fierce, beautiful and strong? Don’t have one? I call bullshit. Everyone at some point in their life finds a sport or activity that makes their spirit sing. Did you know that drumming can burn over 250 calories an hour? Hula hooping can burn 100 calories in 10 min! Freeze tag for 15 min can increase your street cred with the neighborhood kids and burn 150 calories.
I like to dance on roller skates, do ballet in my living room and create all kinds of weird challenges for myself, because I get bored easily. I embrace making an ass of myself and enjoy dominating the random fitness stations at the park. Don’t make excuses—sign up for that dance class, masters’ swim class or hiking club. Life is short, and you should move in a way that keeps you strong and keeps you smiling.
2. Find your motivation style
Not everyone has goals or motivation to destroy Gillian Michaels in a fitness duel. However, it is crucial to find what will motivate you to show up and be accountable. Some people need to meet a friend who is also interested in getting in shape. Some need a Navy Seal to bark orders. Some need a payoff at the end—maybe a performance if you do silks or dance. Others need fitness cults (Cross Fit) or organized obstacle events (Tough Mudder) with large groups of participants who enjoy showcasing their muscles and awesomeness. Whatever makes you accountable makes you consistent. So figure it out.
3. Learn to enjoy work, and endure some suffering
I’m going to tell you a story. I once worked with a woman who was previously a highly-skilled ballerina. She had probably not danced in about 8-10 yeas. I don’t know if you are familiar with the daily exhaustion of ballet conditioning—but those tiny, bun-wrapped athletes are soldiers in a battle field. This woman wanted to get back in shape, and the first day endlessly complained it was hard, she was tired and sore, and wish she could have a latte refill. The only thing I could conclude is that she lied about her ballet past. There is NO WAY IN HELL this woman ever balanced and jumped for endless hours on bloody toes stuffed in pointe shoes. Either that, or she completely forgot how to work hard.
One Wednesday, I shook her violently by the shoulders and told her to stop being a damn premadonna, buck up, and whine about something that truly mattered. I didn’t really shake her—but I fantasized about it. Eventually, I dumped her as a client because she was wasting my time, gossiping about dumb shit, and wasn’t willing to work HARD at all.
I am a great motivator, and I will push you. I will be tough, safe and respectful, but I will push you to a level of “un” comfortability. You know why? It’s because I’m gifted at knowing people’s thresholds and intensity levels. There is a difference between being sore and being injured. This is an important differentiation you must learn about your body and challenge your threshold if you want to be safe and successful.
If you don’t learn to endure some suffering, some soreness, and some willpower challenges—YOU WILL NEVER EVER BE SUCCESSFUL AT IMPROVING YOUR FITNESS or probably any other goal. If you want to feel strong, healthy and fit—you must DO THE WORK. You can’t just sit on the couch and say positive body affirmations that will magically transform your ass. I think affirmations are excellent and should be said as a reminder that you “have a beautiful, capable, indestructible body that will not quit no matter how big the fighter.” Believe you can handle the work and the suffering, and in the end, you will feel like a warrior—confident and ready for any battle in life, spirit and body.
4. Switch it up, sister
If I were to tell you the most important detail about maintaining results and avoiding plateaus—it would be this one. If you’ve watched videos like P90X and endured the annoying, cheesy commentary by that man—I assure you, you’ve absorbed a useful, trendy fitness term called muscle confusion. I personally do not like to use this word, because I don’t think your muscles need to be confused and for me that term seems to be more appropriate for muscle imbalance.
So I’m going to create a new term called work variety. Work variety is a way to challenge your body to move in ways that are out of its normal routine and comfort zone. The biggest mistake people make when trying to get back into shape is they do the EXACT same things they’ve always done and expect to improve their fitness results. As we grow older, we cannot understand why our body is holding on to fat and gaining weight. After all, we are still exercising like we have always done and nothing has changed—or has it?
Without getting into a long explanation about metabolism, age and workload—I’m going to keep it simple. If you do not expose your body to different types of activities, it will become adept and fit in the areas in which it performs daily; however, because of your amazing talent at performing that activity–your muscles stop gaining strength and also results. Your body and fitness level becomes stagnant and plateaus.
In conclusion, mix it up! If you are a runner and cruise for an easy 3 miles every day—try sprint intervals or hill repeats at the end. Start with 5, and work your way up to 10 repeats. If you are a power-lifter, try dropping the weight after each set, and crank out 15 reps to fatigue. If you enjoy dance or hiking, add an extra mile, or finish with 10 jumps (on each side). If you are really brave, try a completely new activity, and mix it in once a week with your comfortable activity. If anyone wants to know how I stay so lean—I’ll give you an example.
Monday—run 2 miles—faster pace with dogs. Power yoga for 45 min
Tuesday—Run 3.5 miles at a steady pace. Weight lifting and physical therapy for 30 min.
Wed—20 min run. Rock climbing 1 hr. after work.
Thursday—Run 2 mi. Roller skate/dance for 1 hour.
Friday—Run 3.5 miles. Plyometrics 30 min
Sat—Something outside for a couple of hours (for fun) Hike, bike, skate…whatever
5. The early bird may be grumpy, but it always gets the worm.
Sound nuts? Wake up and go to bed earlier. Don’t have enough time? Break it up into am and pm workouts. 30 min in the am and 30 min in the pm. Even if you have kids, I’m pretty sure you can find 30 min 2X/day. If you can’t, wake up earlier. If you don’t want to—that’s ok. Maybe you need to work on your body-love and self-esteem. You might need to accept that you are choosing to rest more or spend more time with family. I have definitely taken certain years to rest more, and be happy with less activity. If you’re still not happy—own it, get your ass out of bed, stop whining, and be willing to do the work. If you are still not happy—find a therapist.