Cardio exercise, when we get our heart rate up, tends to be where we spend the largest part of our exercise time, so let’s take a look at some of the simple things we can do to make our cardio workout more effective.

What cardio’s not

First off though, let’s look at what cardio doesn’t do so well.

Cardio can’t make up for a bad diet. It’s all about energy in, energy out. If we are still eating an energy dense diet, no amount of cardio will compensate for it.

Cardio will not build lots of lean muscle. It works to a point, but in order to get lean muscle (required to increase our body’s metabolism so we burn fat even while we’re not actually exercising) we need to do some resistance exercise also.

Getting the most out of cardio

When starting out your cardio training, you are better off going for a longer session, for example 40 minutes and only going hard for 15 minutes of it than going out for a shorter session and stopping when you can’t keep up the pace.

Set yourself a time you are going to train for and adjust your hard work/not so hard work ratio so that you don’t fall over from exhaustion halfway and have to stop. As long as you are breathing heavier throughout your whole session you are on the right track.

Interval training sessions, where you alternate short bursts of hard work with active rest are a great way to build up your fitness.

An interval training programme is as easy as taking to the streets and walking one lamppost and running one lamppost or walking uphill then downhill.

Energy in / Energy out

When we are improving our health we really do have to look at the role food plays. If weight loss is what you are after then putting in some work in the kitchen as well as the gym is going to make your fitness journey more successful. Even for those lucky enough to be happy with they way they are (Go You!) then eating the right food will still contribute to keeping up your energy levels and positively contribute to your mood and to your health.

So here goes.

The common complaint of many trying to lose weight is that they feel that they are eating all the right things but still struggling to see a difference.

So, assuming you are not living on cabbage soup or mescalin salad (it’d take about 500 cups of either to get enough calories to survive) then the volume that you eat is as important as what you eat.

Our perception of portion size can be affected by many things like hunger, smell, serving spoon size, who you are eating with not to forget the size and colour of your plate.

Try to avoid the all or nothing approach, where you ditch all the ‘bad’ food from the cupboards, pack the lunchbox full of all the latest low fat wonder snacks unless you have cast iron willpower. There is a gap between ‘perfect’ and ‘good enough’, and we should be aiming towards the latter as perfect is difficult to attain.

If you are eating takeaways every night and 2 litres of cola a day with no exercise at all, you don’t need to settle for celery and marathons to get an improvement; small changes to your food intake will contribute to your health in the long term. Big changes may give you big results in the short term, but won’t be as effective in the long term.

Get yourself a set of measuring cups and start using them as your serving spoons. When we get immediate feedback on how much we are eating we tend to be more conservative.

If you are a big eater then the ‘standard serving’ of your favourite food is going to be pretty measly looking. Allow yourself a ‘transition period’ by reducing your portions over a week or so.

If weight loss and eating well were easy then we’d have no diet industry. The truth is that no matter what the magazines say keeping a healthy balanced diet and exercising regularly is the key to good health and a healthy weight. Acknowledge there is an effort involved and set the odds in your favour.

Anyone who says they can eat whatever they want without gaining weight probably wants small portions, moderation and a lot of salad!

Being real

The reality is that there is a trade off for the ‘perfect’ body and that’s keeping a REALLY good eye on what you eat. While it would be great to look like a lot of the women we see in the media, they will be on very strict diets to look the way they do and they get paid a whopping great pay-packet to make up for all that going without.

How about go for something a little bit more realistic so you can enjoy your body and live a little as well. You know there are things that aren’t going to happen, if you aren’t a morning person then don’t kid yourself you can get out of bed for an early workout. If you hate rice crackers then they’ll just sit in your bag while you eat what you do enjoy.

Stack the odds in your favour, make changes you have a chance of achieving first, the motivation you get from achieving will make tackling the harder stuff less of a hurdle.

If you need some extra motivation then head over to www.julzdarroch.co.nz for ideas on smart snacking and eating well that will work with the advice here on kiwifamilies.co.nz


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Julz Darroch provides education and resources for those who want to get fit and introduce exercise into their lives but aren’t sure where to start- the exercise allergic are her speciality! Julz is also mum to two great kids who help keep her moving. You can find out more on her website.

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