How to make your workouts more effective


Are you bored with your workout? If you follow these simple tips you’ll massively increase the effectiveness of your workouts and will get much fitter.

Shake up your cardio
A recent European health club survey reveals women are cardio junkies but whether it’s the same running plan, cycling route, cardio machine or a trusty old aerobics class, we tend to stick to familiar ground. This won’t do anything for your long-term goals or enjoyment factor. So if you really want to improve your fitness, lose unwanted weight and get a buzz from your workouts, it’s time for a cardio carve-up.

If you’re a runner
Turn at least one run each week into an interval session. This will relieve boredom, improve your fitness and allow you to focus on technique. Warm up by running gently for at least five to 10 minutes. Using a stopwatch or equally spaced landmarks such as lampposts, run as hard as you can for 30 to 90 seconds, recover for an equal amount of time, then repeat six to 10 times. When you’re doing the hard intervals, focus on good core control, relaxed upper body, lengthened stride, soft rolling foot strike and gluteal muscle power (feel your backside working as your leg kicks back). This type of interval training will elevate your metabolic rate immediately afterwards, helping you to burn calories. This will also improve your endurance.

If you’re a cyclist
Plan new routes that take you on a longer, more varied journey. Use a heart rate monitor to assess the level of intensity and aim to be at 70 to 85 per cent of your maximal heart rate for at least 75 per cent of the time. This will ensure you’re working at the right intensity for fitness benefits. Cycling training tends to focus on the front thigh muscles, so balance this by focusing on the pull-back action of your cycling motion. This will improve your efficiency throughout the whole cycling motion, increase your output and energy expenditure and reduce your injury risk. For something a little different, cycle in a velodrome or a spinning class taught by a well-qualified instructor. Both these disciplines are sociable and get you working on sprint speeds to challenge your fitness.

If you’re a gym bunny
Strength training will not only improve your cardio capacity but will also increase your metabolism, so you’ll burn even more calories when you do cardio training. Try a mixed cardio and strength circuit twice a week. Start by warming up on a bike for 10 minutes, followed by sets of squats, gym ball chest flyes, lunges and lat pulldowns, then two minutes’ hard cardio on a treadmill or cross-trainer. Repeat this three to five times, changing your strength exercises every two to three months. You should also do one long cardio session each week, during which you increase your distance in whatever time you have. You can mix this up on different cardio machines or stay on the same one. Just log your time over distance and aim to improve this every three to four weeks. For a final mix up, do intervals at least once, a week. Try six intervals starting with two at 120 seconds, two at 90 seconds and two at 60 seconds. Aim to work as hard as you can in the time you have.

If you’re a studio junkie
Look at the full timetable of classes – you want to get a mix of different activities that challenge you in different ways. Aim to do five classes a week: three cardio and two focused on strength or relaxation. Include two hard, long cardio sessions such as spinning, combat or Body Attack, a combined strength and cardio session such as circuits or a combined aerobics and conditioning plus one strength-orientated session such as Body Pump or kettlebells, and one strength, core and flexibility-focused session such as Pilates, yoga or Body Balance. Your instructor is important to your success – make sure they help you to progress in each session by giving you individual feedback and developing the class so it doesn’t stay the same week after week.

If you exercise at home
Look at the large number of apps available to download on to your smartphone. Nike Training Club (free, from iTunes) is a great example; it also has a social network and goal-driven motivational tool, both key if you tend to exercise alone. Try to get outside, too. All you need is a set of steps or a bench, and some resistance bands you can tie around a post, tree or bench. Try the following circuit indoors or outside. Warm up for five minutes by walking or marching on the spot, followed by knee lifts, leg curls and alternating lunges. Do step-ups for three minutes, then four strength exercises using a resistance band, such as lunges with back rows, chest presses, squats with shoulder raises and one-leg balanced tricep extensions. Repeat this circuit three to five times, then switch the step-ups for skipping or rebounding if you’re at home, or walking and running if you’re in the park. Have a hot, relaxing bath in the evening followed by a long stretch in front of the TV before bed.