When cardio or “metcon” is done right, the results can be truly transformative, boosting your fitness, your athleticism and your overall health. However, all too often cardiovascular exercise is attempted in ways that harm rather than help. Just walk into any gym and take a look at the row of ellipticals and stair climbers, or peek into the spinning class in the adjoining room.
You’ll see a lot of well-intentioned souls who are over-stressing and damaging their bodies, without actually getting a useful workout. Before you put one foot back into your gym, take 2 minutes to read about these 4 cardio workouts that could be doing you more harm than good!
First taking off in the 1990s, the elliptical trainer has won widespread popularity as a “gentler” alternative to treadmills. Reducing joint stress is certainly a worthy concern. However, in the name of saving our knees, a generation of gym-goers has picked up a nasty new habit. Along with its low-impact design, the elliptical offers a far easier alternative to running or jogging. It’s possible to get on an elliptical machine, tune in to some television or music, and simply “go through the motions” of exercise without really raising your heart rate. As a result, elliptical enthusiasts can lose focus of their training goals. They may believe that they are staying “on track” by showing up at the gym regularly. However, if they spend all their time on the elliptical-autopilot, they may then wonder why they do not meet their fitness goals.
2. The slog
The slow jog, also known as the “slog”, can commonly be seen on city sidewalks around the country. Running is such a popular form of aerobic activity that it may seem like a sure-fire approach. How could so many long-time runners be wrong? However, running with even slightly poor form can quickly lead to injuries. For “born” runners or those who take the time to learn proper running form, the sport can offer tremendous health benefit. However, simply jogging around your neighborhood each morning may actually cause more health risks than benefits.
For the average individual, slow to moderate jogging is a more realistic activity than full-on running, at least when starting out. However, slow jogging raises the heart rate relatively little and provides only moderate benefit to your fitness. In order to lose weight or appreciably improve your overall athleticism, you will need to jog a relatively long time. Plus, you run a high risk of developing joint injuries. In other words, for a relatively small payoff, you need to put in a lot of time and have a high risk of injury.
Another gym favourite, the stair climbing machine is an ever-present fixture of the modern gym. Walking on an incline is an excellent way of increasing the intensity of walking. However, if you take a look at who is using stair climbing machines, you’ll see a row of hunched frames, gripping the machine’s handles. Typically, users turn up the intensity, making themselves struggle up absurdly steep mountainsides at a terrifying clip. Since the intensity is simply too challenging, it becomes necessary to cling to the machine frame. Slouching, contorting the arms, or heaving oneself upward with the upper body, the desperate stair climbing enthusiast reaps more postural damage than athletic benefit.
One of the most popular offerings in the gym classroom, spinning is the spine-crunching and shoulder-numbing twisted cousin of regular cycling. Urged on by the pumping bass, the students in a spinning class typically push themselves beyond their limits, hoping to tone muscle and burn fat through their suffering. Instead, the duress causes spinners to develop poor form and strain-related injuries.
Mistaken approaches to cardio take many forms, but four of the biggest culprits are ever-present. The elliptical machine lets people zone out while imagining they are getting fit. Slow jogging – or “slogging” – often leads to injury and delivers scant fitness benefits. The stair climber, though a perfectly well-designed equipment, is typically misused by the overly ambitious. Meanwhile, spin classes have stripped cycling of its benefits and regularly result in more injury than athletic improvement. While each of the four “bad boys” of cardio may seem to promise some benefit, they typically offer “shortcut”-type strategies to fitness. Like most shortcuts, at some point they result in paying the full price, and usually with interest. To avoid injury down the line, skip these types of cardio altogether.