If your training session are same old, same old and you feel like you need to switch it up a notch, try these three great strategies and boost your metabolism at the same time ‒ win, win!
1. The benefits of backwards training
Have you ever tried exercising in a backwards direction? Yes, you heard me correctly. And this really is a great exercise. Research has shown we burn up to 60 per cent more calories when we walk or run backwards, compared to going forwards at the same speed. We’ve been moving in a forwards direction since we started crawling as babies, so our brains don’t have to think about this activity. We exercise the same muscles, and with the same type of contractions all the time. Try going backwards and you’ll see it’s a lot harder. You have to concentrate a lot more, and your brain needs to “learn” how to send impulses to different muscles in your legs, muscles you don’t usually use. This leads to greater energy expenditure which means you get a great workout. You can do backwards training on a treadmill, arm ergometer and elliptical trainer. If you want to go outdoors, find a safe place such as the sports grounds at a school or club, or a park in your neighbourhood. Start slowly and alternate with forward walking or running exercises (1 minute backwards and 2 minutes forwards) until you’re comfortable to go faster and for longer intervals. You might turn a few heads, but when you’re burning 60 per cent more calories, it’s totally worth it.
2. Step up a gear
High-intensity interval training is the latest exercise strategy that has caught the attention of many exercise scientists. It’s simple: the harder you work, the more calories you’ll burn during and after exercise and the fitter you’ll get. Perhaps the greatest benefit of this type of training is that people tend to lose significant amounts of fat mass, especially abdominal fat, and more so than with traditional continuous exercise at a moderate pace. And for everyone complaining they don’t have time to exercise, this is the perfect solution. As little as 10 minutes of exercise a day will make substantial changes to your body composition and fitness.
How does it work? High-intensity interval training is best done on a treadmill, cycle ergometer, rowing machine or even an elliptical trainer. Start off by doing 1-minute intervals; 1-minute exercise at the highest possible speed or workload that you can handle, followed by 1 minute of active recovery at a slow pace. Repeat this 10 times. You’ll know you’re doing this type of training correctly if you’re genuinely exhausted after the session (you aren’t able to talk, and you don’t see yourself doing one more repetition). Should this not be the case, then you’re either not going hard enough or it’s time to adjust your intervals. Slowly build the duration of your intervals to 5 x 2 minutes with 2-minute rest intervals, then 4 x 3 minutes with 2-minutes rest intervals and ultimately 4 x 4 minutes with 2-minute rest intervals. The latter is still only 16 minutes of exercise, but don’t underestimate its potency.
3. Try concurrent training
Combine strength exercises with a few minutes of cardio. For instance, do one strength exercise, such as bicep curls, and follow it up with 3 minutes of vigorous cardio (rope skipping, stepping up and down a step bench, jogging and so forth). The cardio exercise should be at an intensity where it’s really difficult for you to have a conversation with a friend. After a brief rest interval (30 seconds – 1 minute), repeat the sequence with a different strength exercise. Repeat 4 – 6 times and increase the number of intervals as you get fitter and stronger. This type of training allows you to build lean muscle mass, plus improve your endurance capacity. In addition, it brings variety to your training session which is always a good idea to keep you motivated.