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Rujuta Diwekar busts popular fitness myths

Last updated on: March 20, 2014 20:03 IST

Rujuta Diwekar busts popular fitness myths

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Rujuta Diwekar

Celebrity fitness trainer Rujuta Diwekar in her latest book Don't Lose Out, Work Out! lists cardio fads that make no difference to your fitness levels.

1. Mixing cardio or aerobic with dance or martial arts, typically done as group classes

That's nice as a break but not as the backbone of the entire training program or even just 'cardio'.

Group activity is definitely fun so do it by all means, but also train aerobically with running / cycling / swimming or anything else of your choice. The limitation with group classes is that they don't necessarily operate or function at your individual fitness levels. So you may end up either overtraining or under-training crucial fitness parameters of strength, flexibility and endurance.

Then there is also the 'shame factor': 'shit! The fat aunty can do it and I can't', or versions of this, so safety gets overlooked.

Now you really want to dance? Dance na? Wanna kick? By all means go for it! Want to learn how the Zen masters held their thighs while standing, please, go ahead. Want to learn the south Indian martial art kalaripayattu? Why not, do it.

But what is this obsession with 'mixing' it up and upping the calorie burn, etc. Martial art and dance forms are worthy of practising out of purity and passion and not with the greediness of losing weight. This whole 'mixing' leads to loss of traditional sequencing or choreography of these forms of dance and martial art and leads only to sweat and not glory.

Come on, there is so much more out there beyond the calorie burn.

Zumba

By the way, Zumba was born out of the fact that the main instructor forgot his tapes, so he made do with whatever he had and 'mixed' various dances, martial arts and squat / lunge kind of movements to the beat of music.

Because he was a good choreographer, the class loved it. Over a period of time, this was further improvised, and various other elements and stuff like 'toning, strengthening' were added, but essentially it was born as a nice break from the regular workout and let us just keep it like that.

Also, if you really are a fan then on your trip abroad forget the usual 'so much you walk' and take a Zumba class, ensure that the instructor is of African origin and trust me you will realize what paani kum chai your Zumba back home is ;).

Excerpted with permission from the author and Westland Ltd from Don't Lose Out, Work Out! by Rujuta Diwekar

Please click HERE to buy the book!

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Photographs: Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images

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2. Cardio on an empty stomach 'to burn fat'

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We have already discussed the importance of carbs in your meal prior to a workout session. So just convert this to 'cardio after early dinner and on a light stomach.'

See, let me just say it, if you are really fat, it took mehnat to get there, right? I mean, you didn't get there overnight, it's years of eating a certain way (not eating anything for the longest time and once you start eating not knowing where to stop), not working out, not really being very active (you have solid reasons for that I am sure), but the fact is here you are, after years of neglecting yourself.

And when self-neglect sets in, the body forgets how to burn fat or at least how to preferentially burn fat over the other readily-available fuels. And if it took years to collect fat, it is going to take you months to lose it.

Cardio on an empty stomach may lead to fat-burning in a super trained athlete whose body knows how to burn fat, but in your and my body it only means low-calorie output, more fatigue and sacrifice of that precious fat-burning muscle tissue.

So no, no cardio on an empty stomach, at least not till you have been consistent with training for 3 years, ok?

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3. Cardio before lifting weights

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Now this should be really simple -- no cardio ever before strength training. See cardio can use glycogen (carbs), fat and protein as fuel to produce muscular contractions and allow you to move forward. But weight training can only use glycogen as it lies in the anaerobic zone (and I am assuming here that your reps are now 8-12 and not 'high').

Now if you have already exhausted or even reduced your glycogen stores with that 10 or 20 minutes of whatever you do on the treadmill before going into the weights section, it's like wanting your body to run on a low or zero tank.

Obviously you will end up lifting less or nothing close to your body's ability to exert muscular force. In effect you will burn less calories during the strength / weight training session (due to less fuel there will be less muscle fibre recruitment) and that will have an effect on the after-burn.

Very simply, the less the intensity of your workout in the anaerobic zone, the less the fat-burning benefit or after-burn post exercise.

Why does your trainer still ask you to do cardio then? Well mostly because all their clients turn up late and they don't know how to say no to so many people. So even if you turn up for your 11 a.m. session at 11 a.m. you are on the treadmill for 20 minutes coz your trainer is finishing up with the earlier client who came in late.

It's a logistical and not a physiological adjustment that you are making here. Also, instead of noon, you finish little later and never bother asking your trainer why your session gets extended daily. You are trained to feel that if you paid for 1 hour and got 1.20 hours, it is somehow better; it is not, at least not for your fat-burning.

On the other hand are trainers who train you for 30 to 40 minutes and then put you on the treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes so that you feel that you worked out for an hour. This again is not required, and you have learnt that weight training should get over in less than 60 minutes in the strength training chapter.

But in terms of fuel availability, it is still better than doing cardio before weights (of course it's not ideal).

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Cardio FAQs

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Q: What is better, running on the road or treadmill?

A: What is better, wearing a pink tee-shirt or a yellow one? Depends on what you prefer, right?

Choose between treadmill and road depending on what makes you feel better and makes you feel like you put your time to good use. Personally, I like to run on a treadmill and cycle on the road. That's because, well, I just prefer it like that ;-).

Just make sure that your treadmill is of good quality and is regularly serviced.

And if there is a hierarchy regarding what is better for your weight-bearing joints, then here goes: Sand. Grass. Even mud path. And then come the treadmill or road. Some high-funda treadmills now have inbuilt cushioning so they are slightly better than roads.

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'Do a longer warm-up and a proper cool down before and after exercise'

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Q: I always get a headache / sinus attack post cardio or aerobic workout or long run / walks?

A: Wow! That makes you a walking-talking hypoglycaemic and heat-injured athlete. Sip on water during exercise and post exercise whether it was indoors or outdoors, have a diluted salt-glucose drink or the diluted nimbu pani and follow it up with the 4 R's.

Also do a longer warm-up and a proper cool down before and after exercise. Till the condition settles, lower both the intensity and duration of your workout and work on building it up slowly over a few weeks.

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What to eat after running for long?

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Q: After long runs I am miles away from any post-workout meal. Any suggestions?

A: Carry dry dates and some raisins in your pocket and have that the minute you cool down and during stretching. My personal favourite option for long runs is a potato sandwich. Keep it in your car or at the place where you do your stretching; eat it as soon as you are done stretching and definitely before heading back home, the last thing you want is an accident / injury post the long run, and it's a meal that fits into the 4 R's perfectly well.

Get home, and before you shower, read the newspaper, etc., have your protein shake.

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'Shoes are crucial for the cushioning of your feet'

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Q: How about running without shoes?

A: If you are not a trained athlete, which means that if you run a marathon in 4 hours or more and a half marathon in 2 hours or more then, no, don't even think about it.

Shoes are crucial for the cushioning of your feet and your weight-bearing joints require to carry your body weight for all the time it takes to finish your run. Walk around at home barefoot instead, and you can also be barefoot on sand, grass, but on roads -- shoes please.

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Exercise regimen for those with limited time

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Q: Realistically I can spare only two days to work out, what do you suggest?

A: Well, definitely do your strength training, and to ensure that you don't completely ignore cardio, you can do an easy run or cycle for 20 minutes post strength training on the upper body.

Because during weights you will utilize your glycogen, even if the stores are going down or exhausted post exercise, it is not a limiting fuel for cardio as it can use or burn fat too and can keep you going post weights.

That way you are progressively overloading the aerobic energy or pathway too without making the investment of another day.

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'Your heart is not complaining or shrinking in size because of the choice of exercise'

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Q: I find cardio very boring so I avoid it and only do weight training but then sometimes I think, what about my heart health?

A: Well, if you are seriously into weight training and lift respectable weights on your compound exercises for the large muscle groups -- legs, back and chest -- then know that those raise your heart rate and breathing too.

Weight training may not be popular for its 'heart benefits', but it surely offers them to you. So don't worry, your heart is not complaining or shrinking in size because of the choice of exercise.

Also know that cardio turns 'boring' because of the lack of challenge or overload on the aerobic pathway. If you learn to use the FITT principle and the exercise log, I am sure that even cardio will turn into an activity that you look forward to.


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