Your Workouts Aren’t as Effectivie as You Think

In order to have to success at anything in life you need to be able to know where you’re currrently at and where you want to get. Otherwise how do you know if your efforts are working for you? Consider your finances.

If you have a mortgage you know exactly when it will be paid off. You’ll also know what you’ve paid in interest and if you make extra installments how this changes your repayment schedule. Or if you renogiate the loan at a different rate you’ll be aware of how this changes everything as well.

Because it would be pretty confusing if we had no idea how much our payments should be. Or when they should be made. Or if making changes in the terms would work to our advantage or not.

Your workouts are similar in this fashion.

It would be very difficult to stay on track and realize our goals if we didn’t know our starting point. Or where we are trying to get . Or how intense and frequent our workouts should be to achieve our goals.

And this isn’t something that relates to weight loss only.

It is also equally important for the underweight athlete that needs to put on some lean body mass. Or it could be important for a figure athlete such as a gymnast, figure skater or diver that needs to maintain a particular aesthetic look for success in their sport.

But there is a problem made by many when it comes to tracking the energetic outputs of our training. The problem is that we over estimate how many calories we burn during a workout. How does this happen? In a few ways at least.

1. Inaccurate technology. The truth is that a piece of cardiovascular equipment doesn’t know our age, sex, weight, height, BMI. bodyfat or anything else about us. Yet most machines will spit out a number at the end of the workout telling you many calories you have burned. When you consider the lack of information this machine has about you this should tell you something about the accuracy of the measurement. I guess if I turned the treadmill on, jumped off for 5 minutes to use the washroom, and then came back to run for another 20 minutes it would give a number representing 25 minutes of running.

2. Inaccurate advertising. I’m being nice when I refer to the claims of some fitness businesses as being inaccurate. One in particular claims to be burn up to 500 calories in a half hour. Let’s put this in perspective.

One of my regular clients will perform a dynamic warm-up, lateral band walks, scap push ups, med ball chops, wall slides, ankle mobilization stretches, knee mobilizations and T-spine stretches. Next she will do 6-8 sets of a three exercise circuit with resisted whole body movements such as squats, deadlifts, chin ups and presses. She will then proceed to do some energy system work such as  2 km on the rowing machine. And we’ll finish this off with some static stretching. This all is completed in 60 minutes. Sounds exhausting, doesn’t it?

This workout burns approximately 360 calories in an hour. Not a half hour but a full hour.

This individual is training way more intensely for double the amount of time and burns less than 500 calories. I guess when you thrown in the words ‘up to’ then any amount of calories burned works for that claim.

3. We over estimate our efforts. It doesn’t help when cardio machines and fitness centres are pumping us up telling us how great we’re doing. The truth is our rest breaks are longer than we think. And our intensity may be less then what it should be. And we may stop short on sets rather than working to our capacity.

When you think about it, most people measure their workouts by the time they left and returned to their vehicle. In the space of that hour they may have been some exercising that occured but it wasn’t an hour of continuous exercise. We might view things differently if we tracked our training by tracking our reps, sets and intensity. We might have a better picture of what a particular training session accomplished.

Every time you step in the gym for a training session you need to bring a pen and notebook. Record as much info as possible such as the time, date, your weight before and after, as well as the loads for all your reps and sets. This way you will be able to see what is working and what isn’t. You’ll be able to tweak your workouts when necessary and make the quickest, safest gains possible. Failing to do so woud be like making random payments on a mortgage you don’t know when will be paid off.

Leave me a comment below and tell me:

What type of workout do you think burns the most calories?

What do you record in your training journal?

All the best.

Chris                                                                                                                                                                                                  ‘always moving forward’



4 Responses to Your Workouts Aren’t as Effectivie as You Think

  1. Anny says:

    Very intersting Chris. Certainly an eye opener – definitely thought our Apple Bowl workouts with stairs etc where burning more calories. Good incentive to get make sure the other 3 days of the week are equally as intense and caloric intake is monitored more closely. Which leads me to the other day when we where talking about what person should weigh – which got me thinking in more practical terms (at least in my little world!)that it might make more sense for me personally to work on reducing mesurements as opposed to numbers on the scale. Sometimes getting caught up in that “goal” number of what I think or a magazine tells you is frustrating and may not be realistic. Your thoughts? Advice – I seem to need a shot of incentive lately.

    • Chris says:

      Anny: Think of your results and progress in this way.
      1. Health first – You want the best lipid profiles, the best blood chemistry and overall the best internal health possible.
      2. Fitness second – Aim for the best strength, power, cardiovascular health and flexibility possible.
      3. Body measures third – Tape measures, scale weight, BMI, body fat etc.

      When you put your focus in this order you will know you are on the right track and not get frustrated if one measure is an outlier.

      All the best.

      Chris ‘always moving forward’

  2. Charlie says:

    Hi Chris,

    This is an interesting topic.

    I myself train with kettlebells(fitness as well for kettlebell sport competition) almost exclusively. Many kettlebell instructors out there cite a study performed by the American Council on Exercise which is based off a specific very high intensity protocol and was shown to burn 272 cals/20 min plus an additional 6.6 per minute due to anaerobic demands of the protocol; the article states the equivalent to a 6 min mile pace.

    The problem is that they cite the article as if just the fact you are using a kettlebell is going to make your work out burn 1000 calories.

    People don’t understand or are mislead that their perceived exertion has a direct correlation as to how many calories they burn.

    Here is a link to a short version of the article.

    Here is a link to the actual ACE article.


    • Chris says:

      Charlie: You make some great points. Kettlebells are a great whole body, ground-based form of exercise that is deserving of every single calorie expended. I’ll check out the articles you mention.

      Chris ‘always moving forward’

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