Friday, January 13, 2012

Your Treadmill is a Liar!

Yeah that's right, you heard me!  Your treadmill, and any other piece of so-called "cardio equipment" you own, or regularly use at the gym, are big...fat...LIARS!  Shame!!!

All right, time to calm down slightly.  What do I mean by all this ruckus and shouting?  Well, I'd like to address what is probably one of the biggest misconceptions about cardio-equipment, and in turn one of the greatest miscalculations in the daily recording of fitness activities.  Now I'm guessing that the treadmill, bike, elliptical, stair-stepper, rowing machine, or whatever doesn't just have one on/off button.  No, I bet you look down each day you step on that thing and feel slightly like a pilot with all the gauges and buttons displayed to you in big, bright, digital fashion.  You might see your total workout time, distance traveled, heart-rate, incline, mile-rate, intensity, resistance, interval graphs, and the one piece of information I have the BIGGEST beef with:

Calories Burned.

You don't know how frustrating it is to have people come up to you on a daily basis (knowing you're a fitness buff with your own blog online), and proclaim proudly: "hey man, I just burned 680 calories on a treadmill."

....Congratulations, you want a medal?

But seriously, what does that even mean?  How did you burn that supposed number of calories?  Did you sprint for 10 minutes?  jog for an hour?  walk for three hours?  crawl for two miles?  What was your heart rate? Incline?  Speed?  What's your weight, height, age stride, pace, fitness level, bodyfat ratio, muscular density, anxiousness, meal before your workout, and your metabolic rate?

I hate to break it to all of you, but if your treadmill doesn't take all these factors into account, it has no idea how many calories you actually burned.  

You see, that calorie counter works through a consistent little program created through obtaining an average calorie burn rate of near "average" individuals.  Some programs are more accurate than others, yes, but in the end, nobody is average.  We all have different metabolisms, fitness levels, bodyfat ratios, etc.  To give you a simple example, someone with a higher metabolism will burn more calories during a 1 mile run at 7 mph than someone with a slower metabolism doing the exact same run.  Or maybe there are two people with the exact same height and weight, but one has been running his entire life.  The more experienced, more cardiovascular efficient person will burn less calories per mile than the person who's less "fit", if they both run at the same speed.  You see all these little nuances?  As fancy as that treadmill is, it can't take that into account.

So don't come up to me and tell me how many calories you burned.  I will either not stop what I'm doing and mumble "cool," or if the figure is nutty enough, I'll stop what I'm doing, look you square in the face, and say "no, you didn't."

BUT WAIT!!!  This information shouldn't depress you.  Sure it may throw you off a little bit, but it also frees you up to become MUCH more physically fit than ever before.  Instead of focusing on the calories burned, how about instead you focus on the intensity and length of your workout, and record THOSE figures instead.  Bottom line is that the more intensely you get your heart going in a cardio workout, the more calories you'll burn.  Why do you think high intensity interval training works so well?  Use the timer, the speed, and the incline/resistance with more gusto than the calorie counter.  Use the counter only as a reference.  If it reads 100 calories greater than last time, great!  You burned more calories!  You won't know exactly how many more, but hey, it looks significant!

Don't fall for the treadmill's lies anymore.  Calories don't matter so much.  Intensity does.  Get that heart going, and you'll be more than happy with your results.

Push hard, run fast, and as always, good luck!

1 comment:

  1. Well, I realized much about the functions, and the point to take into consideration when we estimate the total calories burned.. I am agree it just not the straight reading but little bit more complicated..
    Cary Gym