For the sake of your body, brain, and even mental health, adding in one extended workout per week can be a GREAT idea. But if the concept of a 60+ minute workout sounds a bit daunting, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
What is Happening to Your Body During an Extended Workout
When you do a long cardio session at a low to moderate intensity level (let’s say up to 50 to 70% of your max heart rate, the latter of which you can calculate by subtracting your age from 220), you’re primarily functioning in the aerobic domain. This means that your body is using oxygen from the air you breathe to supply muscles with energy. This is the contrast to anaerobic exercise, such as sprinting, where you’re working at such a high-intensity level that your body can’t consume enough oxygen to energize your muscles—meaning your muscles have to find other ways to keep moving.
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Aerobic exercise also happens to have about a gazillion known benefits, including:
- Improved rate of weight loss
- Improved bone, muscle, heart, brain, and joint health
- Improved mood and stress management
- Reduced risk of and/or better symptom management of chronic diseases including cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, fibromyalgia, osteoarthritis, and heart disease
So, yeah. There’s little doubt that it’d be in your best interest to pepper in some longer cardio sessions into your weekly training program if you aren’t already (as always, talk to your doctor before starting any new exercise program). And taking a few necessary steps to make sure your long workout sessions go well is just like icing on the cake.
5 Tips for Maximizing Your Long Gym Sesh
1. Don’t make it an everyday thing.
Chronic cardio can slow your metabolism, impair your weight loss, increase your risk of injury, expose you to excessive stress, and perhaps most notably make your workouts feel boring. Make sure you mix up your routine with extended workout sessions, short, intense sessions, resistance training, and some fun skill-type classes (like Pilates or yoga).
2. Take 5-10 minutes to warm up.
Yes, your heart rate will be elevated for a while.
3. Don’t get married to the treadmill.
Running on the treadmill for 60 minutes can be fine—sometimes. But feel free to switch it up to keep yourself from feeling bored or hitting a plateau. Try a new machine, a new medium (e.g., swimming), or even a multi-modal approach involving some basic lifting or body weight movements (e.g., a slow and steady circuit of burpees, squats, and step ups).
4. Hydrate before, during, and after.
Your body needs sufficient water to stay hydrated and replace all the fluids you lose through sweat. So take water breaks as needed and be sure to keep drinking when you finish (consider adding a pinch of sea salt to your water after particularly grueling cardio sessions to restore electrolyte balance).
5. Mobilize at the end.
Take advantage of the fact that your muscles, joints, and connective tissues will be super warmed up and loose following an hour or more of activity. Spend 10 minutes cooling down (an easy walk or jog) and working on some stretching in areas that you’re tight.