Tone your muscles, define your abs, lose those love handles and strengthen your heart: great goals, but risky none the less!

Doing cardio exercises is essential to develop your cardiovascular system and encourage your body to burn fat.

But there are some rules to follow if you want to optimise your clients' training in personal training at home or at the gym.

Superprof spells out for you what a personal training programme should entail in terms of cardio workouts!

Mistake #1: Running on a Dormant Injury

The Most Common Injuries

There are tones of exercises that involve the cardiovascular system such as the rowing machine, the exercise bike, the elliptical machine, running both on the treadmill or outdoors, etc.

This last exercise is the one that creates the most trauma on your joints and ligaments, because of the high impact and pressure put on the body, specifically the legs.

Studies have shown that between 35 and 55% of regular runners suffer from some form of injury, minor or serious, every year.

Get a personalised fitness routine from a personal training to do at home.
Running is a great cardio exercise but can cause a lot of injuries. Source: Pixabay

In his book on jogging, Dr. Dominique Poux, a sports trauma specialist, lists the main areas of injury according to a study conducted by Michael Chambers. Here's how the impact of your run is broken down :

  • Knee 38%
  • Foot 24%
  • Leg 15%
  • Lumbar fossa 11%
  • Thigh 7%
  • Hip 5%

Among the top 3 trauma running injuries are:

  • 1st: Patellar syndrome (inflammation of the cartilage of the patella, knee bone)
  • 2nd: Shin splints
  • 3rd: Achilles tendinitis (heel)

Alternative Workouts in your Personal Training Programme

A client should be strongly discouraged to continue running if they present one of the injuries or traumas listed above. First, it may aggravate the injury (cause tearing, rupture of a ligament, fracture, etc.), which will completely prevent them from doing any physical activity and, furthermore, their recovery will be longer.

Injury 1 - Coaching

On the other hand, nothing prevents this person from continuing to practice a sport to maintain a stable level of physical condition.

A knee injury does not prevent you from swimming, for example. Always opt for straight strokes like the front crawl or the backstroke and not the breaststroke that puts pressure on the knee joint.

Find fun cardio exercises to help you lose weight.
Swimming is an excellent way to build body muscle without causing injury. Source: Visual Hunt

You can also do cycling, in the gym or outside, a tried and tested sport which isn't too traumatic for the body!

However, make sure to adjust the bike properly (seat height and type, saddle-handlebar distance, etc.). A private home tutor or online personal trainer, or coach in a gym must have this type of information to hand.

Gymnastics, yoga or soft gym classes, excluding the most demanding moves, can also be considered. Avoid bodybuilding at all costs which will also aggravate your injury.

If you're looking to avoid the most common mistakes made when doing cardio, why not hire a personal trainer. Search for "personal trainers near me" to find someone to guide you.

Mistake #2: Training Too Fast, the Virtues of Slow Progress

Many people tend to skip various vital steps and start off too fast or too hard.

If the client has never run before, don't ask them to do a 45-minute session on the treadmill, at 10 miles/hour! Equally, if they have never done bodybuilding, don't make them do 10 reps of 200 lbs! If you do so, the session very well may end at the emergency room. This is undoubtedly one of the worst mistakes to make as a coach!

Like many things, exercise requires you to progress gradually in order to reach your goals. A training programme developed by a personal trainer must help the beginner put their best foot forward.

If they have never ran before, start with short sessions: 10 to 15 minutes during which you can alternate between walking and running, to get the tendons and muscles used to the impact of the running.

For people who are overweight or obese, running can also be good for losing weight. However, make sure to increase the running time very gradually and especially beef up the lower limbs by focusing on muscle building, squats, core exercises and working the abdominals/buttocks.

Read about the mistakes to avoid in an abs session.

In running, increasing the weekly mileage too fast is likely to cause injury, which will put a halt to your training. Young people (those under the age of 34) seem to suffer more from recurring injuries.

Even seasoned marathon runners can get hurt during their prep.

A study conducted by Dr. Van Mechelen has shown that the frequency of injuries is multiplied by 3 when a runner goes from 3 to 5 weekly sessions. The training programmes from a personal trainer are often based on 4-5 sessions to reach times of 3.15 hours (and under) for marathons.

For athletes of a lower level, doing physical activity as part of their fitness routine, remember that running for 45 minutes rather than 30 minutes doubles your chances of injuring yourself.

Mistake #3: Not Alternating Exercises for Weight Loss Programmes

Put simply, cardio training from a good personal trainer is divided into 2 types of workout:

  1. Low-intensity sessions that allow you to burn fat,
  2. High-intensity sessions to improve resistance.

Even if low cardio sessions are more effective for weight loss, here's why you should consider alternating it with high-intensity workouts from time to time.

Typically, alternating between running in short fast bursts where you will reach your maximum aerobic speed (MAS) and having slower recovery periods during which the body has time to recover and bring the heart rate down.

With cycling, you can also alternate your training between high and low-intensity sessions.

We often use the term "interval training", which can be done outdoors or at the gym, on a bike. The advantage of an exercise bike at the gym is that the client can easily see their time and speed, without ever letting go of the handlebars.

Choose spin classes as well, which regularly alternate the speed and effort at various points!

Running, cycling and swimming are popular cardio workouts in personal training.
Interval training can be practised by runners or cyclists. Source: Visual Hunt

From the United States, HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) programmes can be seen all over the UK, both online and in gyms. Top athletes also integrate this into their training routine.

These sessions alternate sequences of 30 seconds to a few minutes of high-intensity exercises, interspersed with brief periods of recovery.

These exercises certainly strengthen the cardiovascular system, but also promote fat burning, promoting lipolysis (fat destruction) during and even after exercise. HIIT training can boost the metabolism for up to a whopping 72 hours post-exercise.

Another benefit of intense sessions is that their duration. These relatively short workouts, between 10-45 minutes maximum, mean it's easy to stay motivated.

A prerequisite for interval or HIIT training: an excellent physical condition. If the client is not a serious athlete, we recommend that you accompany them at all stages to adapt exercises to their level.

It's also not a bad idea to have a stress test performed by a cardiologist to make sure the heart can support these demanding workouts. An asymptomatic heart at rest can show abnormalities when the heart rate rises. Only a stress test can reveal these problems.

Mistake #4: Only Working Out at the Gym

Taking classes in the gym is a good way to stay in shape, but remember there's a big world out that could be your perfect cardio playground.

Ride a bike, go for a walk or organise a group hike with your clients!

Invite them for a swim during their lunch break, perfect to change up the scenery and recharge their batteries before the afternoon. Swimming is also excellent for developing the rib cage and increasing breathing capacity.

Superprof's top tip: run in the morning, before a day's work. They will feel a boost of energy and will be much more productive in the office because their body will be full to the brim with endorphins, the happy hormone!

Get fit, lose weight and have fun with cardio exercises from a personal trainer.
Don't limit yourself to indoor exercises, get on a bike and explore the world! Source: Visual Hunt

For the bravest athletes out there, try running on an empty stomach!

Physical activity on an empty stomach encourages your body to use fat to achieve the same muscular work. If they have eaten a little the day before, advise clients to take at least one drink to hydrate themselves, for example lightly sweetened tea, to have some carbohydrates in their blood.

Mistake #5: Smoking, the Enemy of Exercise

If you do cardio workouts regularly, be aware that tobacco and cardio exercise don't work well together!

Put a stop to the post-training cigarette. Tobacco is a sports person's worst enemy and will reduce all the positive effects of exercising.

Remember that smoking:

  • decreases lung capacity,
  • reduces gas exchange,
  • clogs airways,
  • small pulmonary alveoli,
  • tobacco also reduces the supply of oxygen to all muscles, including, most importantly, your heart muscle.

On the other hand, sport is an excellent antidote against smoking!

As you can see, cardio workouts have many advantages, but should not be done in just any old way. Hence the need to use a professional coach: a qualified personal trainer.

Now, why not learn about all the mistakes to avoid in nutritional sports coaching?

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A French/Spanish to English translator, Sarah is currently enjoying travelling around Europe with her work.