A lady came up to me after my spin class this weekend and she was disappointed because the meter on her bike was broken so she couldn’t see how many calories she burned. The way she mentioned this made me feel that without this figure, she wasn’t able to enjoy her workout as much as she would have done knowing how many calories she burned.
So it got me thinking…
If your workout didn’t burn any calories, would you still do it?
When you check you check your fitness tracker after a workout, does your take on that workout alter when you see how many calories you burned?
For many, calories can feel like a badge of honour. They’re often something studios display with pride too. I for one am a big fan of Barry’s Bootcamp – it’s my weekly ass-kicking pleasure because I can be a bit of a sadist like that.
But I say it’s my pleasure because I love how it makes me feel afterwards, having sweated, having had my heart rate skyrocket and having given my body a good workout. That said, the during part I go to this dark place where I somehow manage to dig deep and find some extra km/hour to put into the treadmill despite feeling like I can’t push any harder.
Anyway, I digress… The point is, studios like Barry’s Bootcamp, F45 among others, often pride and sell themselves on how many calories you can burn in one class.
BUT what if you were to take this out of the equation.
Would you still sweat it out on your sixth incline sprint after a 4 minute tabata of burpees, or would you opt for something different?
Too often we get so focused on those kcal numbers at the end, we lose sight of what other workouts we could be doing for fun, or that exercising could even be enjoyable. Sometimes dare I say it we feel that exercise could be seen as a bit of an attack on our body.
Yes, numbers can be important as a driver for motivation to help show your progress or give you something to work towards, i.e how many minutes it takes to complete your 5km ParkRun, how many kilos you can now bench press or BPM to determine how intensely you’re training.
But, those numbers that equate to calories burned in a session? Try and give them a miss next time you train: focus on how you feel instead; your training intensity and whether you enjoyed that workout (or felt a benefit from doing it, as you’re not always going to enjoy a workout!).
Need a bit more on why you shouldn’t get caught up in calories?
- Calorie burn isn’t a one size fits all
Just like H&M size 12 jeans vs. Topshop size 12 jeans vs. Wallis size 12 jeans. Those kcal displays on the machine are nowhere near accurate as our bodies are all different in terms of height, age, weight, metabolism, fitness level… I could go on! All these elements make up our calorie output and with a crosstrainer set to Joe Bloggs’ make up, it’s not going to be on par with yours. (Fit tech wearables are slightly more accurate but then again, take these with a pinch of salt)
- You’ll enjoy the workout.
If you didn’t hit a specific calorie burn, does it make the workout any less enjoyable or even successful? Hopefully the answer is no as your body needs variation and it’s good to just move without thrashing yourself.
- More calories burned doesn’t always change your physique.
I’m sure most personal trainers will tell you, if you’re looking to change your physique, more often than not, the workouts that make a difference are lower calorie burners. Take strength training for example. This is all about muscle building, ergo body fat reducing, metabolism boosting but all done with a relatively low heart rate so those calories will probably stay low (although the effect will go on after the session). Yoga is similarly a low calorie burner, but (depending on the type) works every muscle in the body, including the smaller stabilising muscles, as well as improving your posture which will also benefit your physique.
- Better to look at the bigger picture.
How often have you had a flat out exercise session that leaves you…flat out? Yes, you’ve smashed through an intense workout but, remember your workout is only a small percentage of your daily calorie expenditure. That’s not to say it doesn’t count! But make sure you don’t lose sight of keeping an active lifestyle outside of the gym, walking more frequently, taking the stairs, cleaning… and all of that.
Basically what I wanted to say was exercise doesn’t just benefit weight loss but you’ll also experience improved energy levels, increased strength, better sleep, positive mental attitude, walking taller with improved posture…the list goes one.