The holidays have come and gone and some of you might have put on extra weight that you want to lose. Or maybe your New Year’s resolution is to drop 10 pounds in the next three months. If this is you; I have some tips to making cardio more enjoyable and easier for you.
8 tips to make cardio easier and more fun:
Start out slow
When beginning cardio, most people seem to want to hop on the elliptical, put the resistance up, and go as hard and fast as possible to burn those calories. This is okay to do, but can quickly tire you out and make you not want to do cardio as often or at all. My advice is to hop on the elliptical, treadmill; etc.and put the resistance to a light to moderate setting and start slow. Once you get more comfortable with this resistance and speed, you can slowly progress both resistance and speed.
Pick good music
When you’re listening to music you enjoy, you will want to continue your cardio workout for a longer period of time. Pick music that is quicker paced and keeps you pumped up. Music plays as a distraction while exercising because you are not paying attention to the time as much when you’re enjoying a good song. This is definitely a great method to making cardio go by faster.
Mix it up
Most of us choose one machine that we like to do and stick to it; for example the elliptical. If you are getting bored of cardio because you are using the elliptical every other day for 30-60 minutes, then switch it up. Try the elliptical for 15 minutes and then the treadmill for 15 minutes. If this still isn’t enough, you can add in the stair stepper or the stair climber as a third machine of use.
Add it into your strength training routine (Circuit Training)
If you are lifting weights upstairs, take the time to add in a minute sprint on the elliptical or bike between each set of exercises. This will keep your heart rate up as well as blood flowing throughout your muscles. It is easy for individuals to totally forget about cardio, so to make it easier and shorter, just add it between different sets of what you do enjoy.
If you get bored of jogging on a treadmill at 5.4mph for 20 minutes, then switch up the speed and time frames. For example, walk for a minute at 4mph and then run for a minute at 6mph. Repeat this about five to ten times to keep that heart rate up. If you would like more of a challenge, then increase the speed after each set. For example, walk at 4mph for one minute, run at 6mph for one minute, walk at 4.2mph for one minute, run at 6.2mph for one minute; and so forth.
Find a Buddy
There are days when we just don’t have the motivation to come into the gym. Therefore, everyone should have that friend that will help motivate you or visa versa, to go to the gym or for a walk outside. When exercising with someone else, you can carry on a conversation and forget you are even working hard or sweating. If that friend is competitive, that is a great way to get incentive to beat each other’s time or distance or whatever the goal may be. This is also another way to make time go by a lot quicker during cardio exercise.
Take a group exercise class
If you don’t do well by yourself and on the same machine every week, try taking a group exercise class. There is an instructor in each class along with a group of members just like you to keep you motivated and on top of your game. The Seattle Athletic Club offers many different types of classes involving great cardiovascular workouts. Some of these classes are Power Cycle, Zumba, and Step Aerobics.
Most of you probably learned how to jump rope in elementary school at Recess. We think of it as something we did when we were kids for fun, but people forget that this can actually be a cardiovascular exercise. Try it for a minute and see how tiring it can actually be. Jump roping is a great way to keep your cardio workouts fun and effective.
As a trainer, there is a lot of information to convey in a short period of time and in a way that is easily understood by the client. The largest role a trainer plays is as a teacher. Sometimes it can be a challenge to communicate effectively in a concise way using as few words as possible. Each trainer has there own style of communication and usually uses verbal and kinesthetic tools. This said, there are a few cues that trainers use more consistently that will be explained in detail in this blog to provide more clarity.
Shoulders back and down-
This is a cue that most people are familiar with; however, there is a lot of confusion around its interpretation. The action of back and down is a description of the shoulder blades in an action of retraction and depression. One reason this is so widely used as a descriptor among trainers is because the shoulder joint is susceptible to injury when it is unstabilized. These actions of the shoulder blade give the joint a stabilized position to work from when manipulating heavy weight. Another reason this is used is because it counteracts the position of excessive kyphosis (rounding of the thoracic spine) to bring the spine in a neutral alignment.
New research has shown that the lazy posture brought on by sitting too much leads to weakened muscles in the upper back, but without creating this excessive curvature. When the shoulder blades are retracted and depressed this can overcorrect the posture and cause other ailments. If the shoulder blades are in the proper position the shoulder joint should not be anteriorly rotated and the blade should be in the shape of an upside down triangle with the apex pointed slightly out. This allows the proper curvature of the thoracic spine. Your trainer should be able to help explain and show this too you so you can ensure you are putting yourself into the right posture.
Squeeze your glutes-
The gluteal muscles make up a large system of muscle on the back side of the hip joint that stabilize, extend, and protect the hip joint. For adequate stabilization during certain exercises, increased core activation and protection of the knees and lower back squeezing your butt muscles is important.
This cue can be enhancing a posterior pelvic tilt in many people. This is when the pelvis is curled under and usually accompanies a forward shearing motion at the head of the femur. The important thing when squeezing is to maintain a float inside the hip joint, contract without tucking or thrusting forward, and focus more on the internal hip stabilizers and lower part of the glute complex.
Draw in your core-
The core muscle system includes 29 different muscles that perform big and small motions of the hip, sacrum and lumbar spine. Many of the muscles protect the organs and act as a hammock for the pelvis. To contract these muscles in preparation for movement the muscles perform and upward and inward motion; primarily in smooth muscles such as the transverse abdominus. This gives the muscles a contraction that acts as a support structure around the lumbar spine to protect it when heavy weight and when impact is applied.
The problem with this cue is it is often associated with sucking in, or can be misinterpreted to include diaphragmatic musculature. This tension can travel through the body, make your breathing improper, your spine tense, and impede movement.
Although these are common cues trainers use with clients, a deeper understanding of them can give you a better understanding of proper movement and positioning. For further information contact Personal Fitness Trainer Amber Walz.
Pilates, a system of exercise created by Joseph Pilates, was originally designed to be a one-on-one personalized workout with an instructor. Nowadays, thanks to late night infomercials and books galore, Pilates seems to be thought of as just a generic “mat class”, but the true intention is to use any and all of the spring-loaded equipment created by Joe, including mat, to find and strengthen weakness in the body. Not every body needs every exercise. The work is most effective when tailored to you.
It may help to understand where Joseph Pilates came from. Joseph Pilates was a sick child, suffering from asthma and rickets, and was determined to create a healthy body for himself. So, he studied yoga, wrestling, gymnastics and acrobatics, and throughout his life put together a series of exercises using a mat. He started teaching mat conditioning, and quickly noticed how nearly impossible it was for most people, so he knew they needed something else to support their mat work.
At the same time, he was German national in an internment camp and many of the people around him were injured soldiers. For the injured soldiers he attached heavy springs to their hospital beds, so they could strengthen their bodies from bed. This design evolved into the “Cadillac” or “Trapeze Table” that current Pilates instructors use to strengthen legs, arms, chest, back and of course abdomen.
The Universal Reformer, or another “bed on springs,” offers additional resistance in order to provide more stability or to provide an added challenge to those who need it. When Pilates is taught one-on-one (the ideal way), the instructor typically incorporates work on the reformer and mat, as well as other Pilates apparatus, based on your needs. The individual session caters to the specific needs of the client, where each exercise is systematically performed and specifically chosen for you.
The focal points of his work are to increase lung capacity, to improve core strength and to use one’s mind to control body movements. Hence, the six Pilates principles evolved: control, centering, concentration, precision, breath, and flow.
The work on the mat, where your muscles create the resistance, and the apparatus, where springs create the resistance, complement each other. As you become stronger by working on the apparatus, consequently, the mat work often becomes more challenging and fulfilling. Including private Pilates sessions in your fitness regime will better allow an instructor to focus on your individual needs, and will help you to develop the strength and flexibility necessary to correctly perform and benefit fully from the mat work.
Your workout should never feel easy, but should always present new and different challenges as you work your powerhouse deeper. So, enjoy the “journey” that is Pilates. It’s well worth the hard work!
I have a little secret… I love being upside down. That’s a little weird I know but it’s true. I’m mostly talking about gymnastics rings. If you’ve never tried them boy howdy are you missing out! This is a piece of workout equipment that will blow your socks off with how fun and different it is. Rings are a great way to open up your shoulders, improve your core strength, improve flexibility, improve full body tensional strength, give you better body awareness, and above all, test your body and mind in ways you’ve never done before! Plus it’s almost like playing it’s so fun!
Rings are a little intimidating, when was the last time you jumped up on the monkey bars at your kid’s school and flipped upside down? Probably never; but why not? Well, it’s a little weird to push 8 year olds out of the way so you can get inverted on some bars. But besides that, why not? I’m guessing it’s because you are scared and unsure of if you can do it and if you can then get down without making a scene. But I’m here to tell you that you most certainly can do it and you totally should!
When working with rings it’s extremely important to start with the basics and build up. You should always work with someone who knows what they are doing as spotting on the rings is of utmost importance. But if you have a good coach and a capable spotter the world is your oyster! Here is how a basic progression on rings works, this could take one hour, could take 2 sessions, or could take a month depending on your starting strength and your coordination with the rings;
Pull ups, can also be done with assistance
Getting upside down with your hips above your shoulders
Getting upside down and then opening up into a straight line
Getting upside down opening up and hinging from your hips and straightening your legs
Getting upside down and dropping your legs over so that your hips are dropping behind you and you open your shoulders
Getting upside down hinging from your hips so that your legs are straight and opening your shoulders
There are many more exercises to do inverted. The list above are the very basics, although, once you get on the rings they may not seem so basic. Part of the challenge of the rings (besides just getting yourself inverted) is staying in control, staying contracted through your core, and understanding tensional strength. Once you master the basics it’s all about building strength and flexibility at the same time. You will find this kind of combination no where else but in gymnastics. It’s fun, it’s different, and it’s a world you are really missing out on! If you are interested in trying out a workout on gymnastics rings contact Adriana Brown.
Do you ever get tired of hearing that just about every such-and-such an activity is really great because it’s “Full Body”? What does “Full Body” mean anyway?
If you consider that using multiple joints at a time in multiple planes of motion for a given exercise is probably getting close to “full body” then there really are a lot of activities that fall into that category. Golf, Horse Shoes, Tennis, Gardening, Swimming, Food Fights… you get the idea. The real question is not whether a given activity is “full body” or not, but how to do it well, with efficiency, balance, power and stability. Any body can throw food in the cafeteria, but few can do it well and even fewer can do well and cause someone else in trouble for it. And, really, that is the goal of honest food fighting.
So maybe mastering the art of full body food fighting isn’t on your top-ten list for the New Year. But I’ll bet that Rowing is! And guess what, its “full body!” It requires muscles throughout the body to be primary drivers in one moment and stabilizers in the next. It requires tremendous core stability to control the slide on the recovery and to connect all the powerful muscles of the legs, back and arms during the catch, drive and finish of the stroke.
Not only that, it also requires both anaerobic power and aerobic endurance to sustain a given workout or race. And, if done well, there is virtually no injurious stress on the knees and shoulders. The web site for Concept 2 has a great explainer of what muscles are used when and how. You can find it by clicking here and an even more detailed description by clicking here.
Seattle Athletic Club has very good Concept 2 rowing machines. Take some time to learn how to use them well and start to feel the “full body” benefit of this great sport. If you would like more information on how to use this machine in a true full body motion please contact personal fitness trainer Nathan Palmer or watch his YouTube video.
Himanshu Kale joined Seattle Athletic Club at the end of July 2012. His goal: to complete a half Iron Man triathlon; his obstacle: he could barely swim! When we met that week for an initial complementary swim assessment, I found he had a lot of anxiety around the water. Like many with water anxieties, Himanshu did not trust that he could put is face and head in the water. However, I soon found that Himanshu had a lot more willingness to work through his fears and anxieties in order to achieve his goals. He was ready and willing to learn the fundamentals first: to start from the most elementary and foundational place: putting his face in the water practicing blowing air out of his body. Beginning with learning to breathe properly and gradually adding one technique on at a time, Himanshu has developed a technically strong freestyle stroke.
Many people who never learned to swim develop a fear and anxieties around the water simply because they’ve never been in it, making learning more challenging. Others have experienced traumatic events, leaving them with emotional scares of swimming. For all these people, learning to swim is such an act of courage. When they commit to this skill, however, the reward is a life changing shift in their entire perspective of their place in the world. Himanshu took on this challenge.
In November he ran his first half marathon. In December he started working out in my Swim Conditioning class and soon joined TN Multi Sports! There he is able to work on his conditioning and prepare for his first triathlons.
Now, when Himanshu and I meet, we focus on continuing to improve his technique, learn the other strokes and turns, and continue to work through any lingering fears that come up as we introduce new dimensions to his swimming repertoire.
Himanshu’s success is remarkable especially in such a relatively short period of time. I am honored to work with him and look forward to watching him reach his ultimate goal of completing a half Iron Man in June 2012.
Working with Himanshu has been an honor, making me especially proud.
Biking outdoors and cycling in doors is a method of exercise used by many, especially in the greater Seattle area. Seattle has great trails that are used by bikers daily. One well known trail is the Burke-Gilman Trail, which begins in Ballard and ends in Kenmore. This is about a 14 mile ride with two paved trails that take you along some gorgeous views. The second commonly used trail is the Arboretum, which leads through the Arboretum down to Seward Park or up toward the Burke-Gilman trail. It can be heavily populated with traffic, but has wonderful scenery and plenty of shade. If you are new to the Seattle area or want to try something different, Seattle Heritage Bicycle Tours offer half-day or full day tours on many different routes around Seattle.
Biking Rules in Seattle:
Always wear a helmet, it’s the Law.
Remember to use your hand signals.
Right Turn Signal
Left Turn Signal
If your riding on the street, you must follow all the rules of a car
Ride in bike lanes when available to you
Bicycles operating at night must have a white light in front and a red reflector in back
Bike Stores in the Seattle area:
Gregg’s Cycle (Green Lake)
Montlake Bike Shop (Seattle)
Velo Bike Shop (Seattle)
Road Bike: Suitable for triathlon participants and club cycling members. Best for- Pavement.
Generally a lighter weight than mountain bikes and is good for fitness, commuting long distances, events, and races. Some types are built specially for speed and racing with an aerodynamic riding position and others are made in an upright riding position.
Cruiser: Suitable for long leisurely rides. Best for- Flat roads, fun and comfort. Designed for flatter roads because these bicycles are designed with single speed. These bikes have balloon tires and are in an upright position. They are also known as beach cruisers because they are mostly used along the beach in nice weather.
Mountain Bike: Suitable for trail riding through dirt or rocky roads. Best for – Dirt, rocky trails, and gravel roads. Designed with shock absorbing features so that they can withstand dirt, rocks, sticks, roots, and bumps. Lower gears than road bikes so that they can handle steeper terrain. Mountain bikes tend to be less efficient on pavement because of their smaller diameter wheels.
Pedaling – It is normal to hop on a bike and want to only push down while you are pedaling. To be able to make you’re pedaling more efficient, you need to be pulling up as well. When your pedal gets to about 3 o’ clock on the pedal stroke, you want to pull back like you are wiping dirt off the bottom of your shoe.
Seat Position – Your seat should be positioned so that your leg is in proper line with the pedal, or in other words; KOPS/TTOPA. These abbreviations stand for Knee Over Pedal Spinal or Tibial Tuberosity (the bump right below the patella) Over Pedal Axle.
Handle Bars – The positioning of your handle bars should be between 180 degrees and 175 degrees. This is parallel with the ground below or slightly titled upward.
With all the great weather on the way I’m sure you are looking to the outdoors to start some adventures; perhaps even looking at getting some new shoes. Then you go to the store and see the huge athletic shoe selection and go, “now what?” Well here are some helpful tips on what makes shoes different.
The running surface you are going to use will determine the kind of shoe you need…if it’s a hard/irregular surface you usually need more support and energy absorption.
Look to get the shoe comfortably snug with little to no heal slip.
The space between your longest toe and the tip of your shoe should be about a finger width…this is because when you put your body weight into one foot (like when you walk or run) your foot lengthens and need room in the shoe.
Most running shoes come with “stock” insoles. If your feet need babying, get a different insole and it may make your outdoor adventures more comfortable.
These are the beefed up heavy looking running shoes; they have aggressive outsoles for traction and fortification usually offering higher ankle support, offering support and sole protection from trail obstacles. Use these shoes if you think you will encounter roots, rocks, mud and animal holes during a run or walk.
These shoes are the simplified version of the trail-runner. They are designed for pavement or the occasional trip to a wood chipped running track or groomed nature trail. They are usually light and flexible, made to cushion and stabilize your feet during your stride on hard, even surfaces.
Common Running Mishaps:
Pronation involves the natural inward rolling of the foot following the heel strike. The basic pronation will help to absorb impact, relieving pressure on the knees and joints. It is a normal trait of neutral, biomechanically efficient runners.
Overpronation involves an exaggerated inward rolling of the foot. This common trait can leave runners with knee pains and sometimes injury.
Supination involves the outward rolling of the foot, resulting in insufficient impact reduction at landing. This is not a common running trait.
Cushioning in shoes provide an elevated shock absorption with minimal arch support; and are great for runners with light pronation or supination. Cushioning can also be used for those neutral runners who go off-pavement more often (it give runners more variety, keeping them from getting repetitive motion injuries).
Stability in shoes helps decelerate basic pronation. These shoes are great for neutral runners or ones who have mild to moderate overpronation, and often utilize a “post” in the midsole.
Motion Control in shoes offers stiffer heels and a straighter design to counter overpronation. These are great for runners who exhibit moderate to severe overpronation.
Synthetic Leather is a supple, durable, abrasion-resistant material made from nylon and polyester. It is lighter, quick to dry and breathable, requiring no “break-in” time.
Nylon and Nylon Mesh are durable synthetic materials used to reduce weight and increase breathability.
TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) overlays are small, abrasion-resisting additions used to enhance stability and durability.
(This is the cushioning and stability layer between the upper and outsole)
EVA (ethylene vinyl acetate) is foam found in running shoes. Cushioning shoes often use just one layer of EVA, or multiple layers if trying to force a flex pattern.
Posts are areas of firmer EVA needed to create sections of the midsole that are harder to compress. Often seen in stability shoes, they are used to decelerate pronation or boost durability. Medial posts reinforce the arch side of the midsole for those runners with overpronation.
Plates are thin, flexible material (nylon or TPU) that stiffens the forefoot of the shoe; and are often used in trail-runners to protect the bottom of the foot from impact with trail obstacles.
Shanks stiffen the midsole and protect the heel and arch. They boost the shoe’s firmness needed in rocky terrain.
TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) is a flexible plastic used in some midsoles for added stability.
Now that you know about shoes and how they can be used for your body and exercise adventures, go get a pair and enjoy everything that Seattle has to offer. Look to utilize them with upcoming SAC hikes, mountain expeditions, trail running as well as the Run club every week. For more information on shoes and any outdoor adventure going on please feel free to contact Fitness Director Jacob Galloway or Outdoor Adventure Coach Brandyn Roark and Thomas Eagen.
The Seattle Athletic Club would like to introduce its newest health professional to our team; IFBB professional figure athlete Stephanie Billings. Stephanie Billing’s warm face and welcoming demeanor will be at many of our fitness events lending a helping hand and using her education to answer many of your wellness questions. Here is some background information on Stephanie and how she came into the health and fitness industry:
With the dream of becoming an IFBB Professional Figure Athlete, I stepped on stage for the first time in 2007. Little did I know that three competitive seasons and ten shows later, my dream would become reality.
Growing up, I was raised in a football centered home, my dad and both my older and younger brother. Playing sports and lifting weights was a staple in our lives. I could not wait until I was old enough to workout at the YMCA with the rest of my family. We have photos of us flexing our arms and now, as adults, we still flex for one another! As an active family we not only lifted heavy, but they also ate heavy! All my life I have struggled with my weight and body image. These issued have plagued me my entire life… even at the age of 5 on the t-ball field; I had to make sure I had a bow in my hair! Growing up I played baseball, basketball and anything that would contain my competitive spirit (and showing that I was just as tough as my two brothers!), however, it was cheerleading that stuck with me from third grade until I graduated high school. This too added to my lack of confidence since I was not the ‘typical size’ of a cheerleader. Although beneficial for my current endeavors, my broad shoulders and long legs were not conducive to cheering in college, and no matter how hard I worked and no matter what titles I received, a 5’7” cheerleader is not on the top of a recruiter’s list. So I hung up my pom poms and conformed to the “college” lifestyle. Processed food, alcohol and lack of exercise followed suit and the inevitable happened, I had become a societal stereotype.
In January of 2005, I saw myself in a music video, put together by one of my former college classmates, and was completely faced with a true picture of my physical self: 180-pounds and 30 percent body fat. The person I saw on the screen could not possibly be me! It was at that moment I knew it was time for a complete lifestyle change; I bought a treadmill, a dry erase board, diet log and got to work. At that time, I knew little about diet and exercise but enough to know I had to burn more then I consumed in order to start losing weight. I immediately started educating myself about nutrition and what it would take to maintain muscle, while burning fat. Eight months later I had lost over forty pounds through hard work, a healthier diet and a new outlook on life.
Later that fall, I went to a body building competition to watch one of my friends compete. As the girls lined up on stage something clicked! This was what I wanted to do! At that moment I had an epiphany. I saw myself on stage, in the jeweled suit and clear 4-inch heels, reveling in the stage lights and listening to the onlooker’s cheers. Plans were immediately put into action to step on stage. Four months later at my first show my life changed forever, I became a figure competitor.
After the development of my new lifestyle I decided to pursue a health centered career. I completed my BA in public relations & marketing from the Western Kentucky University and knew that healthcare was a perfect fit for me. Working full time, ongoing competition prep & a full-time post graduate workload, I completed my Masters in Public Health (MPH) and Masters in Health Care Administration (MHA).
My MPH thesis, “Obesity Epidemic through a Childs Eyes”, dealt with elementary school children’s school recreation & nutrition programs. For my MHA program I completed a one year fellowship with the Department of Veterans Affairs & accepted a permanent position after completing the curriculum.
After completing my education & beginning my career, I knew I had found my niche in competing. I found a healthy balance between work & competing. Determined to obtain professional status, I competed at the 2009 Team Universe. This was my third national show, and tenth show competing. Leading up to the show, everything felt perfect and show day, everything fell completely into place. My dream came true and I left the stage a new IFBB pro.
July 2012 Oxygen Magazine Cover Model
October 2012 Natural Muscle Cover Model
BeautyFit Sponsored Athlete & Endorsement Model
Many gym goers will go to their gym, run to the weight room, sit on a machine and read a news paper and think they are working out and doing their body good. I would say that yes they have taken the first step to getting healthier…they have gotten to the gym. But my question would be are they really making any changes in their body that will make them healthier and improve their quality of life? Here are some tips to help you make sure you are getting the most out of your workout time:
Make sure to change into proper workout clothes you can sweat in.
In order to really push your body and workout so that you make progress you need to wear the appropriate attire to accomplish this. This means actually get a locker and change out of your diesel jeans and into clothes that allow you to move freely and perform exercises without hindering your range of motion. Changing into gym clothes should be able to change your mind set and allow you to focus on the tasks at hand…starting a great workout.
Make sure your muscles reach fatigue; this is not a comfortable feeling.
When working out using weights to goal is usually to over load the muscles; this in turn will break down the microscopic muscle fibers. If your body senses a weaker muscle because of the broken down muscle fibers it will try and build up bigger and stronger muscle fibers to resist the stimulus. Your body will continue to do this each time you add enough weight to stress the muscle fibers, so as we workout we need to make sure that we have heavy enough weights to stress our muscles safely. If you can do a chest press or any weighted exercise and hold a conversation with a friend or space off and think about your day the weight is not heavy enough. Your weight is heavy enough to create a positive adaptation to your muscles when you need to concentrate on that movement specifically; recruiting all the muscle fibers to finish all of your reps…and when I say finish all of your reps it should be just barely finish all of your reps. You should look for the last two or so reps to be very challenging where your muscles you are working are shaking and/or burning. This feeling can be slightly uncomfortable but if you are looking to change your body and muscle tone you need to create this feeling.
Make sure that you are challenging your heart muscle.
Your heart is composed of different muscle than your body; it is cardiac muscle. It is very fatigue resistance and involuntary…it is the only muscle in your body that will never stop working as long as you live; which is why we need to make sure that we are working it out properly and ensuring that it is functioning at full capacity. In order to really work the heart muscle we need to make sure we are stressing it; as it needs stress from exercise in order to become a stronger pumping machine. When doing cardio (standing for cardiovascular training – training the heart, blood vessels and lungs) we need to make sure that we are creating enough stress on this system. Sitting on a bike and reading a paper is not enough stress to create an adaptation needed or wanted. At the bare minimum you should try and get to the point where holding a conversation is hard (you should have somewhat labored breathing) and you should be sweating (a by product or work is heat, your bodies defense against raised by temperature is to sweat). If you have never been able to achieve these two tasks while doing cardio try upping your RPM’s or resistance. Going for a longer time at the same pace will not get you to sweat and have labored breathing as much as increasing the intensity or resistance.
Make sure your workouts are finished with you being tired
This is an easy point to discus, in order for your body to grown and get better at anything you must give it enough stimuli to change. This stimulus could be adding more weight to your workouts, increasing the intensity of your elliptical, play a better squash player than yourself, try a more advanced yoga class, swim more laps in the same amount of time…and the list could go on and on. Just remember that by the time you finish your day at the gym you should have known that you were at the gym, you should be putting your gym clothes in one of those plastic bags because they are sweaty and you should have some muscle fatigue where your body feels comfortably tired.
Remember that the goal of going to the gym should be to provide your body with a stimulus and hope for some kind of adaptation. This could be playing squash and working on foot speed, grabbing some dumbbells and hoping to increase your bicep size or swimming in the pool and hoping to increase your speed. The underlying theme is that you should want your body to change for the better; and this will not happen if the effort is not there. This effort is not always comfortable but nothing worth having ever comes to use easily.