Torch even more calories (and distract yourself from the burn) with these awesomely effective exercises.
K. Aleisha Fetters 1 / 11
Working out is a lot easier when it doesn’t feel like, well, work.
Luckily, how hard you’re exercising and how hard you think you’re exercising are two different things. And the latter—called the rate of perceived exertion (RTE)—might be more in your head than in your muscles.
After all, there’s a reason the treadmill’s nicknamed the “dreadmill,” and that people forgo their workouts when their playlists run dry. In fact, a 2012 review published in the International Revue of Sport and Exercise Psychology concluded that listening to upbeat music not only reduces ratings of perceived exertion, but improves the body’s energy efficiency and spurs better performances.
That’s the true beauty of playing with your RPE. Employ a few tricks to lower it, and you can actually work out harder, longer, and without breaking a sweat (or at least feeling like you are.) Plus, chances are, you’ll have a lot more fun while you’re at it, explains exercise physiologist Mike T. Nelson, Ph.D., C.S.C.S. And that’s key to sticking with any workout over the long haul.
So what cuts your RPE, apart from the obvious blaring of tunes and absence of ball chafing? Here's an idea: On your next run, try simply looking ahead rather than all around. In a 2014 New York University study, when racers kept their fixed eyes on a target straight in front of them, they perceived the finish line to be closer and the trek to be easier. They also finished the course 23 percent faster than those who took in the sites.
Meanwhile, a hilarious study out of Northumbria University in the U.K. found that when guys work out in the presence of a female onlooker, their RPE drops. However, when the spectator is a fellow male, the exercisers’ RPE goes up. So yeah, you might want to sub in your girlfriend as your new workout buddy.
Still, one of the easiest ways to slash your RPE and up your fitness results is just to get with activities you actually enjoy. Here are 10 that will torch 1,000 calories* before you even realize it.
“You’re going to work your lower body in a way you’ll never be able to at the gym,” explains trainer Mike Donavanik, C.S.C.S., creator of Extreme Burn DVDs. Between the constant incline (or decline if you’re headed back down the hill), varied steps, and backpack weighing you down, the constant leg and calorie workout equate to a huge caloric burn.
“Kayaking works your upper body and core strength all the way,” Donavanik says. “Half of your body is pretty much taken out of the equation, so now you have to balance the kayak in the water while navigating and propelling yourself forward. You’re constantly pulling and pushing.” Bonus points if you can beat the current.
Rock hard bodies are up the mountain (or the wall). Rock climbing fires up every muscle in your body for a crazy burn with muscle-building benefits. Plus, the focus on grip strength can seriously improve your rowing/pulling performance in the gym, he notes.
If you’re standing still during a game of basketball, you’re doing it wrong. An honest effort can keep you running intervals for hours, he says. Meanwhile, the quick directional changes work your abductors and adductors (which are often missed in the gym) while upping your coordination.
It’s called “the lazy man’s sport,” but diving burns as many calories as jogging. That’s because apart from those calories burned swimming, your body expends major energy to keep your body temperature up. Plus, if you’re doing a beach dive, you’re going to burn even more calories walking down the beach to your dive spot while carrying 100-plus pounds on your back and waist.
Getting down the mountain (without falling) takes some serious effort, burning 10 calories per minute. But climbing uphill is even harder. Uphill cross-country skiing can burn up to 25 calories every. single. minute.
Apart from missing teeth, hockey players are known for their chiseled bodies. It’s no surprise why. “When you play hockey, it’s like you’re in a squat for the entire game,” Donavanik says. “Plus, unlike running, you need to push out laterally, so you’re getting a ton of glute, quad, and hamstring activation that you would never get in the gym.” Fire up those muscles—the biggest ones in your body—and you’ll burn more calories than you’ll know what to do with.