Should You Count Calories… In Your Workouts? [Measuring workout efficacy.]

by Charlotte on May 10, 2011 · 80 comments

Trust me, this is one exercise video you do not want to miss! (Eurotrain!!!)

*A huge thank you to everyone for your patience yesterday- as you may have noticed, my site was down for most of yesterday due to problems on my web host’s end. Thanks for all the e-mails & sympathy! We seem to be back in business now…*

You’ve seen the workout program ads: in between shots of glistening, contracting abdominals and hyper smiling people who only sweat in socially acceptable places – your amped up cleavage if you are a woman, your shaved pecs if you are a man – comes The Promise. What, you ask, can a DVD workout/exercise book/smiling B-list celeb promise me when it comes to cardio other than a perfect body, chiclet teeth and a spray tan so authentic that real sunshine is jealous? Why, the promise of amazing ultra-high superbad caloric burn of course!

I was reminded of this the other day as the Gym Buddies and I were sweating away on the elliptical machines (not our go-to workout but they were refinishing all the floors so it’s what we were left with) and one of those ubiquitous exercise program infomercials came on. While we were giggling about watching people on TV exercise while actually exercising, large letters flashed up on the screen. “BURN up to 1,000 CALORIES AN HOUR!” flashed over all those heaving chests – the “up to” in conveniently small type of course.

This infomercial – may Billy Mays rest in peace – is not unique. All fitness programs, televised and otherwise, seem to make some kind of caloric promise. But how accurate are these claims? And does knowing the potential calorie burn of a workout help you make a better choice on how to sweat?

Can You Really Burn 1,000 Calories An Hour?
Anecdotal evidence first: According to my overly generous heartrate monitor of which I was once so attached to that I would turn around and go home to get the chest strap if I accidentally forgot it despite the fact that being small chested meant that it looked as if I had a 3rd nipple, I have burned over 1,000 calories in a single workout. The scene was “Holiday Turbokick” a special brand of torture that Turbo Jennie likes to put us through on occassions like the day before Easter, where we do 8 “turbos” (a high-intensity inverval lasting between 30 seconds and 2 minutes) interspersed with 4 finales or some such craziness. By the end I am turboing in a puddle of my own filth and can wring out my tank top like a Shamwow. It’s enough to make a girl puke up her turkey before she even eats it, is what I’m saying. But by the time we hit cool down, I had burned just over 1,000 calories.

So it would seem possible – although unlikely (who wants to work out so hard you vomit every day?) – to attain that magic number. Except for two problems. 1) My heart rate monitor wasn’t terribly accurate. While I trusted it’s ability to read my actual beats per minute, its calorie burn function was apparently calculated based off a 6’6″ male Russian ice swimmer. To prove this, I switched heart rate monitors with Gym Buddy Allison, who wears a Polar, and racked up 200-400 less calories per hour than my watch gave me.

2) Even the venerable Polar can’t really tell you your caloric burn as metabolism is so individual as to render any mathematical formula at least slightly inaccurate. The research in this area is more prolific than one might think. Companies that make a living off of guaranteeing a good workout have invested a lot of energy into trying to figure out what number of calories people can expect to expend using their machines or programs. What they have discovered however is that while they can predict how many calories an individual, say Michael Phelps, is burning, those results are very difficult to generalize. In addition to individual metabolisms there are simply too many other variables. Therefore, the honest companies will give you a range of calories. The disingenuous ones will use that sneaky little phrase “up to” and then give you a Michael Phelpsian number just to make you feel good.

Does it Matter How Many Calories You Burn?
Every fitness expert will tell you that weight loss, gain or maintenance comes down to simple math. It’s all about the calories you take in through food in relation to those you expend through daily life and exercise. This over simplified truism often leads people to think things like, “If the treadmill says I burned 250 calories, then that means I can eat a 200 calorie muffin and still come out losing!” This, in turn, has made calorie burn the gold standard in assessing a fitness program’s worth.

But dig a little deeper and you will realize that not only is calorie burn not the best indicator of a workout’s power, it actually distracts you from other benefits of exercise. For instance, weight lifting typically doesn’t burn comparatively as many calories as cardio for the same amount of time and yet it has many advantages like increased strength, muscle mass and overall functionality. Similarly, HIIT (high intensity interval training) burns a smaller amount of calories during the actual workout but causes a much greater spike in HGH (human growth hormone) than twice the amount of traditional medium-intensity cardio. Lastly cardio exercise is good for many things like increasing your oxygen utilization and building endurance, besides just burning off last night’s dessert.

Is It A Good Thing To Burn 1,000 Calories An Hour?
Ignoring for a moment whether or not it’s even possible to burn that many calories, one must ask if it is even a worthwhile fitness goal to strive to burn a particular high number of calories. To get that kind of calorie burn, one would have to push very hard in a high intensity type of cardio. Much has been said – and ignored – about the dangers of too much aerobic exercise in the highest heart rate zones. It elevates the stress hormone cortisol, causes systemic inflammation, necesitates longer recovery and increases your risk of injury, just to give you the short version.

In addition, an often overlooked fact by dieters and diet purveyors alike is that the more you exercise, the hungrier you get. From my personal experience the more calories I burn, the more my body wants to replace them – and fast. What’s the quickest source of glycogen for our depleted muscular system? Sugar. I have found that after a long training run, it’s almost impossible for me to stay away from the Jelly Bellies and other simple carbs for the rest of the day. However, when I strength train and/or keep my training volume low my sugar cravings diminish significantly (unless I’m PMSing but that’s a different story entirely). Research backs me up by showing that dieters who create a calorie deficit purely from exercise don’t lose weight – because their bodies eat to adjust. So, what’s the point in burning (up to) 1,000 calories if my body is immediately going to want to replace (at least) 1,000 calories with whatever food is easiest for me to scarf down?

What Works For Me
Calorie burn doesn’t matter much to me anymore.  I haven’t worn a heart rate monitor in over two years and don’t miss it a bit. My main measure these days of a good workout is the fun measure (which by the way, hula hooping is scoring off the charts in – it is ridiculously fun!). Granted, I’ve been exercising long enough to know what it feels like for me to be at “maximal effort” or “90% of my max heart rate” or even what my aerobic threshold (AT) feels like. I can see how wearing a monitor could help someone new to fitness learn to recognize how hard to push yourself (hint: it’s always harder than you think). But for me it ended up just being one more number for me to obsess over so just like I no longer count calories, weigh myself, or even measure my body fat percentage, I also don’t worry about my calorie burn.

All of which is not to say that exercise – even an occasional session of long, intense cardio – shouldn’t be done. Ask any triathlete, marathon runner or Iron(wo)man if their race was worth it and most of them will give you an enthusiastic yes. But it isn’t because they burned 3,000 calories, it’s because they were having fun and it gave them a sense of accomplishment. Does it mean that I don’t get a great workout from Holiday Turbokick if I don’t burn quadruple-digit calories? No! I’m still increasing my endurance and having a lot of fun to boot. I’m not even saying that you shouldn’t measure your calories burned – you may find it motivating, educational or just entertaining. My point: When we are evaluating the merit of a particular fitness program, there are a lot of better factors to consider than supposed maximum calorie burn.

Do you have a favorite fitness infomercial? Is your calorie burn during  a workout important to you? If so, how do you measure it? How do you measure the success of your workout?

Want another example of a fun workout? Check out our Hip Hop Hustle taping from last night – I have no idea how many calories I burned but I’ll take any excuse to wear neon and bust out my white-girl moves! Can you spot me? Bonus: Can you spot Gym Buddy Allison?

{ 79 comments… read them below or add one }

Ali (Student On A Health Craze) May 10, 2011 at 4:36 am

When I was younger I was OBSESSED with burning 1000 calories a day in the gym, and used to spend 2 hours a day in the gym to achieve it. I never did weights or work on the mats, because they didn’t have calorie estimates! Looking back, I have no idea how (or why) I did it, and would much rather focus on getting strong and recovering from injury nowadays!

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Charlotte May 10, 2011 at 7:15 am

Yes, back in the worst of my exercise addiction days I couldn’t leave the gym until I’d hit 1000. I’d stand at the top of the stairs and do jumping jacks outside the door if I was short just a few. It makes me sad now looking back on it since I did waste so much time doing things that weren’t fun and probably weren’t that good of a workout anyhow. Glad to know I’m not the only one who used to do this! And I’m glad to know you are over it too!

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Tracy May 10, 2011 at 4:59 am

After begging for a BodyBugg for my 40th birthday (2 years ago), I know have a love/hate relationship with it. I love the awareness of general activity, best estimate of personal BMR, but I do get obsessed! Thanks again.

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Charlotte May 10, 2011 at 7:16 am

I turned down doing a product review on here of a similar device just a few months ago because I was afraid of exactly that. I hope yours is more love than hate?

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Tracy May 11, 2011 at 4:25 am

eeeh – more hate than love at the moment, but partly because my skin is having a reaction to it! :) I like the idea of these gadgets and the awareness they create (just standing up at your job or in the kitchen doesn’t necessarily mean you’re burning more calories, etc.), I just don’t think it’s great for someone with my obsessive tendencies. I’m trying to just wear it a couple days a week for reference. One thing that was fun to learn: I’m back to sleep-walking! My husband hasn’t noticed anything, but he sleeps really hard. Too funny. I really love love love what you do girl!

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:43 am

Aw, thank you!

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Paula May 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm

Just got a BodyBugg too and I know what you mean. I’ve started talking to mine “just off to bed now”, ‘just taking you off while I have a shower”. Weird! The interesting thing I noticed is that I tend to burn about the same calories each day regardless of what formal exercise I do. On the days I box and burn a lot in an hour, I rest more later in the day. The days with no proper exercise I walk much more and rest less so still end up with a good calorie burn.

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Tracy May 11, 2011 at 4:27 am

Yeah – I noticed it became Someone To Answer To as well! :) Check your baseline stats online – mine definitely shows a difference in calories burned depending on workout – especially if I do weights in the early am. What a great example of the all-day consequences!! Good luck to you!

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:44 am

Hahah – I love that you talk to it! I would totally do the same thing. And such a good point about your body compensating to stay at homeostasis!!

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) May 10, 2011 at 5:39 am

I dont count calories in the food i eat NOR do i count how many i burn while exercising. I just dont care that much to be troubled. I have a ballpark idea what is probably a balance between the two but i dont count, have worn a HRM twice in my life and hated the chest strap both times :)

I would rather ENJOY the workout than watch the #’s…which is another reason i hate Treadmills. There is no joy in that for me. Watching the numbers tick by. Boring meets obsessing. Not good so i run outside or do yoga!

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Charlotte May 10, 2011 at 7:18 am

So true – I’ve spent MUCH less time on treadmills since I stopped caring about calorie burn. So liberating!

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Marion@affectionforfitness May 10, 2011 at 6:29 am

In 2007, I spent 4 months keeping careful track of my exact food intake and calories and my exact energy expenditure according to the gym treadmill. The gym treadmill wasn’t even close to accurate!!! I lost about half the weight that the treadmill and calories would suggest.

Another point, the Michael Phelps calorie phenomenon, is definitely a component here. My 12 year old son is a “gas guzzler” for calories, while I am extremely “fuel efficient” for calories. He is my same height and eats about twice as much as me and stays skinny. I work out about 7 hours per week. Me–not skinny. His exercise that keeps him slim? Playing XBox and World of Warcraft. Lots of finger exercise there! :-)

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Charlotte May 10, 2011 at 7:25 am

I’ve found the calories in/calories out theory seldom works as the mathematics suggests it should. So many factors in metabolism!

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Naomi/Dragonmamma May 10, 2011 at 6:48 am

Shake, shake, shake it, white girl! How long did it take everyone to learn that routine?

I have NEVER, ever worn a monitor! I have no clue how many calories I burn, nor do I even know how high my heart-rate gets. I measure the toughness of a workout by how hard it is to get off the floor afterwards.

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Charlotte May 10, 2011 at 7:27 am

Hahaha – it took us about a month and last night after the taping we started learning the choreo for the next routine. I know I don’t make it look good but really is crazy fun.

And yeah, I think it’s very apparent how hard the workout is without bothering with the calorie burn. The Metabolic Reaction is a particularly strong indicator;)

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JavaChick May 10, 2011 at 7:39 am

That Hip Hop Hustle looks like so much fun!

I don’t tend to pay too much attention to calories burned during workouts because I know the numbers are probably not that accurate anyway (especially since I don’t own a heart rate monitor of any kind). Lately I have been all about the fun (hello Zumba) because I need the stress relief. Oddly enough, when I’m thinking about it that way, it seems easier to get it done.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:46 am

I agree completely: the attitude of fun makes a huge difference!

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bjbella5 May 10, 2011 at 7:42 am

My Y is offering hip hop hustle in June. Now I so want to try it!! (My injury better be healed up by then!)

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:46 am

You have to try it!!! And then let me know what you think of it! Kinda fun to let your inner vixen out;)

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Jody - Fit at 53 May 10, 2011 at 7:44 am

You know Charlotte, I never have really even paid attention to how many calories I burn when I work out. Yes, I look at the cardio machine & see what is says but it is not something that registers with me plus we all know that they are not accurate. I don’t have a fancy gizmo that tells me that info so.. I just work hard, push myself, sweat like no tomorrow & that is what matters to me.

As for being hungrier… for me, it is all mental.. even if I work out less, I still want what I want so it is mental power for me to just do the right thing….

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Dr. J May 10, 2011 at 8:04 am

I don’t think so. It seems to me that the goal is to find a lifestyle that will keep you fit. With that in mind, I eat, I work out, and I adjust as to how I feel, not with numbers.

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LeslieGoldman May 10, 2011 at 8:08 am

Um, I love the sexy move at 0:22!!! And am I the only one who, for a brief, shining moment, thought Charlotte was wearing those leather straps the Orthodox men tie around their arms? Seriously, that workout looks CRAZY fun – I’d love to try that! We’ll have to go together the next time I’m in MN (thought the staff at Betsey Johnson may be sad if we don’t at least stop by.)

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:48 am

Okay so I had to go google “leather straps orthodox jewish men” – DON’T DO THAT. So I still don’t know what you are talking about. My arm warmers looked much cooler in real life, they didn’t show up as well in the vid. Ah well.

And yes please, come back so we can shake what our mama’s (kinda) gave us together! You would love this class!!

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LeslieGoldman May 10, 2011 at 8:09 am

PS Char, what is up with your boobs in your pic at the very top, right hand corner, plaid skirts?!?!?!?

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:50 am

Four words: Victoria’s Secret Miraculous Bra!

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JourneyBeyondSurvival May 10, 2011 at 9:00 am

I love the Gazelle infomercial. Basically because it’s an abs workout for me. I can’t stop laughing, and wonderinf if he’s gonna git his braid caught.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:53 am

“wonderinf if he’s gonna git his braid caught.” Ah, Tony Little! He and Richard Simmons are a fitness institution!

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Elizabeth@The Sweet Life May 10, 2011 at 9:04 am

I personally don’t care about how many calories I burn exercising. For me, how I look and feel has a lot more to do with what I eat and in what quantities. That said, I do love those dramatic infomercials! Also, has anyone said that typing in your comments field displays very slowly? And the cursor appears in a funny way.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:54 am

Yes, some people have had problems with the new site being slow. My developer Ryan says that it should go away after you load it 5 or 6 times… sorry for the inconvenience!!

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AJ May 10, 2011 at 9:05 am

So you are, of course, easy to spot…but Allison, I’m not so sure. Is she the one in the green shirt and white hat? I’ve never seen a picture with her hair down so I”m not sure what length it is.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:56 am

You are good! You found her! And we had a good giggle over your hair comment – it’s true, it’s always in a ponytail on my site!

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Marilyn May 10, 2011 at 9:43 am

So glad to see this today, Charlotte. Unfortunately leads a lot of organizations to inflate their calorie counts–today Spark people claims you can burn up to 800 calories in class and I recently saw estimates for barre that claimed 500 calories an hour. These inflated claims set people up to say, “I burned a huge amount of calories and now I can eat whatever I want.” Inflated calorie burn claims set people up for failure. Have fun, eat well, and move! Don’t focus on any numbers.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:57 am

I agree – inaccurate calorie burns only make people more frustrated and confused.

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Brooke May 10, 2011 at 9:46 am

You are easy to spot, but Allison, she is elusive.

I would also like to say that I am madly in love with what looks like the ONLY dude in your class. I once took a Zumba class that had an Only Dude in it, and because he obviously had zero self consciousness simply by virtue of being Only Dude in a class full of chicks, he was covered in awesome sauce. He threw down every move with every bit of himself and showed all of us up on a regular basis.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 9:59 am

Hahah – she’s in the green neon shirt and white hat, just behind me and to the right. And we actually have TWO dudes although one didn’t make it in time for the video. They are both awesome and I agree – being the only men really makes them work it! Ted can dance me into the ground, that man is so talented!

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Naomi/Dragonmamma May 10, 2011 at 10:20 am

Is that Allison to your left in the blue shirt?

By the way, I love that funny video you linked; I’m sending that on to all my work-out buddies!

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:00 am

Eurotrain!!!! And nope, that’s my friend Jen. Allison is in the green shirt and white hat just behind me and to the right.

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Holly @ The Runny Egg May 10, 2011 at 11:29 am

I really don’t care about calorie burn — I used to have a heart rate monitor that calculated calories burned and I remember trying to exercise until I hit a certain number. That made me hate exercise because it was always such a chore getting to that number.

I love infomercials that say “you’ll burn 1000 calories” and such — TurboFire, Turbo Jam, Insanity, P90X, all of those. So lame but I sit and watch them anyway.

This isn’t the same thing, but Jason and I were at Target and stopped to look at shake weights — one of them has the claim “same benefit as lifting 60 lb dumbbells” — what????

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:01 am

*shhh* but it was the TurboFire commercials that inspired this post;)

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Abby May 10, 2011 at 12:25 pm

Like you I tend to get obsessive about numbers. A reason for me, beyond the money, to never buy a heart-rate monitor! Just a couple days ago I found myself upset because the elliptical calorie counter said I’d burned 30 less calories than normal. I know it’s completely wrong and pretty meaningless but what can I say. I think I have to go back to covering that part of the screen when I check my miles, etc.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:03 am

I cover the screen with my towel too! I only check the mileage count. Makes me nuts to watch the other numbers. (And also, that’s when I get my Teen Mom fix haha!)

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Alyssa May 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm

You guys are SO COOL!!!!!! If I tried to do hip-hop…wait, I HAVE tried. And failed miserably. I looked like a giraffe who’d just been electrocuted. And put the folks in closest proximity to me in serious danger with all my flailing about.
Like Holly, I will watch the BeachBody infomercials over and over again. I have done some of their programs, and like them a lot. (Except for P90X; good program, just not for me. Does not play well with Pilates. Owie!) I’ll also watch The Firm ones, even though I don’t particularly like the workouts.
I also used to obsess over how many calories I burned. But now I focus on how I feel. And when I’m teaching, I want my clients to feel good, too. Challenged, yes, but not to the point where they feel they can’t walk, lol!
Last night I went for a power walk. Which I interrupted for a few minutes when I stopped to play with a very sweet, very friendly cat. In the old days I would have timed how long I stopped for and added it to the end of my walk, but last night I just wanted to get home. And, hey, quality time with a cat is NEVER wasted time, lol!

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Alyssa May 10, 2011 at 12:31 pm

Oh, and “Eurotrain” is Hubby and my catchword when it’s time to work out, lol!

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:05 am

Hhahahah – I am NOT cool. I get the steps in the right order but my style is… well, just watch the other people around me and enjoy them:) And I agree – quality time with kittehs is important!

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Tami C. May 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm

“6’6″ male Russian ice swimmer” That made me LOL.

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Satu May 10, 2011 at 12:52 pm

Ha! I just wrote a post about how many calories walking burns. (Walking is my favorite workout nowadays) I’m a bit worried no one wants to read it because it’s pretty low compared to running etc.

I have a pedometer that calculates calorie-burn but I never bother to check the number. I’m obsessed with my step count instead. :-) Anyhow, I don’t really care about calorie-burn, I exercise for increased energy.

Hmm, funniest infomercial? I liked the one Ellen Generes demonstrated in her show – 3-minute legs. “Amazing lower body sculpting machine” helps with squats and lunges… It looks obscene!

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:06 am

I love walking!! And once you’re free of caring about the calorie count then it opens you up to a whole new range of fun exercises!

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Katie May 10, 2011 at 2:15 pm

I had a HR monitor that I wore religiously and then one day I forgot to put it on and never wore it again. I just sold it a month ago. I see no point in them, as long as I am exercising and having fun, the number really doesn’t matter.

You’ve got mad skilllz, yo. Please tell me Allison is the one wearing the hat cocked to the side in the neon shirt. I think everyone needs an excuse to wear neon. Myself included. I’m going to look into that now.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:08 am

You found her! Isn’t she adorable??? Yeah, I don’t even own a HRM anymore.

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Alina @ Duty Free Foodie May 10, 2011 at 2:21 pm

I have a polar heart rate monitor, but I try not to use it most of the time — I feel like down that road, obsession is crouching in the bushes. I do whip it out from time to time to get a sense of the relative difficulty of a given workout. However, like you said, they are not accurate so they can be used to compare two workouts, but not as an absolute reference. In addition, the workouts that make me look the best (like power yoga) are not the workouts that burn the most calories. With cardio, I try to make sure I turn red, which means I’ve activated an HGH response. It’s an easy yes-or-no metric that I like.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:10 am

“With cardio, I try to make sure I turn red, which means I’ve activated an HGH response. It’s an easy yes-or-no metric that I like.” I’ve never heard that before! Very cool! I’m all about the metabolic responses!

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Kelly May 10, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Both of those videos are awesome!

I’m in awe of your skillz.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:12 am

Hahah – I have no skillz but there are some really talented dancers in that class! I just go so I can watch them!

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Geosomin May 10, 2011 at 2:51 pm

I find the calorie thing seems to be random with me. depending on machine and even with my heart rate monitor it seems I can go all out and not burn as much sometimes as another workout when I feel like I’m doing lesss. I try and just keep my heartratin the right area…if I think about calories burned I usually think of what I could eat that was that amount of calories. Doesn’t really help me! :)

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Pablo May 10, 2011 at 3:00 pm

The Every Other Day Diet is build on a specific concept: On one day you eat high-protein foods which help you to burn fat fast, but on the other day you can eat practically what you wish!

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Julie May 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm

I work at a gym and it drives me crazy to watch people count calories on machines. All the cardio machines ask for is your age and weight. How does it know if you are M or F? It also does not know your height….you could be 150 tall skinny person or a 150 pound short stocky person, neither would burn calories the same. I feel like I go insane explaining this to people and trying to get them to understand not to believe what the machine is telling you. Same goes for heart rate. I can get a read out on my heart rate while I am running!! I don’t hold on when I am running, but its amazing that it can tell me my heart rate! DO the old fashioned way and take your own pulse. And to burn calories, I am with you Charlotte, you need to work hard and have fun. Its individual and you need to push to your own limits and feel good about it!

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:16 am

So true! Even at best those formulas are an estimate. And often they’re not even a good estimate. Their “magical” abilities make me giggle too.

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elaine! May 10, 2011 at 6:16 pm

Funny you should ask… I went on a 3-mile run on Sunday and realized that I hadn’t thought about how many calories I was burning during exercise for a very, very long time. And it was a good thing. I was pretty obsessive about it.

The nice thing is that when I do go into “weight loss mode” (counting calories in and out) I usually just rely on what my Fitbit tells me I burned that day. It’s close enough, and then I can enjoy my workouts instead of feeling like a workhorse.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:17 am

It feels really good to let that go, doesn’t it! Yay! And the fitbits look really fun! My friend Becca has one and I’m always envious of her gadget!

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Cammy May 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm

I mostly use cardio machines at the gym, and I’ve gotten to the point where I completely disregard the calorie burn info on the display. I toyed with an elliptical just last week by my weight as 75 pounds more than my actual weight (which I typically plug into the machine), and it told me I had the exact same calorie expenditure at the higher weight, which I find pretty much impossible. I bought a heartrate monitor a few years ago, wore it for each of my types of workouts 3 times (replicates, I am a scientist, what can I say), took the average of each as representative for that workout and then relegated the monitor to a drawer and eventually lost the chest band. :/

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:19 am

Yes, I actually cover up the display on the machines with my towel so I don’t fixate on any of the numbers. I totally get your scientist inclinations though!!

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julia May 10, 2011 at 8:26 pm

that was the funniest video ever!! my husband and i were cracking up.

don’t really care much about calories b/c i mostly weight training and do interval training. i just go by how i feel. much more effective and saves my sanity.

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K May 10, 2011 at 8:36 pm

LOVE your dance video!!! I want to workout at your gym so I can do that with you (former cheerleader & Zumba instructor here!).
Back to the main topic of the post… I also used to own a Polar heartrate monitor and could see my obsessive side coming out with the calorie-burn numbers. When the strap stopped working (which happened WAY too soon), I didn’t fix or replace it – on purpose. Like you mentioned, those are not accurate, anyway. It was silly to concentrate on the inaccurate number it gave me.
And I don’t think I EVER got close to 1,000 calories (and I have a tendency to workout too much/too intensely). Of course this had to do with my weight (lower = less calories burned) and it also had to do with the fact that I favored heavy weights workouts and interval training, which may not show larger calorie burns, but the afterburn and added muscle hike up the metabolism for hours after the actual workout.
Anyway, I’ve been heartrate monitor free for a few years now, and I like it that way.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:22 am

Yes, I have a few friends who got really discouraged by their HRMs because as they lost weight naturally their calorie burn went down. So they would feel like their workout was a failure because they couldn’t hit their old levels. And I wish you could come hip hop with us too! I’d love to Zumba with you!!

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Casey Kay May 10, 2011 at 8:59 pm

I don’t measure my calorie burn lately, mostly because my exercise comes in the form of carrying the 2-year-old I nanny around on a “walk” before lunch. Nothing like trying to keep up with a toddler to show you how out-of-shape you are. Usually, I like to measure my exercise by the fun factor as well.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:23 am

Ah yes, nothing like a toddler “walk” hahah!

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gym buddy allison May 10, 2011 at 11:31 pm

That’s me!!! I’m in the neon green with the white hat next to Charlotte. Not bad people! ;)
I think we need more of these ‘spot the gym buddies’ photos!

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:24 am

Yeah! We need to play Where’s Gym Buddy Waldo more!

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becca (bellebottoms) May 11, 2011 at 10:18 am

loved loved LOVED the video with your sweet dance moves!! :) you guys rocked it OUT!

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:25 am

hahah thanks! I’m not a great dancer but I sure have fun! There are some really fun people to watch in that class.

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Heather May 11, 2011 at 11:38 am

I used to be diligent about watching my calories burned on my Polar, but now it’s all about the fun factor for exercising. I don’t have time to give to something I’m not enjoying.

Now, I pretty much use my HRM to tell me my heart rate and the amount of time I’ve spent working out. I love it for running races because it helps tell me whether I’m putting in as much effort as I think I am.

As for burning 1,000 calories, I have done that in a single workout but it was 2 hours of snowshoeing! It was so much fun that the calories didn’t really matter anyway.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:32 am

Good point about using it during races to help pace yourself! The last time I wore one was for that reason – I always start out too fast and seeing my heart rate go off the charts reminds me to slow it down and save some energy for the end! Yay for snow-shoeing!!!

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Heather May 11, 2011 at 11:39 am

OH, and I’m super jealous of your awesome Turbo group! The ONLY reason I want a gym membership is to join a fun fitness class, but I can’t justify the cost when I’d only be able to make it to the gym 2x per week.

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:33 am

haha – I wish you could come do it with us! You’d have a riot!

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Cubicle Warrior May 11, 2011 at 7:09 pm

I usually don’t count calories myself. I think it’s a waste of time. Your body knows if you’re overeating you just have to tune into yourself a little bit more.

Anyway, I’ve always wanted a body bugg myself not because I am obsessed with tracking the number of calories I burn on a daily basis but because I’m a data gathering geek. I like seeing charts and stuff and hard data is always helpful with that. I just couldn’t justify the cost of owning one. :)

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Charlotte May 12, 2011 at 10:34 am

Ah my geek heart smiled at this comment!

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Kat May 12, 2011 at 11:53 am

There are a couple of reasons I don’t count calories in my workouts… mainly because I become obsessed with it.. truly truly obsessed. I can’t even use Map My Run, because it automatically computes that and then I want it to be at least a certain amount each day (to the point of going out at 11pm at night to make it happen)…

but also, because I stop to think about what calories really are. How they came up with that measurement.. By burning items and trying to determine how long it took to get to a particular temperature… My body isn’t an incinerator… Sort of like when I eat I don’t eat a set number of calories. I eat certain exchanges… Why? Because I could go eat 4 donuts and be done… but even though I hit that number of calories, does that mean it was healthy? (a bit of a stretch comparison? probably)

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Lisa Hiller May 13, 2011 at 6:54 pm

AT really stands for “anaerobic threshold”…fyi

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Charlotte May 13, 2011 at 8:24 pm

Ooh good catch! I’ll fix it in my post. Thanks!

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