Depending on your fitness goal, there are some common mistakes that could be stalling your progress. Whether you’re doing cardio to drop weight, lose body fat, train for a race or decrease stress, Women’s Health will show you the four common mistakes and how to fix them fast.

Goal: Drop weight

Mistake: Walking or running at one pace. Leisurely strolling on the treadmill or the elliptical for a solid 45 minutes may get you sweating, which will help with temporary weight loss, but there are more effective strategies for your long-term goals. If your goal is to see the scale go down, you probably want the weight you lose to be from fat. The most effective cardio workout for fat loss is interval training.

Instead of shuffling along reading your magazine or watching TV, get ready to work. The bad news is you’ll need to work harder than you have been working. The good news is you can go for a shorter period of time. Plan on a 20- to 30-minute workout. Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes, then perform a 30- to 90-second interval at a pace you couldn’t hold for longer than that. Your heart rate should be above 85 percent of your max heart rate or at a point where you couldn’t carry on a conversation.

Follow with equal or more recovery period at an easier pace, letting your heart rate come down to under 70 percent of max. Repeat for five to 10 rounds.

Goal: Decrease your body fat

Mistake: Doing the same thing over and over again. If you get on the same cardio machine, clock the same amount of time, at the same intensity every day, you’re wasting your time. Doing the same thing over and over again, your body adapts and stops changing and will not drop body fat.

Change up your routine, including intervals. Each time you work out, push yourself harder than the last time. If you’ve been using the same machine for more than four to six weeks, it’s time to switch it up.

Goal: Train for a race

Mistake: Using the treadmill doesn’t work as well as hitting the streets, unless your race is on a treadmill (doubtful). The problem with using the treadmill is that the ground is moving for you so you do not have to use the muscles on the back of your legs to pull yourself forward. Because the ground is moving for you, you literally just pick up your legs, which is very different biomechanically than running outside. Also you miss out on running downhill, which can be very hard to keep your running technique and takes practice. Without getting off the treadmill you won’t learn how to handle the force of going downhill. This could set you up to injure yourself in your race.

Train on the same terrain as your race; hit the streets or the trails to get ready. You should also look up the elevation of the race, and train for hills, if necessary, uphill and downhill.

Goal: Stress relief and/or active recovery

Mistake: Be careful you don’t go too hard and hamper your recovery. Doing steady state cardio, getting your blood flowing, can be beneficial but in this case, keep your intensity to under 70 percent of max heart rate.

Go outside instead of being at the gym indoors. Enjoy your surroundings with a leisurely walk. Sunshine has been shown to help decrease cortisol, your stress hormone.

For more workout tips and information, visit Womens or read Women’s Health magazine, on newsstands now.