Smarter cardio, queen

Hey, are you a cardio queen?

If you bring your favorite book, magazine, tablet download to help you pass the time while you're on the elliptical, treadmill, bike, etc. at the gym... you my lovely, fit the description.

And, I get it. For years that's what the fitness industry said we should do. 

In force, it all started waaa-aaay back when... like 1982-when, when Jane Fonda dressed up in that now iconic leotard and leg warmers and released that dang exercise video, Workout. 

It was, of course, co-signed by Olivia Newton-John when she added a headband to her consummate 80's aerobic outfit in her music video Let's Get Physical. #getitgirls

There's a right way to do cardio... and then there's the way most people do cardio.

Since the 80s, now just about EVERYbody thought and often continues to think that to get your cardio you either take an aerobics class (for an hour), you hit the streets for a walk or run (for an hour) or you jump on a machine... or stairclimber - if you're really 80's nostalgic, and again for an hour... to get your cardio. 

Now, in reality that could be okay - generally. I say generally because as with anything, there are always exceptions. 

After all, you're moving (yay!) - and that's good for your heart and your overall well being. It's also one of the easiest ways to get started if you want to get in better shape or lose some weight, if you're a new exerciser, if you're doing rest/recovery days, you're under the care of a doctor, you're an endurance athlete working to accumulate weekly mileage - you get the idea. 

That steady-state cardio does have its place. So generally, yes it's good because you're not just sitting on the couch.

Umm, Houston, we have a problem...

The problem is too many ladies stay right there... They get in a rut, doing the same program, the same speed or the same pace they’ve always done – they may even have a couple routines that they alternate between, but the point is it’s pretty much the same ‘old same ‘ol. Cue yawn.

To make matters worse, they also tend to plod along for far too long (yep, you guessed it, an hour), mistakenly believing that if a little cardio is good, more must be better, especially if it doesn’t seem to be “working”. NOT the best way to lose weight, keep weight off, transform your body and maintain that fit look you probably want since you’re reading this. Oh, and neither are the inconsistent spurts where you half kill yourself every single workout until you burn out or hurt yourself so you quit working out all together, for that matter.

There IS a better way, beautiful! 

See, cardiovascular exercise is any exercise that involves the large muscles of your body (aka arms and legs), makes you breathe heavily and raises your heart rate. That means yes, walking and running are cardio. Bike riding is cardio. Swimming laps is cardio. So is kickboxing, dancing, circuit weight training (my fav!), playing tennis, calisthenics, your boot camp and Zumba classes – all cardio as long as you KEEP MOVING.

So, what should your cardio look like?

Well first off, the American Heart Association along with many other official-type health and fitness organizations like the Mayo Clinic and the CDC, recommend at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity per week along with 2 or more strength training days per week (more on that later). You can, of course and should, mix it up with some moderate and vigorous activity depending on your situation. Based on your goals and ability you can break that time up into 30-minute training periods, 5 days per week. If you’re crunched for time, research even suggests you can get good results from dividing the time up into 10-15 minute segments, 2-3 times per day.

That takes care of the ‘how much’ cardio... 
Now on to the ‘how to’.

Depending on your health and fitness level, what you want is a mix of moderate and hard (maybe super-hard, depending on your circumstances) intensity training days based on your goals so that your body has enough stimuli to boost your metabolism and make changes you want, like burning fat or increasing your endurance, while still offering enough time to recover so you are less likely to overtrain or get hurt.

For an experienced exerciser that could look something like this:
Monday/Tuesday – high intensity
Wednesday – low to moderate intensity
Thursday/Friday – high intensity
Saturday – rest/recovery
Sunday – low to moderate intensity

Beginners, you might start like this:
Monday/Wednesday/Friday – moderate to high intensity
Thursday/Friday – low to moderate intensity
Saturday/Sunday – rest/recovery

Of course, this is just an example. The point is to vary the intensity over your training week so that your body keeps progressing in a healthy way.

You also want to vary the intensity of your workouts as well. Remember that steady-state training we talked about earlier? Once you’ve been exercising for a few weeks, include cardio interval training 1-3 times per week. Interval training is a type of training where periods of moderate to high intensity exercise is alternated with periods of rest/recovery. Some of the benefits include a higher calorie burn (so you don’t need to work out for hours every day to get results), continued higher calorie burn when you’re all done and both your aerobic and anaerobic systems get a significant boost. There are tons of ways you can do this, including mixing your cardio with your strength training and conditioning sessions – nope, you absolutely don’t have to do separate cardio days or cardio workouts. Your training time and workouts should fit your goals. That said, these intervals may be a good place to start. 


This popular form of high intensity interval training, HIIT for short, is named for Japanese researcher Izumi Tabata. It consists of 20 seconds of work time and 10 secs of rest for 8 rounds. That’s only 4 minutes total but since you push yourself to work at or near your highest intensity, a little goes a long way. Researchers found that not only can you save time, Tabata training encourages muscle tissue retention while burning more fat.

This kinder, somewhat gentler modification of the Tabata is a good way for newbies to ease into the protocol. But don’t be fooled – it can still get a tough workout. Start by working at a comfortable level for 30 seconds, then ramp up to moderate intensity for 20 seconds, and go all out for 10 seconds. Do this for 5 rounds and then take a 2 minute active recovery period. Repeat the whole thing again for a second time – another 5 rounds of 30/20/10 followed by another 2-minute active recovery period. 

This is a great workout for building endurance. You’ll work hard for the first segment then go easier to recover for the same amount of work time. As the name suggests, pyramid up in time with each round and then work your way back down. 
30 seconds work/30 second recovery
1 minute work/1 minute recovery
2 minutes work/2 minutes recovery
3 minutes work/3 minutes recovery
4 minutes work/4 minutes recovery
3 minutes work/3 minutes recovery
2 minutes work/2 minutes recovery
1 minute work/1 minute recovery
30 seconds work/30 second recovery

Of course, be sure to warm up and cool down as appropriate. And remember, you’re in charge of your intensity – aka, how hard you work. Keep it smart and work it on your level, of course.

Have fun, lovely!



What's next? 

  • Getting married this summer or filling a bridesmaid spot yourself? Share the love and share this blog post with your bridesmaids!
  • Want more help putting together your plan for your Fit Bride journey? Download our new eBook PROJECT FIT BRIDE. We've put together this starter guide to give you more strategies and simple steps you can implement NOW
  • If you have questions on creating your own wedding fitness success plan, CONTACT US at Wildfire Fitness to schedule your own brief complimentary phone consultation.

And remember, the sooner you start your bridal fitness countdown, the better!

To your success!

No comments: