Shake up your cardio

Shake up your cardio

Cardio. Some people love it and some people hate it, but it is something that really needs to be done. Unless you’re a hardgainer and are solely focused on building muscle, I personally believe you should be doing at least two cardio sessions a week.

At the moment, as I’m leaning out, on the five days a week I lift weights, I walk 40 minutes each way to and from work, as well as doing half an hour of higher intensity cardio. On my non-lifting days, I do 40 minutes of moderate intensity cardio. I try to vary my cardio as much as I can and, while it will never compare to how much I love weight training, it’s usually fairly enjoyable.

My Monday and Tuesday cardio sessions are not exactly traditional. I do hot power yoga every Monday, which is described as a faster paced version of Bikram. Class runs for an hour so even if it’s not as intense as sprinting, I believe the extended duration of the class provides pretty similar cardiovascular effects. On Tuesdays I do pole dancing, which I’ll admit is more of a strength workout than cardio, but I simply refuse to go to the gym three times a day at this stage of my training.

On Wednesdays I usually do 10 minutes of fast walking on the highest incline of the treadmill, followed by 10 minutes of moderately-paced jogging, and then 10 minutes on the stepper machine. As you can see, I get bored pretty quickly so I like to constantly change it up.

Thursdays are my guilty pleasure. The exact time I do my cardio is when MTV screens Jersey Shore. So I (shamefully!) watch that while I do an elliptical workout. Judge me all you want but it certainly makes my workout fly by! I usually repeat this pattern six times: 1 minute at level 8 at a moderate pace, 1 minute sprint at level 5, 1 minute moving backwards at a moderate pace, 1 minute at level 15, 1 minute at level 22 (with level 25 being maximum resistance).

I usually don’t feel like going to the gym after work on Fridays so I head to the park near my house to do 20 minutes of interval sprints. If the weather isn’t nice (which is rare!) then I will trudge along to the gym and do the same workout as either Wednesday or Thursday.

Believe it or not, I used to hate gyms. However, that was before I started lifting weights and purely associated gyms with torture devices known as treadmills and exercise bikes. I used to be a runner and had been known to run for several hours at a time without even realising how long I’d been gone, but stick me on a treadmill and I’d die of boredom five minutes later.

So Saturday and Sunday I relish the opportunity to run outside. I head out as soon as I wake up to maximise the burning of fat stores. However, I’m extremely paranoid about burning up my muscle given my body has been fasting, so my trainer has me doing a one minute walk/one minute run interval, which I alternate for 40 minutes. I honestly thought I was going to hate doing this (because it makes me look like I can’t run consistently for more than 60 seconds) but I actually find it incredibly relaxing.

My view when I'm running... if you look closely, you can see the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the far background

Prior to ramping up my cardio six weeks ago, I was only doing sprints once a week on top of my two gym classes. I’ve noticed a huge difference in my running stride since taking a break – I feel much lighter and stronger. Minus the first few back-to-back sessions, I haven’t felt any pain in my knees – which I have always suffered from in the past.

It was also 30 degrees today...bliss!

While I am a large advocate of weight lifting, I also recognise that cardiovascular exercise is also really important. It strengthens your heart and lungs, is a great stress reliever and of course aids in losing or maintaining weight. But it can get stale very quickly, so I would strongly recommend switching between a variety of activities. Cardio exercise generally requires very little equipment, which makes it quite easy to constantly keep it interesting.

If my knees are feeling up to it, I often do this treadmill workout when I’m short on time and looking to get super sweaty. It’s not exactly like traditional interval training, but I like it because it increases in intensity until I’m flying along.

Speed (km/hr) Incline Time (mins)
5 (warm up) 10 4
8 3 1
9 3 1
8 3 1
9.5 3 1
8.5 3 1
10 2.5 1
9 2.5 1
10.5 2.5 1
9.5 2.5 1
11 2.5 1
10 2.5 1
11.5 2.5 1
10 2.5 1
12 2.5 1
12.5 2.5 1
13 2.5 1
13.5 2.5 1

Hopefully you can figure out my increase/decrease in speed pattern 🙂 The whole thing should take 20 minutes, and you should feel like dying during the last 2 minutes. Let me know if you try it!

How often do you do cardio? What’s your favourite type of cardio workout?

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