Maximize your cardio workouts.  Yes its true that cardio burns calories but straight cardio is not the best way to burn calories and lose weight.  Combining resistance training, cardio intervals and compound movements raises your heart rate while burning fat more efficiently. However, muscles need time to rest and repair so cardio is a great way to get in a workout on days when you’re giving your muscles a break from strength training. It’s important to know how to maximize your cardio workouts so you get the biggest bang for your buck.

If you plan on doing cardio on the same day as your resistance training, it’s better to do it after your strength training program. Doing an intense cardio workout before your strength program will deplete most of your available blood sugar, which you need for energy.  Cardio will fatigue your muscles which will prevent your muscles from performing to their full potential which will keep you from maximizing your results.  There is one more great reason to do your cardio after your resistance training. Strength training burns carbohydrates, the first 20 minutes of cardio burns also burns carbohydrates.  Once the body has used the available carbohydrates it starts to burn stored body fat. So, if you have already used your carbohydrates from your strength program, your body will go straight to burning stored body fat. This is a great way to maximize your results if weight loss is your goal.

On the days when you are resting your muscles and doing cardio alone, the best way to maximize your results is to … just get it done. Cardio can be any aerobic activity that gets your heart rate up. Running, Swimming, Hiking, Rowing, Stepping … and they all count as “cardio”.  How you do them determines your results. To maximize the results of your cardio workouts make small, frequent changes to challenge yourself just a little everytime. Your body will adapt very quicly to your workouts so you have to switch it up.  Challenge yourself by changing the time, type, intensity and frequency of the cardio workout to maximize your results.

Change the time you workout. This is relevent only to your own personal fitness level. My philosophy is to “start where you’re at… and build on that”. If you have not been doing any cardio at all, you will not need to do much to challenge yourself. Start with a walk, see how far you can go within your comfort zone.  Then next time you go, plan to maintain that time/distance. Gradually challenge yourself to do more. At the other end of the spectrum, if you’ve been running 10K fairly frequently and you want to improve your time or lose weight, you might want to extend your run to 11K every other run. This will throw your body off and challenge it in a way you have not done before. Any change will challenge your body 🙂

Change the type. The type of cardio you do will not only challenge your fitness level but will increase your strength in other muslces.   “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”.  Running uses many different muslces than walking or hiking or skating. Mix it up if you want to challenge your heart rate, be strong in a variety of activities and maximize your cardio workout.

Change the intensity. Walking at the same pace everyday is a great way to stay active and fit. However, if you want to challenge your body and get different results we need to change things up a bit.  Intervals of varying speed and or inclines challenging your heart rate to speed up and slow down will definitley maximize your cardio workouts. There a millions of ways to do this.  One way is to start with a pace at your level 1, gradually increase to the intensity to your maximum and then make your way back down to level 1.  You can repeat this as many times as you like. Play around with the amount of time you spend at each level.

Change the frequency. For maximum results. One big workout will not get you the results you are looking for.  More frequent cardio workouts at a lower level of intensity will give you better results. Consistancy is key! Be consistant. I aim for 3 cardio/week with strength training in between.

Time, type, intensity and frequency all play a role in maximizing your cardio workouts between your strength training programs. But remember, implementing components of cardio into your strength training workouts such as a Step & Strength class will be the best way to maximize your cardio workout.