4 Must-Try Cardio Workouts

You're at the gym, ready to do your cardio. Today, don't do the exact same thing you always do. It's time for a change.

Each of the following four workouts uses a different piece of equipment and tells you exactly what to do. Check with your doctor first before starting a new routine, especially if you have any medical problems, take any medicines, or are pregnant.

“By having an arsenal of workouts like these at your fingertips, you always have something you can do, even if all the treadmills are taken at the gym, and options for shorter or longer workouts, depending on your time,” says certified personal trainer Nicole Nichols, who created the following workouts.

Pick your machine and start moving!

Workout 1: Elliptical

Time: 20 minutes

What it does: Features high-intensity interval training (HIIT), meaning you alternate periods of hard work with recoveries of lighter-intensity work. The payoff? A bigger calorie burn and huge time savings. “You’re basically doing an hour’s worth of cardio in just 20 minutes,” Nichols says.

The workout:

Warm up for 3 minutes.

Then start this series of intervals, which get longer and then shorter.

Push yourself during the intervals, working at an 8-9 on a 10-point scale, with 10 being your maximum ability and 1 being sitting still.

During the recovery, cut your pace to a 5-7 on that same 10-point scale.

  • 15-second interval, followed by 15-second recovery. Repeat once.
  • 30-second interval, followed by 30 seconds of recovery. Repeat once.
  • 45-second interval, followed by 45-second recovery. Do not repeat.
  • 1-minute interval, followed by 1-minute recovery. Repeat 3 more times.
  • 45-second interval, followed by 45-second recovery. Do not repeat.
  • 30-second interval, followed by 30-second recovery. Repeat once.
  • 15-second interval, followed by 15-second recovery. Repeat once.

Cool down for 3 minutes.

Workout 2: Treadmill

Time: 30 minutes

What it does: Challenges you with intervals, so you get constant changes in intensity, incline, and speed. They help you get fitter, letting you work harder in less time. It's up to you whether to run or walk.

Continued

The workout:

Minutes 0-5: Leave the incline at 0% (flat). Walk at a pace so that you're working at a 4 on a scale of 1-10, with 1 being sitting still and 10 being your max.

Minutes 5-7: Set the incline at 5% and adjust your pace so your level of effort is a 7 out of 10.

Minutes 7-8: Keep the incline at 5% and back down your pace slightly, so your level of effort is a 6 out of 10.

Minutes 8-14: Bump up the incline to 6% and rev up your pace, so your level of effort is 8 out of 10.

Minutes 14-17: Lower the incline to 4% and slow down so your level of effort is a 5 out of 10.

Minutes 17-19: Raise the incline to 5% and move faster, so your level of effort is a 7 out of 10.

Minutes 19-20: Keep the incline at 5% and back down your pace so your level of effort is a 6 out of 10.

Minutes 20-21: Lower the incline to 2% and push your pace until you are near your maximum effort, at a 9 out of 10.

Minutes 21-23: Raise the incline to 4% and slow down your pace until your level of effort is a 5 out of 10.

Minutes 23-25: With the incline at 5%, move fast enough that your level of effort is a 7 out of 10.

Minutes 25-26: Keep the incline at 5% and slow down a little bit, so your level of effort is a 6 out of 10.

Minutes 26-30: Lower the incline and slow down so that your level of effort is a 4 out of 10.

Up for a challenge? “Repeat this workout a second time for a full hour,” Nichols says.

Workout 3: Stationary bike

Time: 60 minutes

What it does: Builds your endurance with a lower-intensity but longer-lasting workout. The downside? Long, slow workouts can drag, which is why Nichols recommends cranking up your favorite workout tunes as you do this.

The workout:

Continued

Minutes 0-5: Use light resistance. Your level of effort is a 5 on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is sitting still and 10 is your maximum effort.

Minutes 5-10: Bump up to moderate resistance and pedal faster. Level of effort: 7

Minutes 10-15: Shift into heavy resistance and slow down a bit. Level of effort: 8

Minutes 15-20: Still at heavy resistance, slow down some more. Level of effort: 7

Minutes 20-25: Shift to light resistance and pick up the pace. Level of effort: 5

Minutes 25-30: Move into moderate resistance and go a bit faster. Level of effort: 6

Minutes 30-35 Go back to heavy resistance and slow down. Level of effort: 7

Minutes 35-40: Shift to moderate resistance and pedal faster. Level of effort: 6

Minutes 40-45: Go to heavy resistance, and go slower. Level of effort: 7

Minutes 45-50: Work at moderate resistance at a faster pace. Level of effort: 6

Minutes 50-55: Shift back to heavy resistance and slow down. Level of effort: 8

Minutes 55-60: Nearly done! Go to light resistance and speed up. Level of effort: 5

Workout 4: Rowing

Time: You choose

What it does: Gives you a low-impact workout, which is especially good for you if you have joint issues. “Unlike other workouts, it’s also a full-body workout,” Nichols says. Because of that, a 160-pound person can burn about 250 calories in just 30 minutes.

The workout:

  • Set the damper between 2 and 5.
  • Warm up for 3-5 minutes at a comfortable pace.
  • Row 500 meters as quickly as you can, working at a level of 7-9 on a scale of 1-10, where 1 is sitting still and 10 is your max.
  • Recover 2 minutes at an easier pace. Your level of effort should be a 4-6 out of 10.
  • Repeat the 500-meter row and 2 minutes of recovery as many times as you like.
  • Cool down for 3-5 minutes at a comfortable pace.
WebMD Feature Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on July 28, 2014

Sources

SOURCE:

Nicole Nichols, fitness coach, certified personal trainer, SparkPeople.com; creator, “Total Body Sculpting” DVD.

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