Written By: Jessica Summerall

Photo By: Velvet Owl Photography

Summer is just around the corner, which means swimsuit season is fast approaching!  With the Internet, we have a wealth of information at our fingertips.  While this is a blessing, it can also make it very difficult to figure out what workouts will bring you optimum results.  Many aspects go into a great workout program such as cardio, flexibility, reactive training, and resistance training.  We are going to talk about cardio!

I get asked all the time what type of cardio exercise is best? Here are some things to consider:

What are your goals?
If your goal is to run a 5k, ½ marathons, or even a full marathon, you must find a good running program.  One of my favorites is the Jeff Galloway program.  You do not have to use his run/walk method, but I love the design and safety of the program.  Most of your training will consist of running and speed work.  Many people who train for races neglect lifting weights. This is a no-no!  Doing a repetitive motion such as running causes wear on the same muscles and joints over time.  The result is muscle imbalance and many times injury.  Weight training is vital to ensuring your body is balanced and injury free.  A good running program shouldn’t have more than 4 days of running per week.  Try to keep your runs to every other day.

If you want your efforts to yield a lean and toned body, it is best to avoid running long distances or doing extended periods of cardio.  You can actually keep cardio very minimal while still keeping your heart healthy, your body lean, and your muscles growing.  If you are naturally thin or trying to build muscle, keep your cardio to 1-2 days per week so that you don’t compromise your muscle gains.  If you gain and hold weight easily, like me, you will need around 3-5 days of cardio per week.  You will be amazed at how weight training can shape your body and shed fat.  This was hard for me to accept when I started training for my first figure competition.  I was a cardio queen, but I was pleasantly surprised by the results I got from lifting.

Lose the monotony
It’s very easy to get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing over and over again.  After all, it does take time to create a plan and sometimes we don’t want to step out of our comfort zone.  If you want to see results it’s time to start getting comfortable with getting uncomfortable!  The problem with doing the same thing all the time is that you are training the same muscles day after day in the same way.  You end up neglecting other muscles of your body.  Our body is amazing and it adapts very quickly to the demands we place on it.  Changing up your routine also helps to get rid of the boredom factor.  When I’m afraid to try something new I bring a friend with me- at least then if I look like a fool, I have someone to laugh about it with!

No matter what your goals are you should be alternating between steady state and high intensity cardio. In steady state cardio you should be able to maintain the same pace for a prolonged period of time. In high intensity cardio you should only be able to do short burst of intense cardio followed by a less intense recovery period. If you are only doing steady state cardio you are not pushing your body enough to see a significant change in speed and fat loss. On the flip side, if you were to do high intensity cardio everyday your chances for injury and burn out are very high. High intensity cardio is wonderful because it saves on time and continues to burn calories long after you are done. Steady state cardio certainly has its place, especially if your goal is endurance.  Combine them both for the win!

Steady State Cardio:
Elliptical, jogging, stair stepper, walking, cycling, skating

High Intensity Cardio:
• 30 second sprint, light jog 1 minute – repeat for 20 minutes
• Box jumps 1 minute, rest 30 seconds, squat thrust 1 minute,  rest 30 seconds,
stairs 1 minute, rest 30 seconds, double under with jump rope 1 minute,
rest 30 seconds, repeat cycle for 20-30 minutes
• On a track- sprint the straights, walk the curves – 20-30 minutes
• Row machine for 1 minute, walking lunges for 1 minute – 20-30 minutes


ABOUT THE WRITER:  Jessica is a business entrepreneur, full time student, wife to a military man, and super mommy!  She owns About Face Fitness, a personal training studio where she helps women and men of all ages reach their health goals.  She is a nutritional cleansing coach with a passion for helping people change their lives.  To find out more about Jessica and her business, check out http://www.AboutFaceFitness.me.