Cardio is a cuss word to some and an obsession for others. Whatever your beliefs, consider this fact: Cardio will help you achieve your goals, no matter your fitness pursuit. Cardio comes in many different forms, and keeping your body fat in check is never a bad idea. You just don't want it to be boring or lead to disintegrating gains. We get that.
To make cardio worth your time, you want to see results. The good news is you can ditch the hour-long, snail-pace elliptical sessions to get there. Sure, you can throw on an episode of your favorite TV show while you do it, but is that really the best you can do? Internet fitness queen Jen Selter has four quick workouts that will work wonders for your routine.
"They're my favorites because they pump some much-needed variety into your workout plan and produce results you'll love," she says.
1. The Stairmaster
"The Stairmaster is my first and favorite cardio choice for a number of reasons," says Selter. "Most importantly, it targets your glutes and thighs. It's also guaranteed to make you sweat. Think about it: When's the last time you saw somebody not covered in sweat after 10 minutes of climbing?"
"The Stairmaster is also great for fat loss," she says. "In fact, if you achieve an aggressive enough mindset, you can almost feel the fat melting off you. The key is intensity. Don't treat your time on the stepper as you would a typical jaunt on the treadmill or stroll in the park. Crank up the intensity!
"I usually do 20-30 minutes of Stairmaster 2-3 times per week. I love how versatile it is. You can do both high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS). Both styles deliver great results.
"One effective method is to alternate styles throughout the week so your glutes and thighs—as well as the rest of your body—get the best of both worlds. Be prepared to be challenged, no matter which version you pick. Always push your limits. During my LISS cardio, I also like to incorporate glute kick-backs to really target my rear. It's a superb way to bring out your bum during your cardio routine. You'll definitely be pleased with the results."
"In my experience, plyometrics are on the opposite end of the spectrum from your standard, bored-to-tears cardio workout," Selter says. "Plyometrics are challenging. They get your heart pumping and require a go-getter mentality.
"Plyometrics are also easily adaptable. If you're new to the movements, you can get away with fairly basic bodyweight exercises such as jumping jacks. They're convenient and portable, so you have no excuses.
"Quick: Dive into one of my favorite plyometric exercises—the "Jumping Jack Attack!" It's like my twist on Tabata. Do as many jumping jacks as you can in 20 seconds, then rest for 20 seconds. Here's the kicker: When you repeat the process, increase the time and rest period to 30 seconds each. Then go to 40 seconds. Repeat this cycle three times for a quick and effective cardio workout!"
"This may not be a glamorous choice, but running outdoors has always been a favorite of mine—even if I do occasionally have to hop on the treadmill during the winter months," says Selter. "Running is obviously a key cardiovascular exercise, but I've always found it to be a great stress reliever, too. If you are busy, a good run may be exactly what you need to relax. Put your headphones in, throw on some music, and start running toward your own personal Zen zone. Before you know it, you'll have hit the reset button on your stress levels, leaving you recharged and back on track."
"Running is also a great tool for fat burning," Selter adds, "especially when used with these other movements. When I'm on the treadmill, I set it to a high incline and do 15-second sprints with 45 seconds of rest for 12 rounds. This is a surefire way to elevate your heart rate and speed up fat loss."
4. Jumping Rope
"For added variety, I like to throw a jump rope into my workout," says Selter. "Sometimes, I'll even make it a stand-alone workout. It's great if you're pressed for time and need to work up a sweat quickly. You can use a variety of speeds, frequencies, and rest periods to put together a unique program each time. Plus, it's convenient and can be done just about anywhere. All you need is a rope!
"When I incorporate my jump-rope cardio session into my workout routine, I like to jump for a prescribed number of jumps or length of time between exercises. I do 50-100 jumps or jump for 30-60 seconds between exercises. It's a fantastic way to keep my heart rate elevated. An increased heart rate speeds up fat loss, keeps things interesting, and gives you one heck of a workout in the process."