Simplifying Your Cardio Workouts for Maximum Results

by Janet Luhrs
Simplifying Your Cardio Workouts for Maximum Results

by Janet Luhrs,

You’ve seen them, and if you’re like me – go ahead and admit it – maybe you’ve been a little jealous! I’m talking about those devoted cardio machine junkies who faithfully pound away day after day, week after week on the elliptical, treadmill, or spin bike.  Or your neighbor who runs every morning, no matter what the weather. I know! You’re wondering what they have that you don’t, right? How come they seem to have so much discipline and you don’t? 

But wait! Sometimes things aren’t what they seem! Oftentimes when people do the same routine over and over and over – no matter how dedicated – their bodies don’t change all that much. They might have super healthy hearts – but that might be all. Why is this? They’re not exercising the right way. And you, my friend, can start now, doing things the right way – the way that’s far more likely to give you the results you want. Ready?

If you want to go beyond just having a healthy heart, but also to make changes in your lean muscle/fat ratio, then you need to understand how your body burns fat and how your heart rate factors into that process.

Much has been written by exercise scientists and trainers regarding the “Fat Burning Zone”, HIIT (High intensity interval training) and other discussions around the most effective way to not only get a healthy heart, but to lose unwanted weight. It can get pretty complex. Check this out if you really want to get into the details, numbers, and science of it.

It is true that lower-intensity cardio burns a higher percentage of fat to energy extended than a higher intensity workout. As a result of this, people are reasoning why work so hard (25% higher) to only burn 20 more fat calories? The problem with this thinking is two-fold: First, the focus is primarily on burning fat calories during the workout only. And second, little to no consideration is given to the calories and fat burned after the workout, as well as total calories burned.

Training using a HIIT method affects your metabolism both during the workout and long afterwards. HITT demands more of your body in the recovery phase and thereby continues to burn calories and fat long after you finished your workout.

Another bonus is that your muscles are protected with HITT workouts since longer bouts of cardio at steady rates tends to burn muscle. Short bursts will preserve your muscles.  More muscle burns fat and it becomes a positive cycle.

Additionally, more fat that is stored in the muscles is broken down following HITT workouts; hence the Afterburn Effect.

What exactly IS a HIIT workout and how do you know you are training at the proper level? Optimal post-exercise calorie burn occurs for most people when hard exercise is performed at 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. A HIIT workout consists of repeated sets of all out cardio (running, burpees, cycling) for short bursts followed by a recovery period performed for half the time of the high burst segment. For example. 60-120 seconds high burst followed by 30-60 seconds recovery.

The longer you can keep up the sets, the more calories burned during the Afterburn cycle.

But who wants to do all that math to be sure you are on target to the best fat burning results? Just make sure that during your high intensity segments, you are unable to talk and you will likely be performing at that 70-80% rate.

By simplifying your cardio workouts and focusing on the following, you can achieve maximum results:

  • 5 minute warm up
  • Workout at high intensity for 60 seconds, then recover for 30 seconds.
  • Continue this for 6-8 sets
  • 5 minute cool down

Alternatively, here is a great Do Anywhere HIIT workout to get you started. Most importantly please keep in mind that your underlying motivation should not just be to burn fat. Doing an HIIT program helps you to maintain and build muscle, be fit for life, increase your metabolism; all of which result in burning fat.

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