Let’s Get Physical – Becoming a Cardio Queen

So you have decided to start exercising. Great!  No matter if you are new to exercise, just haven’t exercised for awhile, or are a fitness guru, to get the most out of your workouts, you need to  plan. You know the saying “Fail to plan, plan to fail”? Well, it’s true no matter what your goal in life.  So let’s get to planning and preparing.

For your mission (if you choose to accept it) you will need:

  • a weekly planner (The Full Focus Planning System is my absolute favorite!)
  • a notebook

STEP ONE: PLAN 

Starting with your weekly planner and find the time in your day that you can devote to exercise as well as the amount of time. Sundays are when I write down my weekly exercise schedule.  I know, I know, “But I don’t have the time to exercise.” Right? Well you have to make it. The truth is we can always make time for what’s important to us.

I get up at 5am to get my workouts in (before anyone else in the house wakes up). This is my time and I am committed to it. I treat my workouts as though they were important business meetings that I can’t miss. So find the time of day that works best for you and write it in your schedule!


Tip:  if you really have a tight schedule, split your routine up into two sessions in the same day (ex: 15-20 mins in the morning and 15-20 mins in the evening)

Once you’ve determined the right time and how much of it you will devote to exercise, then you can prepare. For example,

  • If you find after work is the best time to hit the gym, you can get in the habit of keeping your gym clothes in the car.
  • If morning is best, keep your clothes packed and waiting by the door. 
  • One of my favorite preparation tips: buy a new workout outfit and proper shoes. It will  help motivate you and it just makes you feel good!

STEP TWO: MOVE THAT BODY

Focus on getting your body in motion with some cardio exercise. Cardio exercise (also called aerobic) can be described as any activity where you use large muscle groups in a continuous manner, getting your heart rate (HR) up and circulating blood throughout the body.  

There are many health benefits to cardio exercise besides the obvious losing of body fat. Cardio also

  • strengthens your heart
  • reduces stress
  • helps relieve depression
  • helps in the management of diabetes
  • your skin will have a natural glow due to increase in blood circulation

If you are new to aerobic exercise or have been off for a while, make sure you clear it with your doctor before starting this or any exercise program.

Frequency/Duration: How Long and How Often:  How long and how often you exercise will depend on your fitness level: Beginners should try to work up to 30 mins a day 2-3 times a week and as your fitness level increases, work up to 30-60 mins a day 3-5 times a week.

Modes/Types: The options are limitless. You can walk around the high school track, use the treadmill, bikes, etc., at the gym, take a dance or aerobics class, or take some exercise classes online and workout at home.

Do some or all of these, even within the same exercise session. Do 10 mins on the treadmill, hop off and do 10 mins on the bicycle, then finish with 10 mins on the stepper – doesn’t matter as long as you just keep moving.

Because I bore easily, I am always varying my workouts. So get creative! It is important to do what is fun to do and what keeps you interested – as  exercising is going to be something you do for the rest of your life, right? Of course, right. So learn to love feeling your body in motion and trying new, fun, and challenging ways to move that body.

Intensity: How Hard are You Working? Getting your heart rate up is key in seeing results from aerobic exercise and the intensity of your workout depends on your fitness level.

For the first couple of weeks you will want to focus on just building the habit of exercise through the Slow and Steady method (which is low intensity, long duration, steady-state cardio – like a long walk), but as your body gets use to moving, it’s time to pick up the pace and raise that HR, increasing your intensity.

Tip: before getting started, to determine the intensity level right for you. Click here

Tip:  Never just jump right in without warming up for at least 5 mins and doing a few light stretches to the working muscles.  Just do whatever you’re doing at a lower intensity to get the blood circulating and the muscles warmed up and limber before increasing intensity. This will prevent injuries and make your workouts more effective. Also finish with a cool down – slowing your pace until your HR returns to normal – and add in some deeper stretching of those working muscles.
 

STEP 3: LOG IT

Time to get that notebook out and start logging your exercise. Make sure you take it to the gym, noting down the:

  • Frequency (days)
  • Duration (amount of time)
  • Mode (type) of exercise performed
  • Intensity (difficulty level) of each cardio session 

SAMPLE DAILY CARDIO LOG:

  • Monday
    • 5am-5:45 (45 mins): 5 min warm up and light stretching. 40 mins brisk walking on the treadmill at 3.5 MPH, 0 incline
    • intensity about a 3
    • Stretched for 5 mins following work out

Tip:  Taking the time to stretch those working muscles at the end of every workout is very important to staying limber, keeping your workouts effective, and helping in muscle recovery.

Tip: You can even jot down your cardio goals for your next work-out session
“On Wednesday I will increase intensity up to a 5 by increasing to 4.0 MPH” (or increasing the incline or the time, etc.) You get the idea. 

STEP 4: MOVING ON

Once you’ve been consistent with your workouts for 2-3 weeks and your fitness level begins to increase, it will be time to increase the difficulty of your exercise if you want to continue to see results. There are many ways to accomplish this. You can:

  • Increase your time 
  • Increase  intensity
  • Increase the number of days
  • Switch up exercise modes

Do any or all of these, as you feel you able, to keep your body surprised and challenged (and from getting bored).

This will also be a time where you will want to start a strength training program.  Strength training and cardio go hand-in-hand in getting healthy, losing weight, and reshaping your body. You’ll need both to get in the best shape possible. 

So look for Strength Training Tips coming next!

Homework:  Schedule your workout days and times in your weekly planner – Write it down (remember 2- 3 days a week to get started). Then log your exercise every time you exercise (use the sample above).

Now go put on your leg warmers and get moving!

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