Before we get into an introduction to cardio exercises, there are three main types of exercises: strength training, cardio, and stretching. Each of these is unique in their own way and are essential for maximizing your fitness level and preventing injury. You have probably heard that cardio is a great way to lose weight and get lean so today I am going to give an introduction to cardio exercises and why it is so important, especially in conjunction with weight training and flexibility training.
The Benefits of Cardio
Cardio is described as any exercise that raises your heart rate into your target heart rate zone for a sustained period of time. Thus, cardio is a great exercise if you want to burn fat and torch those calories. However, besides just burning calories, there are added benefits to doing regular cardiovascular exercises.
- Like I said above, cardio helps you burn calories and fat
- Cardio strengthens your heart and reduces your risk of a heart attack and high blood pressure
- Cardio releases “happy hormones”—aka endorphins—that relieve stress, anxiety, and depression
- Cardio, since it is a weight-bearing exercise, increases your bone density and decreases your risk of osteoporosis
So now that we know the benefits of cardio, what are the different types of cardio to choose from?
The Types of Cardio Workouts
There are many different ways you can elevate your heart rate, including walking, jogging, climbing stairs, doing the elliptical, biking, high-intensity interval training, swimming, dancing, and more. So how do you know what the best cardio workout is?
Choosing a cardio exercise is totally up to you. The main objective is to make sure you enjoy it and don’t dread every minute of your workout. The elliptical and bike are great if you have joint pain, however, they still work on activating the lower body muscles. On the contrary, running and climbing stairs can have a harsher impact on the joints, although they burn more calories per minute. So in conclusion, the type of cardio you choose is a personal preference. And you can always mix it up—walk one day and bike the next.
Creating an Action Plan
1. Find an activity you enjoy
The first step to finding the motivation to work out is to find an activity you enjoy doing. When you do so, you will begin looking forward to working out and will view it as your “me” time and as a hobby. So, try out some different exercises and learn how to incorporate the ones you love into your schedule. Exercise doesn’t have to be traditional—try Zumba, rock climbing, disk golf and more.
2. Plan your workout schedule
Write out a plan and stick to it! This is a great way to hold yourself accountable to exercising because when you take the time to sit down and plan a schedule, you ensure you are not over committing yourself, you are strategically thinking of a great time in the day to exercise, and you motivate yourself to check off your daily workout plan.
When you have a schedule, you will begin to think if you miss one day it will screw up the rest of your week so you better get to it!
3. Find a time that works for you
Along with creating a workout schedule, find a good time in the day that fits into your schedule. For me, I love my morning workouts. After trying to incorporate afternoon exercise into my daily routine, I quickly learned that I was not motivated to go to the gym after work. So, play around with a few different times in the day to figure out the best time for you and your energy levels.
4. Enlist a friend
We have all heard this one, but it has proved itself to be a great tip for finding workout motivation. By enlisting a workout buddy, you both are holding each other accountable to show up and put in work. Also, it’s a great way to socialize while improving your health.
5. Sign up for a group fitness class
If you need some more accountability, sign up for a group fitness class. This is a wonderful way to stay committed—especially if you dropped some dollar bills to attend that class. Similarly, we are all naturally competitive. So, a group fitness class will not only motivate you to show up but it will also motivate you to push yourself harder than you otherwise would.
6. Create goals
Goal setting is a great way to find the motivation to get started and to keep going. Your goal may be to run 1 mile or do 10 pushups, so you work for it. And once you achieve that goal you are even more motivated to keep working at it to achieve greater goals!
7. Ask yourself, “Will I regret missing this workout”
When my alarm goes off in the morning, I always—without fail—roll over to snooze it and lay in bed thinking “will I regret not getting up?” It is always a yes. Like missing a meeting you know you should have attended, you will end up regretting not going to exercise. I guarantee it!
8. Create an awesome workout playlist
I love my workout playlist! I turn it on and immediately become hype, even if I am sitting at work. I recommend picking some of your favorite high-energy tunes to make a playlist with. You can listen to this playlist as you prepare to go workout—it’s a great energy and mood boost!
9. Get addicted to the post-workout endorphin rush
Part of why I love working out is that I know how great I will feel afterwards! Granted, becoming addicted to this feeling will take time. But if you start now and stay consistent, you will begin to recognize that post-workout endorphin rush that will lead you to wanting more and coming back tomorrow.
10. Wear a fitness tracker
Fitness watches are everywhere nowadays. Whether you have a Fitbit, an Apple Watch, or a Garmin, these are great ways to motivate yourself. Fitness tracking devices tell you how many calories you burned and how long you exercised for—motivating you to start and push yourself with each exercise.
You don’t just have to go to the gym to get a cardio workout in. Walk around your office building during work, go bike the local park, have a dance party in your room, or take a day hiking trip. Whatever it is, just be sure you are aiming for at least 30 minutes of cardio a day. Make it fun—it will make your weight loss a lot easier!