More bang for your cardio buck

Hi friends 🙂 It’s almost the weekend! I’m so glad you liked the back workout– let me know if you give it a try!

Since the Pilot and I are both (still) feeling a little under the weather –please be allergies- we had someone else do the cooking last night.

olive garden

Soup and salad FTW

Treat at work:


(Sorry for the blur- just had my phone with me)

One of the girls used to own a bakery and often surprises us with amazing desserts. I had to try a cookie –oatmeal with butterscotch and raisins, which may be the best cookie combo ever- and it didn’t upset my stomach. I’m sensitive to gluten, but if I have small amounts every blue moon, it’s NBD.

I didn’t teach any intense classes yesterday (lots of assists and taught a treadmill/strength class), so I hopped on the elliptical at the end of my lunch break to get in a good sweat for 20 minutes. I love pedaling on the elliptical reading a magazine, but since my workouts are now much shorter, I try to make them as effective as possible.

Here are some tips for getting the most out of a cardio workout:

-Be sure to warm-up. Even if you don’t have a lot of time, taking 5 extra minutes in the beginning is worth the time you’d have to spend recovering from a potential injury. 

-Choose a mode that you’ll use to challenge yourself. If something is particularly challenging (but you feel comfortable doing it), go for it!

One that is guaranteed to kick my booty: jump roping.

jump rope

-Find a mode that will use your entire body. For shorter sessions, I prefer the treadmill or elliptical rather than the stairclimber or bike. I LOVE the stairclimber and bike, but to increase muscle usage and burn more calories, I’ll opt for the treadmill, elliptical or plyometric intervals.


-Put the magazine away. As you guys know, I’m a big fan of cardio reading, but for short sessions, it’s not ideal. My mind and energy are better utilized cranking out some quality cardio than reading about William and Kate. I can catch up with them during my longer, more leisurely cardio sessions.

-Add in hills, speed drills, or a combination of the two. One of my favorite ways to challenge myself for cardio is to gradually take the incline up as high as I can take it, recover, then do sprint intervals (kind of like in this workout). It’s a bonus to challenge different muscle systems and possibly burn more calories, but I also like it because it keeps things exciting. Steady state isn’t as fun for a short amout of time.

-Add in some plyo. Plyometric movements are a great way to get your heart rate up and strengthen your muscles at the same time. They’re fast, functional movements which can improve athletic performance. These bursts of energy also make steady state cardio seem easy (ish) in comparison. (You can read about my favorite plyo drills here)

-Create an awesome playlist. Even if you have a short amount of time, amazing music can provide the extra motivation and oomph to crank out an intense workout. Choose at least one power song (your absolute favorite at the moment- mine is “Wild Ones”) and put it at the beginning of your playlist. Other current faves: “Shake Senora,” “Starships” by Nicki Minaj and J Lo “Dance Again.” (I like Pitbull… a lot)

-Use a heart rate monitor. This is a great tool to make sure you’re challenging yourself and also to ensure that you’re working out in a proper zone for your personal fitness level.

polar (I use the Polar FT40 and love it)

-Cool down and stretch– just as important as warming up effectively. Let the heart rate come back down safely and stretch to prevent injury

What’s your go-to for short cardio workouts? Any tips you’d like to add to the list?

It’s a Zumba day over here 🙂

Hope you have a Happy Thursday!



Something to think:


Head’s up: Sun Warrior for $36 on OpenSky!

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  1. Lindsey on April 26, 2012 at 11:06 am

    I will usually do a HIIT type routine on the treadmill, using sprints or inclines.

    • Sara Dane on April 27, 2012 at 9:42 am

      HIIT workouts are the best! I’ve gotten fabulous results in 20 minute sessions… better results in less time and they are more fun!

  2. Stephanie @ Legally Blinde on April 26, 2012 at 11:14 am

    A treadmill class sounds really interesting! I only recently started using the treadmill (I’m a horrible runner) because of you, during the winter shape-up! I’d love to take a class like that. I am also super challenged by jump roping – it is seriously tough! I just bought one to have on hand, and I think I’m going to throw it in my suitcase when I go to FL is a couple of weeks. It weighs almost nothing and takes up so little space, so it’ll be a great way to get in some quality cardio without having to devote too much time to it so I can relax and enjoy the beach 🙂 PS Excited for Sun Warrior!!

    • Stephanie @ Legally Blinde on April 26, 2012 at 11:38 am

      Just had to say I was really excited to see that there’s free shipping on Open Sky today, too! Yay!! Ordered some more Sun Warrior 🙂

      Oh and I also wanted to mention that I really like Amanda Russell’s workout videos – they’re short but high intensity and use minimal space and equipment (and free!).

  3. Liz @ Tip Top Shape on April 26, 2012 at 11:15 am

    Such a wonderful last quote!

  4. Steffany on April 26, 2012 at 11:15 am

    I love my Polar HRM. (:

  5. Becca on April 26, 2012 at 11:20 am

    I always try to remember to wear my heart rate monitor to keep track of my intensity. Having a great playlist is extremely important for me, bad music usually equals a bad workout.

  6. We have similar music tastes – I love your Zumba picks! I actually just put together a Power Song playlist on my site of all the just-finish-that-mile songs I’ve used in the past. 🙂

  7. Abby on April 26, 2012 at 11:26 am

    Lately Insanity has been my cardio of choice. Lots of hiit and plyometrics!

  8. Tracey on April 26, 2012 at 11:31 am

    Isn’t it the worst when you get on the treadill and put in your headphones, only to realize your iPod is out of charge?! 🙁 Happened to me last night and it made for a completely different run!

    • Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed on April 26, 2012 at 12:24 pm

      My ipod died a month or two ago and I’ve been going crazy without it. I didn’t want to spend the money, but I got my tax return and bought a new one yesterday… thank goodness 🙂

    • Maddy on April 26, 2012 at 9:28 pm

      Yes! I end up doing much less workout. I need music!! I mouth the words and look like a fool, but it makes working out much more fun.

  9. Julie on April 26, 2012 at 11:33 am

    Shake Senora has been a staple in my workout class the past couple weeks & I LOVE it!

  10. Lisa@HealthyDiaries on April 26, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Great tips! Hope you guys are feeling better. I’ve been feeling under the weather for the past 3 days and am too hoping that it’s nothing!

  11. Tara on April 26, 2012 at 11:49 am

    Do you think you could come up with a cool jump rope routine? Maybe to vary it a little? All i know is jumping or oe footing it.

  12. Caity @ Moi Contre La Vie on April 26, 2012 at 11:50 am

    Whoa, thanks for the OpenSky tip!!! I’ve been scraping the bottom of my vanilla at the office all week. 🙁

  13. Catalina @ Cake with Love on April 26, 2012 at 12:03 pm

    Love all the cardio tips, and I want some butterscotch cookies!! 🙁

  14. Kelly on April 26, 2012 at 1:09 pm

    My go to short cardio workouts are TurboFire. I LOVE those workouts and they burn a good amount of calories in a short amount of time. If it’s not possible to do a DVD I will do intervals on the elliptical.

  15. Abby on April 26, 2012 at 1:13 pm

    Question, is the sun warrior less chalky than other brown rice protein powders? I’ve tried a few but can’t get past having to nearly chew them haha!

  16. Julie on April 26, 2012 at 1:15 pm

    I need to buy myself a jump rope!

  17. Averie @ Averie Cooks on April 26, 2012 at 1:30 pm

    Those oatmeal with butterscotch and raisins cookies look fabulous. I am craving one of those after seeing them. I love a good chewy, oatmeal raisin cookie. And those look super chewy!

  18. Amanda Perry @ Sistas of Strength on April 26, 2012 at 1:31 pm

    Kettlebell swings are my fav for limited time workouts. 🙂

  19. Annette @ FitnessPerks on April 26, 2012 at 1:55 pm

    I am teaching ZUmba tonight too!! Wahoo 🙂 Love that class.

    I agree with your tips–it is so true that having a magazine is fun for longer cardios (or my lighter cardio days), but not so much when I want to amp it up. great post!

  20. Lisa @ Wealth O' Health on April 26, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    Do you know how accurate the heart rate monitor is? I have been looking at them, but didn’t want to spend a lot of money on something that wasn’t reliable.

  21. Whitney @ Whit Likes Fit on April 26, 2012 at 2:30 pm

    I love treadmill intervals. I swear I feel like I worked out harder in 30 min when I’m alternating walk/sprint than if I were to just run at a steady pace for the same amount of time.

    Do you have a recommendation on a good jump rope? Right now I jump without the rope but I’d love to get a real one.

  22. Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries on April 26, 2012 at 2:47 pm

    treadmill intervals always kick my booty. and i don’t know how you don’t think the stairclimber is intense! that one always gets me huffing and puffing and sweating like crazy!

  23. Lisa on April 26, 2012 at 3:30 pm

    Great tips! I get super bored on cardio equipment, so I always add plyometrics in! I love doing HIIT and more intense workouts so they are shorter and I don’t have time to get bored 🙂

  24. Allison@thecrazyfat on April 26, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    I’ve been doing my HIIT on the stairs in my building these days and it is KILLER.

    Also when you said you could have gluten every once in a blue moon I instantly thought you were referring to drinking Blue Moon…the wheat beer.

  25. Hillary on April 26, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    I just started jump roping again and, holy heck!, it is an absolutely insane workout. If I don’t have much time, I like doing HIIT runs on the treadmill, alternating sprints and recoveries. Gets me sweaty every time!

  26. Allison on April 26, 2012 at 6:21 pm

    I really like that quote at the end — I ran 5Km with 50km/hr (29m/h) winds today, My future self will thank me for getting out there and not being lazy! no matter what the weather conditions are like.

  27. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on April 26, 2012 at 6:38 pm

    When I’m pressed for time I like to hop on the spin bike and do some sprints/hills. It always gets me sweating within the first 5 minutes!

  28. Ashley Hamilton on April 26, 2012 at 7:02 pm

    I love doing intervals on the treadmill when I don’t have much time because it kicks my butt pretty quickly but I still feel really accomplished.

  29. Lauren @ Lawfully Wedded Wife on April 26, 2012 at 8:04 pm

    These are great tips, thanks so much! Lately I’ve been doing short HIIT sessions on the treadmill and I love it!

  30. rielle on April 26, 2012 at 8:46 pm

    I now no longer stretch my clients – there’s no evidence that stretching after a workout does anything for recovery and after trying it myself (it feels wrong to not stretch i know) i’m slowly joining this movement. It’s hard to take this one, i’m still struggling with it as a former dancer all we did was stretch but most people aren’t dancers 🙂 Stretch because it feels good, but there is NO scientific evidence that it assists in recovery – a good cool down is now what i put my clients through and if they want to stretch on their own that’s fine but there’s generally no reason for it (but reasons against it i.e. it can promote not prevent injury).

    • Fitnessista on April 27, 2012 at 1:28 am

      it doesn’t directly prevent injury, but does improve flexibility which helps the joints go through their full range of motion and can help keep injuries at bay. scientific evidence is mixed, and while stretching before a workout is ineffective, i think it’s wise to stretch afterwards. it can’t hurt, especially if you do appropriate stretches with proper form.

      • rielle on April 27, 2012 at 9:12 pm

        This is exactly what i always thought, i was then challenged to find the evidence – i can’t. Stretching tight/used muscles in order to increase flexibility does not prevent injury – it still feels wrong somehow to even say that but there is no evidence that is does so (it’s really not mixed, sorry) and i only started investigating this when i, who stretch/do yoga religiously was challenged about why i do it and why i had such flexibility yet injuries. I’m still not totally onboard but stopping stretching has helped me and i have clients (i coach/train athletes) who this has surprisingly worked for too. Intuitively i can understand that stretching a muscle you just used could work it thus hurt it more. I think it’s up to the individual to be frank, but basically after going through a time of trying to find evidence that stretching prevented injury – i haven’t been able to.

  31. Jenn on April 26, 2012 at 9:07 pm

    Dear Fitnessista: today i did a HIIT workout and then bodypump and i had that luscious “u-shaped” sweat mark…and i saw it in the mirror and said “gina would be proud of this” 😛 Thanks for being such a great blogger…i’m always staying tuned for the next post, workout, or meal! you’re the best!

    • Fitnessista on April 27, 2012 at 1:24 am

      so proud! 🙂
      thank you so much for reading and for such a wonderful comment

  32. Ellie@Fit for the Soul on April 27, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Oh mann I really wanna try sun warrior! 🙂 But it’s kinda pricey~I’ll def. try it out someday though. And I looooove the stairclimber! For me, it really gets me going hard because I do crazy intervals like, start from level 8-9 for 30 seconds walking 360 deg. rotation, and then run up for 1 minute on level 20. Then go to 10-11, and then the same rotation. 😀 It’s deadly but oh so good!

    • Fitnessista on April 27, 2012 at 1:23 am

      that sounds evil… and amazing

  33. Sarah on April 27, 2012 at 8:44 am

    I love the quote at the end! Thanks for the cardio tips 🙂

  34. Kelly @ Femme Fitale on April 27, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Does anyone know where they sell Sun Warrior in Canada? I can’t find it anywhere in Calgary :*(
    Currently using Vegan Proteins+; it’s okay but kind of chalky!

  35. Cara Craves.. on April 27, 2012 at 11:21 am

    Zuzka light is my go-to workout these days!

  36. Melissa (Better Fit) on April 27, 2012 at 12:58 pm

    My go-to for short cardio is usually a short and sweet Tabata drill.

    I love your cardio tips- I did some research on music and motivation- and it’s scientifically proven to make you work harder!

    Looking at your treadmill photo, it makes me think of some photos I took in the gym the other day on my phone for a post. I felt a bit silly taking photos in the gym! I know you’ve mentioned before that you don’t whip your camera out at certain restaurants or at certain group get-togethers… Do you get used to taking photos in random places and get more confident? Or do you have any tips on being sneaky with it? I ended up getting some rather fuzzy shots :~

  37. Anna on April 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Love your water bottle! I have the same one in pearl 🙂

  38. Kathleen @ KatsHealthCorner on April 27, 2012 at 11:51 pm

    What a great post — thank you! <3

  39. jassy @ Healthy Egg on April 28, 2012 at 9:42 pm

    thanks for sharing that “something to think about”, it makes me want to go on with this healthy endeavour. to healthy living! 🙂

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