A well balanced fitness program should include cardio as well as strength training and flexibility training. Don't think that cardio means working out at the same pace all the time. Just as you mix up the various elements of fitness, you need to mix up your cardio routine.
Your cardio plan should be a mix of endurance, fitness and interval training. You shouldn't just hop on the elliptical or hit the streets and do the same routine every workout. Doing so just focuses on one element of cardio fitness and your body can acclimate easily to your workout, meaning you are not challenging yourself as much as you could and are probably not burning as many calories as you could be. Here's a brief description of each type of training.
- Endurance: Maintaining a steady, and somewhat slower pace for a longer duration is an endurance workout. Aim to work out for at least 40 to 60 minutes maintaining a target heart rate of 60-70 percent of your max (check my calculator to learn your max heart rate). This type of workout is good for burning both fat and calories. Endurance workouts are great for "recovery" workout, the day after an intense workout. Try running on flat ground for at least 40 minutes at a nice steady pace. Add five minutes on to your run each week until you make it up to a full hour.
- Fitness: Short and intense workouts to increase cardiovascular fitness are fitness workouts. For these workouts you work at a consistent and intense pace for a short period of time. Keep your heart rate between 75 and 85 percent of your max for twenty minutes. A tempo run is a great example of this kind of workout. You will burn the maximum number of calories in a shorter period of time. Doing just this type of workout can lead to injury, since you are pushing your body, heart, joints and muscles beyond your comfort zone. Once you have warmed up, put the speed of the treadmill a couple of notches past your comfort zone and run for 20 minutes. Don't forget to cool down.
- Interval: I love interval training since it is a blend of both endurance and fitness training. It challenges the cardiovascular system by alternating intensities. It also increases your metabolism and will burn calories and fat. Here is a challenging interval workout: Interval Sprints on Treadmill.
To see the other two, just read more.
So which type of training is your favorite and which do you need to do more of? Tell me in the comment section below.