The cardio workout for women is probably the most popular exercise plan for American women today. And this isn’t without reason — with the staggering amount of office desk jobs, a solid cardio workout plan is one of the best ways for women to stay in shape. Its benefits are endless: you maintain excellent cardiovascular health, it helps you stay thin, it reduces the risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes…etc. Here are 5 essential tips to any type of cardio workout plan.
1. Stretch: Before you start any kind of cardio exercise, stretch. Stretching is crucial to preventing injury, muscle fatigue, and soreness. If you forget to stretch your muscles before working out, I guarantee you’ll be feeling it several minutes into your exercise. Focus on dynamic stretching before you begin the workout. Dynamic stretches are movements that aren’t held, such as lunges or arm circles. Also, doing a few light stretches after your workout is just as important as pre-workout stretching. This keeps you loose and prevents stiffness from setting in when you wake up the next morning. Now that your muscles have been warmed up, feel free to use static stretches — where you hold a certain position.
2. Mix it up: Bored out of your mind with your treadmill workout? Keep things fresh, and do different kinds of cardio exercises as much as possible. Do step aerobics one day, go jogging through your neighborhood another day, go bike riding the next time, then go row a boat…you get the idea. Not only does the change of routine keep you interested and engaged, but your body also gets a better workout because it can’t adjust to the same, habitual exercise. It can even be something as simple as taking your running workout from the treadmill to the sidewalk.
3. Increase gradually: Slowly but surely, you want to increase the intensity of your workout. Go for small, weekly increases. You can increase intensity by making a workout more challenging (like increasing the incline on your treadmill workout) or making a workout longer (swimming an extra lap). These intensity boosts should be done gradually so you hardly notice the increase.
4. Stay hydrated: This should be common sense, but I can’t tell you how many people simply forget to stay hydrated. Drinking water (or a sports drink like gatorade) is crucial, especially for cardo exercises because you need to replenish the water that is getting released through sweat. You should drink plenty of water before AND after your routine. If you don’t have enough water in your body, you’ll experience a noticeable decrease in energy (at the very least).
5. Monitor intensity: Ideally, each workout should follow a bell-curve. Remember that from highschool? Just picture a bell. It starts out really low, gradually gets higher, peaks, then gradually gets lower again. This is how you should treat your workout. Warm up by going really slow, then, little by little, get faster until you’ve worked up to 80% or 90% exertion. Maintain peak intensity for a minute or two (or longer if you feel up for it), then gradually take it down a notch until you’re finally back at the intensity you started at. Finishing the exercise at a lower intensity is the cool down phase. Note: if you’ve just started cardio workouts, DON’T work up to 80-90% intensity. Your body won’t be used to this kind of exertion. When beginning, try to peak at 50-60% of your max.