When to Do Cardio

Ugh! Cardio! It’s such a confusing topic, right? Cardio workouts are a critical component to your overall health, wellness and sense of “I’m awesome!” Some of the benefits of cardio that many people don’t know are:

• Cardio causes your body temperature to change and therefore helps to improve your natural circadian rhythms
• Cardio improves your body’s ability to manage carbohydrates by inspiring better insulin sensitivity at the cellular level
• Cardio helps your muscles recovery from other workouts helping you to bounce back faster

There are two critical considerations when it comes to cardio. The first is why you are doing it in the first place. The second is to when to perform your cardio workouts to reach your goals.

Effective cardio is dependent on your heart rate during the workout. Therefore, you have to know what your heart rate should be based on your intended goals. Below are some general values that are based on your Theoretical Heart Rate Max. Keep in mind these numbers are general guideposts. Your exact heartbeat can be higher or lower by about 15 beats per minute.

You can calculate your Theoretical Heart Rate Max by subtracting your age in years from the number 220. For example:

220 – 38 (years old) = 182 (beats per minute)

Now, take that number and multiply it by the percentages below to determine what your heart rate should be during your cardio workouts.

1. For heart health multiply by 0.75
2. To improve cardiovascular fitness multiply by 0.85
3. For fat loss multiply by 0.70
4. To improve a sense of well being multiply by 0.60
5. To recover from other workouts multiply by 0.55

Because cardio should be a component of your overall fitness plan, it’s valuable to schedule it intelligently in relation to your strength workouts. This really comes down to two considerations. Do you want to improve your muscle mass? Or, do you want to maintain your current sitch? Check out this week’s video below to learn the exact way to schedule your cardio to support your strength training efforts.

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Women’s Strength Nation is committed to improving the ratio of women to men strength training around the world. You can Join the Movement by sharing your thoughts and questions below. Your thoughts and ideas may help another woman’s journey. Please join the conversation and leave a comment below!

And lastly,
Today’s #Strengthspo

“Don’t let small minds convince you that your dreams are too big.”

Stay strong, friend.


8 replies
    • Holly
      Holly says:

      Hahaha, well…. IT DEPENDS ON YOUR GOALS! Lol. Steady state is great for wellbeing, heart health and fat loss. Intervals are good for fitness level and possibly fat loss. IN general, I have my peeps do a combination of both. If you are emphasizing fat loss, do more steady state sessions per week. If you are focusing on fitness and health, aim for equal steady state and interval. A good general rule of thumb is 3-4 steady state and 2 intervals per week. Does that help??? Thank you for being a part of this community and for letting me help you!

  1. Selena
    Selena says:

    Hi there,

    I am currently following the plan in your book, Lift To Get Lean. I’m on week 5.

    My current goals are to build muscle and lose fat. Also, I am trying to be a regular runner again. My current workout schedule is this:

    Monday: strength in the AM, run in the PM
    Tuesday:Spin or Swim in the AM
    Wednesday: Strength AM, Run PM
    Thursday: Spin or Swin in AM
    Friday: Strength AM, Run PM
    Weekends: rest/stretch

    Now, I’m curious if I’m on the right track. The first couple of weeks were exhausting. But now in week 5 it’s become a little. Am I doing too much? Could I add more cardio? Is this schedule appropriate for my goals?

    • Holly
      Holly says:

      Wow Selena, honestly, this is a really amazing program. For real. This looks exactly what I would write for myself when I have the same goals. Great minds think alike! This program is perfect for the goals that you mention. I encourage you to focus on getting stronger, more athletic, and resilient. THEN, taking body fat off will be easy. If your ONLY goal were to lose body fat I would get more specific on how many minutes of cardio you are doing, and the intensity of those sessions. If you want BOTH, to lose body fat AND be more fit, I would say keep doing what you’re doing, and aim to slowly increase how far or how long you are running. The stronger you are in your strength workouts, the easier and better your runs will be. THEN you can use running to burn off the body fat. Make sense? Once you are done with the full 90 days of LTGL, let me know where you are in terms of fat loss. Thanks SO much for being here! Stay strong lady! You’re amazing.

    • Holly
      Holly says:

      You’re so welcome Lucy, and thank you for the feedback. I hope you can continue to learn from my videos!

      Stay Strong,

  2. Ana
    Ana says:

    How can i determine for sure if i build up muscle mass easly?. I think i do, i’m 1.53 mts high (5′) and when i started strenght training (i started with Dara Torres book because i also swim) i felt my arms grew a lot, i felt i couldn’t close my arms as easy as before, (they looked fit but bigger) the contrary happend to my legs but i think it was because i store more fat in my thighs. Now i’m looking to start over more informed so i get lean arms and legs!!! I generaly did the cardio (swiming) after the strenght training. English is not my first language by the way)


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