Resistance training provides benefits above and beyond increases in muscle strength and size. Cognitive function, memory, bone mineral density, resting energy expenditure (the calories we burn while not working out), resilience to aging, and cardiovascular function are all significantly improved via strength training. Performing additional cardio-respiratory exercises can provide health-protective benefits that build upon the cardio benefits of strength training. And the good news is, we don’t have to do very much. As we move into the cliched “busy holiday season”, here are three, time-efficient cardio workouts that will drive VO2 max (the most significant measure of cardiovascular health) and even enhance performance if a 5k, 10k, or marathon is in your future. These can be done on a bike, treadmill, elliptical, or Stairmaster. Sneak these workouts in before your black Friday shopping, or anytime before family comes over during the season. And remind yourself: “less, but better”.
Workout 1: 10-20-20 (this workout is inspired by Dr. Martin Gibala, the world’s leading researcher on interval training).
-Warm up for 3 minutes. This means biking, jogging, or stepping with increasing intensity. (Do not stretch as a part of the warm-up.)
-Go for 30 seconds at intensity 4 (out of a 1-10 scale – 10 being all-out intensity).
-Go for 20 seconds at intensity 6.
-Go for 10 seconds at intensity 9.
-Repeat the cycle 4 additional times. You will have done this for 5 total minutes.
-Rest/recover with easy biking, jogging, or walking for 2 minutes.
-Repeat the 5-minute block three more times (so you have done a total of four, 5-minute blocks with 2 minutes of rest in between.
-Cool down for 2 minutes.
-Total workout time is just over 30 minutes.
Workout 2: Judgement Day (this workout is inspired by the strength and conditioning staff at Michigan State University).
-Warm up for 5 minutes.
-Perform 6, 30-second intervals (intensity of about 8-9 out of 10) with a 60-second rest in between each interval.
-Perform 3, 1-minute intervals (intensity of about 7-8) with a 2-minute rest in between.
-Perform 1, 3-minute interval (intensity of about 7).
-Cool down for 2-3 minutes.
-Total workout time is just under 30 minutes.
Workout 3: The 1-Minute Workout (Also inspired by the research of Dr. Martin Gibala. This is the shortest, most research-tested interval workout.)
-Warm up for 3 minutes.
-20-second interval sprint that is performed with all-out intensity.
-Rest/recover with light activity for 60 seconds.
-Perform 3 total cycles of this (each cycle is 1 minute and 20 seconds total, with the sprint and the recovery).
-Cool down for 2 minutes.
-Total workout time of approximately 9 minutes.
For more inspiration around time-efficient cardio, I recommend reading “The One-Minute Workout” by Martin Gibala.
Note: As always, it’s wise to have a physician’s clearance before performing intense exercise.