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What is cardio? To some it may mean swinging back and forth on an Arc Trainer with zero resistance while reading a book, and for others, gut-wrenching hill sprints followed by kettle bell swings.
Regardless of what cardio means to you, I suppose either answer could potentially be the proper workout. But before you hop on a gadget and hit quick start, take a few things into consideration: your current fitness level (not your level 15 years ago when you were the starting quarterback), any injuries or health concerns, and your personal fitness goals.
I really believe the best way to find out if a particular workout is right for you is to use a heart rate monitor as a guide. Polar is my fave but anything will do. I always suggest Amazon or Heart Rate Monitors.com for a basic monitor at the best price. Each monitor includes a guide to get you started (be sure to check with your doctor if you have any special needs).
Here's where the controversy comes in: Many avid gym goers believe in little to no cardio. If I have to choose sides, I'd say I am one of them. But that doesn't mean I don't believe in getting my heart pumping during a workout. My heart rate monitor helps me to see where my heart rate is after I sprint 1,000 meters on the rowing machine, complete 30 squat jumps, run five flights of stairs, or walk five minutes at the steepest incline I can on a treadmill without holding on.
That's my kind of cardio. I enjoy adding it to my weight lifting routine or simply using it as a quick interval workout by itself without the weights. My heart rate monitor tells me right where I am while I am performing each exercise and also lets me know if I am too high or low for my own specific heart rate goal.
The other day I watched a video about fat burning by famous strength coach Mike Boyle. He states, "True, you burn a higher percentage of fat at a lower intensity. However, this is a greater percentage of a smaller number. Higher intensity exercise burns more calories and MORE total fat calories."
In a perfect world I believe we would all burn calories most efficiently by working out at higher intensities. But not everyone is ready and able to do so. I suggest using a heart rate monitor to measure your progress and start slow. If jumping or running isn't an option for you, don't worry. Try non-impact intervals such as 30-second stationary bike sprints or rowing. Little by little you will start to notice your heart getting stronger and your intervals getting tougher.
Get online and order a heart rate monitor. Take your fitness to a whole new level.
(new York City-based fitness instructor Kiley Schoenfelder was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at age 8. She operates her own independent fitness company, K FIT NYC. Kiley holds two certificates from the National Academy of Sports Medicine: Corrective Exercise Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer.)