My favorite way to approach cardio exercises these days is through Interval Training. I love it and I can’t say enough good things about it. I use this same principle with running, stationary bike, elliptical machine, and (by far the most challenging) the StairMaster.
So here’s the basic idea of what I do for a 35 minute session of cardio:
Start with a few minutes (3-5) at a reasonably slow warm-up speed.
Do 30 seconds at a fairly fast pace, followed by 1 minute at a comfortable slower speed.
Repeat the 30 seconds fast, 1 minute slow pattern for 25 minutes. You can lengthen the fast part of the interval to 1 minute, but if you do, increase the slow part also to about a minute and a half or even two minutes if you need to. The length of your fast and slow intervals will depend on how intense your fast periods are as well as whether your slow periods are slow enough to let you recover properly.
Follow by a 5 minute cool down, gradually decreasing your speed.
I find that the first few intervals aren’t too difficult and I start to wonder if I’m even going to sweat. But after about 3 or 4, it catches up to me and it’s amazing!
One thing I really like about it is that it’s high intensity and, at the same time, the slower resting periods allow my muscles and joints to recover so that I don’t seem to get overuse injuries like tendonitis anymore. Also, it seems like it’s by far more effective at increasing cardio fitness and burning calories.
Plus, I NEVER get bored with this approach. It seemingly activates enough good brain chemistry to give me a really nice soaring-through-the-clouds-on-the-back-of-a-flying-tiger feeling that lasts for hours after I’ve finished.
I don’t do this for each and every cardio session. In fact, I never do it two days in a row (to allow time for muscle recovery). On the days I don’t use intervals, I just do the usual steady speed cardio with 5 minute warm up and 5 minute cool down.