Mix interval training with steady-state cardio for maximum results and no chance of boredom.


Welcome to your aerobic countdown to a healthy body! This plan, created by Kevin Lewis, owner of State of the Art Fitness in Woodland Hills, Calif., incorporates two types of aerobic training, interval training and steady-state endurance training, for maximum results with no chance of boredom. And it's got one more bonus: You'll train indoors two days a week and outdoors the other two.

More important is the science behind the cardio workout. It's based on monitoring your heart rate while exercising at different intensities.

"Doing cardio workout routines without monitoring your heart rate is like doing strength training routines without knowing how much weight you're lifting or how many reps you're doing," Lewis says.

You can learn how to measure your maximum heart rate in the following pages.

Meanwhile, here's why this program, which incorporates outdoor and indoor endurance training and interval training, will keep your heart pumping -- and the calories burning -- for the next eight weeks.

"The temperature changes, wind resistance and uneven terrain of the outdoors naturally increase your workload in ways indoor training doesn't," says Lewis. "Indoor training is important, though, because you can control the elements and, therefore, the parameters of your workout."

Lewis suggests you choose indoor cardio workout routines that will complement your outdoor activity.

These can include a Spinning class or recumbent bike, if you plan to cycle, or a treadmill, if you like to walk around your neighborhood.

Whatever your chosen activity, you'll do two types of workouts: steady-state endurance and interval training.

"Endurance training allows you to do any activity for longer," says Lewis. "In contrast, interval training, which alternates moderate aerobic activity with intense activity, strengthens your heart and burns lots of calories, so you lose more fat. Put the two workout routines together and not only will your heart be in great shape, but so will your physique."

[header = Maximum heart rate for your cardio workout routines: find out more at Shape.]

Better cardio workout routines: The sure-fire way to an effective cardio workout? Use a heart-rate monitor.

One proviso: "Monitors that claim to give caloric expenditure are at best questionable," warns Kosich. "They base the calories-expended figure on body weight and heart rate without including the workload factor, such as speed or grade, so the number is likely to be off by a lot of calories."

If you don't have a heart-rate monitor, you can measure your maximum heart rate (MHR) yourself.

To measure your maximum heart rate throughout this cardio workout:

  • Subtract your age from 220.
  • Then, multiply that number by the percentage for your interval level.
  • For example, if you're 30 years old and a beginner doing the Days 1 and 3 workout, multiply 190 by 60 percent, which gives you an MHR of 114 (eg. 190 X .60=114).
  • This means you need to keep your heart rate at 114 beats per minute for 30 minutes.

While exercising, you can determine your heart rate by taking your pulse and counting the beats for 10 seconds. Then, multiply by 6 to get your 1-minute heart rate. For example, if you get a 15-beat count at 10 seconds, your maximum heart rate is 90, which means you're not working hard enough.

The plan: Choose your level of workout routines.

  • Beginner: You've been exercising aerobically for less than 3 months. Do 2-4 weeks of the endurance training program before you incorporate the intervals.
  • Intermediate: You've been exercising aerobically at least 3 times a week for 3 months or more.
  • Advanced: You've been training aerobically 4-5 times per week for at least 6 months.

For all of the cardio workout plans, warm up for 5 minutes with low-intensity cardio activity and cool down for the same amount of time.

Choose an intensity that allows you to maintain a steady heart rate for the duration of your workout routines.

For example, select a speed on your indoor bike that keeps your heart beating as fast as it does when you pedal at an equivalent speed on an outdoor straightaway. Every two weeks, beginners and intermediates can increase either the intensity of the workout or the amount of exercise time by 5 percent. However, don't increase both intensity and duration together.

[header = Highly effective combination of endurance training and interval training.]

Use this highly effective combination of indoor/outdoor endurance training and indoor/outdoor interval training for your killer cardio workout routines.

Days 1 and 3

Indoor and outdoor endurance training

  • Beginner
    Duration: 30 minutes
    Intensity: 60-65% of maximum heart rate
  • Intermediate
    Duration: 45 minutes
    Intensity: 65-70% of maximum heart rate
  • Advanced
    Duration: 60 minutes
    Intensity: 70-75% of maximum heart rate

Day 2

Indoor interval training (All cardio workout routines include 5 minutes of warm-up and 5 minutes of cool-down.)

  • Beginner
    Work: 30 seconds at 75% MHR
    Active rest: 1:30 minutes at 40% MHR
    Intervals: 4
    Total time: 18 minutes
  • Intermediate
    Work: 1 minute at 80% MHR
    Active rest: 3 minutes at 50% MHR
    Intervals: 4
    Total time: 26 minutes
  • Advanced
    Work: 2 minutes at 85% MHR
    Active rest: 6 minutes at 60% MHR
    Intervals: 4
    Total time: 42 minutes

Day 4

Outdoor interval training (All cardio workout routines include 5 minutes of warm-up and 5 minutes of cool-down.)

  • Beginner
    Work: 30 seconds at 70% MHR
    Active rest: 2 minutes at 35% MHR
    Intervals: 4
    Total time: 20 minutes
  • Intermediate
    Work: 1 minute at 80% MHR
    Active rest: 4 minutes at 40% MHR
    Intervals: 4
    Total time: 30 minutes
  • Advanced
    Work: 1 minute at 85% MHR
    Active rest: 4 minutes at 45% MHR
    Intervals: 6
    Total time: 40 minutes