I left focusing on cardio until last in this series because most women put way too much time into cardio. Because of the way our bodies are built (and the types of hormones in our bodies) women should be spending more time doing weight bearing exercises than cardio. But unfortunately the reverse is more commonly true. Most gyms I have been to have the cardio area filled with women on the treadmills, stationary bikes, and elliptical machines. This shouldn't be the case.
However, some cardio is necessary and good in a workout routine. And certainly, doing a bunch of cardio is still probably better than being sedentary, but of course if you want to make the best use of your time you will mix cardio with core/balance exercises and strength training. Its important to know that there are different types of cardio exercise, and the type that I would most recommend is to do intervals or high intensity interval training (HIIT).
When most people think about cardio, they imagine going a moderate pace for a long amount of time. However, recent studies have shown a lot of benefits to doing interval training, outweighing the benefits of long bouts of even-paced cardio. For those unfamiliar with HIIT, interval training is a form of exercises where quick bursts of activity are alternated by short periods of rest. This article has a list of the many benefits of HIIT, including that it takes less time for the same (or more) health benefits, burns more fat, and requires no equipment (meaning you can even do this at home while your children are napping!)
The following are a few examples of the cardio portion of my workouts. As I have mentioned before, keep in mind that these are just examples of what I do in a workout, and may or may not be good for you, depending on a number of factors. Talk to your health care professional before embarking on a new exercise routine.
10 minute cardio workout #1
20 second sprint (all-out sprint, as fast as you can go), 10 second rest. Repeat 8 times. (this is best done outside on the sidewalk or on an indoor track, but not on a treadmill. An elliptical machine or stationary bike would also work. You could also jump rope or do push ups in 20 second bursts of speed. You have many options for this one!)
(if you do the math, this actually only takes 8 minutes. But it is super intense and certainly counts for a 10 minute workout. And if you are doing more exercises after this one, you will need the whole extra 2 minutes to rest, trust me!)
*A note for mamas: a 20 second sprint is a short enough distance that I feel comfortable doing these outside in front of my house while my kiddos are napping. Just go back and forth each time and you stay close enough to your house that you know what is going on there. You wont have travelled far, and you'll really feel like you ran a mile. This is just a suggestion; you may or may not be comfortable with doing this.
10 minute cardio workout #2
50 seconds of each exercise followed by 10 seconds of rest. Repeat this circuit twice.
* Jumping Jacks
* Jump squats
* Jump rope
* High knee
10 minute cardio workout #3
Each exercise is 40 seconds long
side plank with leg lifts (right), side plank with leg lifts (left), rest 40 seconds
jump rope, air squats, rest 40 seconds
kettlebell swings, upright rows, rest 40 seconds
stabilization jumps, goblin squats, rest 40 seconds
push ups, bridge, rest 40 seconds
What exercises do you like to include in your cardio workouts?