How much cardio should you be doing?

This is my happy level at 4:52am, annoying right? LOL. I climb on the Stairmaster to get a good 10 minute warmup, let me Spark kick in, and plan out my workout in my head. I usually start with 2 minutes walking, increase speed for the next 5 {no hands!}, then speed up for the last 3 and skip a step. This is really just to get my blood flowing and pump myself up for  a good sweat seesh. 

***I am only talking about what has worked for me, I am not an expert, I do not train people, I am not encompassing everyone - if you have injury or certain limitations that's on a one on one basis.***

I get asked every day - how much cardio do I need to do? This depends on various factors:

1. How much weight do you have to lose? The more you have the more cardio you might need.

2. How much do you love or hate doing cardio? Cardio is not bad for you, if you love it more power to you, work that heart girl! If you hate it then you need a good plan of action to get it in so you can reach your goals.

When I had over 50pds to lose I did cardio almost every single day, usually 30 to 60 minutes. If I had a longer cardio session then I cut back on the weight training that day and vice versa, leg day usually meant 0 cardio because it's a big muscle you're working and you'll be dead {or should be!} when you're done.

When I got closer to my 'happy' weight I cut back the cardio to 3x a week, usually 2 running days and 1 spin day. If I couldn't run then I used the machines at the gym to get my cardio in, doing it before or after your weight training is TOTALLY UP TO YOU. Personal preference! I like it before, I think I lift better when I have a good sweat going on, plus after my weights I'm a noodle and have zero desire to do 30 minutes of cardio. 

I would say if you do 20 to 30 minutes 3x a week you should be golden, BUT this needs to be EFFECTIVE cardio mmmmmkay? Not all cardio is created equal.

The best machines at a gym for cardio are the treadmill, the stairstepper, the rowing machine, and a stationary bike. The worst are the elliptical machines - pretty much all of them. Now don't hate me if you love the elliptical, but 45 minutes at a level less than 10 is a waste of time, but if you ENJOY it then by all means go for it. This is not about enjoyment per se, but about getting the most out of your time at the gym. 

You need variety, the more you do the same movements the stronger those same muscle become and the easier that movement gets.  You would benefit from switching up your cardio, maybe one day you do sprints on the bike and another you do plyometic moves in between your weight sessions.

Fasted vs Non Fasted Cardio.

I don't normally eat before I workout, unless I'm running more than 2 miles. This is a new development for me in the past few weeks, mostly because I am cutting {lowering calories to lose fat} and works well for me because I don't do a whole lot of cardio. I don't do it to try to lose weight, I just prefer to save my macros for my post workout meal. Y'all know I love my mug cakes. 

There is no hard evidence that cardio while fasted is more helpful for cutting fat, in fact I've heard it's only really effective if your body fat is already pretty low. Not eating can affect your performance too, so if it comes down to GOING HARD or NOT EATING then you should eat and go hard :)

Here are a few moves from my full body day, I just tried to hit every muscle group, the abs is killer and I was sore that same day, not that being sore = a good workout, probably just proves I don't work them enough.  The hammy one is tricky, but if you can get that weight to stay in between your feet it's SO GOOD. 


  1. Why do you think the elliptical isn't as beneficial as the other machines you have mentioned?

    1. I'm wondering the same thing. If you get on an elliptical and get your heart rate up then I certainly disagree with this opinion. I don't use my elliptical that much anymore, but I can get my heart rate to about where it sits when I run if I'm working hard enough. And if you've got joint problems or are recovering from an injury and need low impact, I'd certainly tell someone to elliptical (my mom is a good example of this - she's in her 60s and the elliptical is a good indoor workout). And for more anecdotes, after I had shoulder surgery and required something low impact that didn't require me to lean on my arms (like a bike does) I was able to elliptical to get back to a pretty solid foundation for other cardio activities. So yeah...I'm stumped by this too.

    2. I think she was just speaking in general terms...GENERALLY, the elliptical is less efficient than other types of cardio. Of course, for the situations that you mentioned, the elliptical machine is a better option.

    3. I'm not saying the elliptical is BAD or doesn't work it's just not the most effective tool you can use at the gym. In reference to other machines the elliptical is less efficient. Not in every case, no, but most of the time people don't use it at a higher resistance level.

    4. there are some really great elliptical workouts on pinterest. almost like a HITT style where you go on level 5 for a bit, then go 8 backwards, then bump up to 10, 11, then 12 and so on for half an hour or more, I've never sweat so much in my life! I feel like its a fantastic workout! My legs are super sore when I'm done too. You're moving arms & legs and your joints are not taking a pounding, win win!

    5. This is just my personal experience, but I feel like no matter how hard I work on the elliptical (toying with resistance, intervals, etc) I don't burn as many calories for the amount of effort I'm putting in! However other elliptical style machines like the arc trainer and PreCor DO burn loads of calories and feel easier! (And this is based on data from my fitness tracker and not the machine so I know it's accurate)

  2. You are such an inspiration! I so admire you and your energy!

    So cardio is still the best way yo lose weight faster? I thought I Read somewhere that lifting/IIFYM was the better option and not so much cardio ??

    1. You can go either way really, it's mostly about your diet, but for ME I think cardio was needed to help me lose the weight :)

  3. The Fasted vs Non-Fasted debate is always interesting to me, simply because I cannot workout right after I've eaten. I will feel (if not get) sick and sluggish. I usually workout in the mornings now, so I'll get up, Spark, workout, and then eat. However, even when I used to workout at night, I couldn't within a couple of hours of eating. I occasionally will do night races (Tower of Terror 10-Miler or the Food & Wine Half) and have to make a point to eat by 7pm (races start at 10) or I'll get sick.

    Yet, there are some people who are eating while we're in corrals. It's amazing to me, lol. It really goes to show that our makeup is all completely different.

  4. I kind of love cardio. Weirdo I know! I have to really work at lifting. Seeing your transformation is definitely a motivator!

  5. We are impressed by your clear description of your the best machines at a gym for cardio are the treadmill, the stair stepper, the rowing machine, and a stationary bike. working introductions topic.


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