Overview and general instructions
About the cardio training programs
On this website, there are three cardio training programs, each with two or three workouts:
- A steady-state training program (three workouts)
- An interval training program (three workouts, including two high-intensity interval training [HIIT] workouts)
- A circuit training program (two workouts)
Each workout in each cardio training program has been categorized as being either beginner, intermediate, or advanced. Beginner and intermediate workouts are aerobic; advanced workouts are either completely or partially anaerobic.
For each workout, I have provided step-by-step instructions. The beginner workouts also include instructions on when you can graduate to the intermediate workouts, while the intermediate workouts include instructions on when you can graduate to the advanced workouts.
Which programs should you follow?
Before you start any of the cardio training programs, please read the Cardio Training Guide. It explains everything you need to know about cardio and provides essential information without which you will not be able to undertake the cardio training programs effectively. Essential information includes how to calculate your cardio training zones and how to monitor your heart rate whilst training.
As explained in Types of cardio, in the Cardio Training Guide, steady-state training, interval training, and circuit training offer different benefits, and they have different applications, advantages, and disadvantages. Please choose the programs that are right for you based on your level of experience, needs, and preferences.
Note that the workouts of the three cardio training programs are interchangeable. In other words, you do not have to stick to a specific program. If you’re a beginner, you may use any of the beginner workouts, or if you’re an intermediate, you may use any of the intermediate workouts. The same goes for the advanced workouts.
- If you’re new to cardiorespiratory training, or if you’ve been away from it for over three months, please start with the beginner workouts, especially the beginner steady-state training workout. From there, you can graduate to any of the intermediate workouts in any of the cardio training programs in accordance with the ‘Progression’ and ‘Suitability’ guidelines of each workout
- If you’re experienced with cardio, you may start from a more suitable workout
- If you are not following a weight training program, complete 3 to 5 cardio workouts per week, ideally, a mixture of steady-state training, interval training, and circuit training. You need less cardio if your workouts are of a vigorous intensity and you need more cardio if your workouts are of a moderate intensity. Every 6 to 12 weeks, take a break from cardio for a week (especially if using high-intensity interval training) to allow your body to recover. During this period, you should still keep active, though
- If you are also following a weight training program, complete 2 to 4 cardio workouts per week depending on your schedule, goals, and preferences. If possible, keep the cardio workouts separate from your weight training workouts by at least a few hours. Performing the cardio workouts on your rest days is ideal, though you should leave at least one day of the week for rest. If you can’t separate your cardio and weight training workouts, complete the weight training workouts before the cardio workouts. During the deload weeks that are incorporated into the weight training programs, take a break from cardio as well to allow your body to fully recover. During these periods, you should still keep active, though
- If you do not have much time for training and you want to perform both weight training and cardio, the time-saver weight training program, with its short workouts, together with just two cardio workouts per week should be enough to give you decent results
- Excessive steady-state cardio (or any type of aerobic training) can lead to muscle loss. To minimize this risk for those of you who are also following a weight training program, I have limited the lengths of the aerobic workouts to 40 minutes. If you’re not concerned about losing muscle, you are free to perform the aerobic workouts for as long as you desire
- Remember the importance of good nutrition, especially if following both a cardio program and a weight training program
- If you get bored of the cardio workouts on this website, you can create your own circuit training workouts. Just follow the instructions that I provide in How to design circuit training workouts, in the Cardio Training Guide
How to monitor your progress
To monitor the progress of your cardiorespiratory fitness, every month or two, record your resting heart rate 30 to 60 minutes after exercise. With regular cardio, your post-exercise resting heart rate should reduce, indicating an improvement in fitness. I explain how to take your resting heart rate in How to do cardio, in the Cardio Training Guide, under the heading ‘Using HRreserve’.
If you ever record an increase in resting heart rate, you are likely overusing the advanced cardio workouts. In this case, please avoid the advanced workouts and emphasize the intermediate workouts to bring your resting heart rate back down.
If you’ve been living an inactive lifestyle, cardio of a vigorous intensity may be a little risky for you. The risk is increased by old age, obesity, diabetes, abnormal cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, smoking, drinking, and having a family history of coronary heart disease. If any of these apply to you, please seek medical clearance before trying cardio or starting any training program.