How much cardio should I be doing?


I’m a 29 year old, 5'6 female, weighing 133 pounds, in very good shape, with an active workout routine. I weight train 4x per week, based off the workouts on this site, and I do 30-90 minutes of cardio 5-6x a week. I currently am trying to get to my leanest, 124, by the end of summer 2012, but I am experiencing plateaus.

I have reasonable goals, like by the end of this month I wanted to weigh 130lbs (I want to take the fat off without losing my muscle, so I figured slow and steady was better than quickly.) My diet is pretty clean, with lots of protein, complex carbs, and veggies/fruit.

My husband, who is also avid gym goer, suggested that I maybe doing too much cardio, which could be causing plateaus in my get lean plan.

In your opinion, how much cardio should I be doing and how often? How can I “shock” my system in order to break plateaus significantly?

My cardio includes training on the Elliptical ( my personal favorite b/c it doesn’t hurt my knees), treadmill (when my knees aren’t hurting, I sustained a knee injury several years ago, that makes it a bit hard to run without feeling it the next day) and sometimes the bike. I also strength train at tempo because I heard it fights fat.

Thank you, Sandra

Plateaus are a definite bummer but you can use them to your advantage. That is definitely a reasonable goal, and yes it is preferred to lose at a moderate rate to spare muscle. 30-90 mins a day is a pretty broad range. If you were doing 30min a problem. For weight loss I start people at about 4hrs / week. If you are a ‘normal’ person, (lol I mean not competing in a competition) then i wouldn’t go more than 6hrs per week. (I figure 1hr max/day, and 6days/wk max for one day off). You want to make sure you are getting enough rest as your body might hold on if you are burning the candle at both ends, so to speak. Fat burning you want your heart rate between 60 – 85% of your maxHR (220 – age). You can work at higher rates as well if you like. I would do the cardio after your lift as that is said to have more fat burning quality. Lifing I dont really do a tempo, also depends on if you are circuit training or building. I tend to feel SUPER hungry on a building program even though I’m not moving as fast, so still burning calories. But circuit training is good for weight loss or super-setting with minimal rest periods.

I’ve heard and tend to believe in not dieting longer than 12 weeks. (Mostly in relation to competition dieting) However, how I relate this is that you diet for 12 weeks, and then maintain for a few, give your body a chance to adjust to where you are at and then proceed to your next phase of dieting. This is one way you can look at it. Also, adding a cheat meal once a week is a great way to confuse your body and give it a kick. Sometimes letting your body have that will cause it to ‘let go’.

Vary your cardio. Maybe take a week and do something different. I love Aqua classes and they are a great cardio and full body workout, easy on the joints. Cycling classes, kickboxing…remember you can modify anything in the class it bothers you. Talk to the instructor beforehand about your injury so they can help you modify any exercises accordingly. I have definitely had clients that do too much cardio. I make them stop. Back it off for a week, give yourself some recovery time. Then come back with a new plan. You also don’t want to burn more calories then you are getting in so make sure you are calculating all of it.

Hope a few of these things will help, just try one or two changes at a time. Good luck! ;)