Proper workouts: focus on cardio

March 13, 2012

By Tess & Jess

Tess and Jess are fitness and health bloggers, based respectively in Ottawa and Montréal.

Tess has been a certified Personal Trainer since 2009 and is now working at Snap Fitness. After studying martial arts for over 10 years, she has recently turned her attentions to entering fitness competitions with the International Drug Free Athletics.

Jess is a vegetarian, avid runner and aspiring yogi, enjoying life one bite at a time. Her next race is the Goodlife Toronto Half Marathon.


Tips and advice

By now you will be three weeks into your healthier eating habits, and will be more aware of foods that go into your body. You may even start noticing some changes, especially as you increase your water consumption.

The next step is to add some activity to your daily routine. Next to a clean diet, nothing is quite as effective at burning calories and removing fat as cardiovascular training, or “cardio”.

In addition to its effectiveness in weight-loss, cardiovascular training brings a plethora of health benefits: lowered blood pressure, improved circulation, improved respiratory system, decreased risk of heart disease, increased metabolism and reduced stress levels.

There are four important elements to consider when adding cardio to your program: Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type.

You should be doing cardio three to five times per week.

1. Frequency

You should be aiming to do cardio three to five times a week. If you are new to cardiovascular training, start with three sessions and gradually build your way up to five over the next two months.

2. Intensity

Recent studies suggest that short, intense bouts of cardiovascular exercise are superior to long steady-state sessions in burning fat.

Intensity is generally measured by your heart rate, which is determined by taking your pulse during exercise. You should be aiming to keep your heart rate between 60 and 85 per cent of its maximum.

Follow this link to help you calculate your heart rate range.

3. Time

The duration of your cardio workouts will depend greatly on the intensity of your sessions – as intensity increases, time should decrease. Thirty to 45 minutes of hard exercise is ideal. However, if you are a beginner, start with 20-minute sessions and gradually increase the time by five minutes every two weeks.

4. Type

Cardio is any activity that increases your heart rate. The most common forms of cardio are running and biking (indoor or outdoor), but there are many other forms of cardio you can employ. For example: walking, swimming, climbing stairs, elliptical machines, rowing machines, skipping rope, some types of dancing, boxing and aerobic classes are all fantastic options!

Let’s take a look at some great workout tips and a healthy recipe to help you realize your goals!

Good luck!

A great recipe

Mediterranean Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

Mediterranean Roasted Red Pepper Sauce.

This is a deliciously deceptive sauce that seems far more decadent than it really is, where the salty feta and kalamata olives nicely balance out the sweetness of peppers. Feel free to serve it over pasta like we have, or over white fish served with brown rice.

Serves 4

2 red bell peppers

1 sweet onion, thinly sliced

3 tbsp olive oil, divided

½ tsp sea salt, divided

1 tbsp red wine vinegar

1 clove of garlic, minced

2 tbsp lemon juice (half of a lemon)

3 tbsp tomato paste

½ tsp paprika

2 ½ c whole wheat or rice pasta

¼ c. roughly chopped kalamata olives

¼ c. crumbled sheep’s milk feta


Bring a large pot of salted water to boil, add in pasta and cook until al dente. Set aside.

Roast red peppers over the grill, in the broiler, or on a gas stove element. Once their skins are blackened all around, place in a large bowl and cover with plastic wrap to allow the moisture to loosen the blackened skin.

While the peppers are cooling, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high heat in a large skillet. Add onions and a ¼ tsp of salt. Stir frequently until the onions have softened, then reduce heat to medium low.

Stir the onions occasionally for 20-25 minutes, until they have turned golden, then add red wine vinegar and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes, then remove from heat.

Returning to your peppers, peel off the skin, remove the tops and cut into thirds. Add peppers, caramelized onions, remaining 2 tbsps of olive oil, ¼ tsp salt, paprika, lemon juice and tomato paste into a food processor. Pulse until the mixture reaches a smooth consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings to your preference.

Divide pasta onto four plates or bowls, and top each serving with kalamata olives and feta cheese.

For more from Tess & Jess, visit their blog.


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