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Cardio exercise, by a very general definition, is simply exercise that keeps your heart rate elevated for an extended period of time. It doesn’t just have to be running. If you are lifting lighter weights, adding any sort of balance or plyometric components, you can turn it into a cardio workout! So, we wanted to give you some basic moves as well as some new forms of cardio. Variety is the spice of life and a great workout. Get ready to sweat, mamas!
1) Stair Runs: This is such an easy workout…well as in accessibility. It is certainly not “easy.” Find a set of stairs, either stadium steps or those in your own home. Up and down is one rep. Get as many reps as you can in one minute! Mix it up by making sure each foot taps each stair (RL, RL, RL) or skip every other stair.
2) Donkey Jumps: Start in a pushup position, legs extended directly behind you and hands under your shoulders. Don’t strain your neck; it should be aligned with your spine. With your legs together, tighten your core and glutes, push off with your feet, kicking both legs into the air while bending your knees to bringing your feet toward your butt. Land softly in the starting position. Do as many as you can for 1 minute. (Modification, one leg at at time.)
3) Squatted Speed Bags: Most people automatically assume your whole body has to be moving…your legs in particular…to achieve cardio fitness levels. Squatted speed bags will have you thinking differently. Get into a wide squat. Make sure your form is correct: weight in your heels, butt back, chest up and your knees over your toes. Make fists with your hands but keep them loose. Raise them up about two inches above and in front of your forehead, elbows pointed out. Rotate your fists in clockwise circles around each other as if you were punching a speed bag. Go as fast as you can (without hitting your face) for a 30 seconds, then switch directions for another 30 seconds.
4) Jump Rope: Some people may think jumping rope is a little boring–even though it was too much fun as a little kid! But don’t underestimate this exercise. Every minute of jump rope burns about 10-20 calories. So it’s just as effective as running. If you have the stamina to jump faster for a longer amount of time you can easily surpass the caloric burn of running. But again, that takes physical endurance.
5) Plyo: Plyometric basically means jumping! A great plyo move is a high skip. Start tall in a standing position stepping forward with your right foot. When you plant that foot down, bring your left leg up and drive your left knee as high as you can in the air. Push off that right foot, jumping vertically in the air. Your hands should follow the opposite foot. As you drive your left knee up, your right arm should swing up with it ending in a 90-degree angle from the elbow. Softly land and move forward with the left leg on the ground. It should be like skipping, however you are trying to go higher in the air creating a “hang time” in between skips.
6) Jumping Squats: Adding jumps and weights to these exercises double the impact. Your heart and leg muscles will be screaming in no time. Get in a squat position: weight in your heels, butt back, chest up and your knees over your toes. Place your hands in a boxer stance, elbows bent, hands in loose fists in front of your chest. Dip down a little lower, swinging your arms back then power up from your heels through your knees and jump up until you are vertically extended in the air.
7) Frog Jumps: If you thought the squat jumps hurt, think again. Crouch down with the weight in your toes, your hands on the floor directly in front of your feet and your knees are pointed outward–think leap frog. Power up through the balls of your feet and try to get your legs fully extended in the air. As you land, keep a soft bend in your knees and return straight into crouched position. Do as many as you can for a minute straight. Try not to break up the movement as you can injure your knee.
8) Walking Lunges: Don’t underestimate this move. Though it says “walking” it’s not a stroll in the park. Find an open stretch of space at least 20 feet long. Stand tall and step your right leg out. Bend down, focusing on dropping your left knee straight down but not touching the ground. Your weight should mostly be in your right foot. Make sure your right knee is not over your toes. Push off your left leg and either step back together or advance the left leg out in front of the right. Repeat the movement on the opposite leg. That’s one rep. Try to get 10 reps in one way, turn around and do them back towards your starting point (another 10 reps).
***Please note that not all exercises are suitable for everyone. Before attempting a new exercise or fitness program take into account factors such as flexibility, strength, and overall health to determine whether or not a particular exercise is appropriate for you. You should consult your physician or other health care professional before starting any exercise or exercise program to determine if it is right for your needs.***