Combination Cardio Workout

By the Editors of SilverSneakers |

Hop on a treadmill, elliptical, or indoor bike, and get ready to burn major calories!

If you're like most people, you're picky about your cardio machine. Some people love the indoor or recumbent bike because they're easier on the joints. Others love the elliptical for its gliding motion. Still others are devoted to the trusty treadmill.

No matter which machine is your favorite, this combination cardio workout can help you get better results. The secret: intervals. You'll work hard in short bursts to burn more calories and then recover with longer, easier periods of exercise.

How the Combination Cardio Workout Works

You can do this workout on an indoor bike, recumbent bike, elliptical, treadmill, or your favorite cardio machine.

Warm up with at least three to five minutes of easy cardio. Then perform the workout below. Cool down with deep breathing and stretches of your choice.

During your workout, pay attention to how you feel. Specifically, tune in to your rate of perceived exertion (RPE): On a scale of 1 to 10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest, how hard are you working?

As always, safety is key. The exercises here may be different or more advanced than those you’ll experience in a SilverSneakers class. If you have a chronic condition, an injury, or balance issues, talk to your doctor about how you can exercise safely.

Set Up Your Machine

Before you start pedaling, stepping, or walking, check your machine and positioning. "The setup is important," says SilverSneakers fitness expert David Jack. Use these tips to get it right.

Indoor bike: You want your legs to be almost straight at the bottom, but your knees shouldn’t be locked. The handlebars should be high enough that you can reach them comfortably as you sit up tall.

Recumbent bike: Make sure the balls of your feet are completely on the pedals. Adjust your seat until your front knee is slightly bent and your foot is comfortably extended on the pedal.

Elliptical: If you can, choose an elliptical with handles so you can engage your upper body. Stand up straight, make sure your whole foot is on the pedal, and push through your foot with each stride.

Treadmill: Step on the sides of the treadmill rather than the belt, and attach the safety clip to your clothing. If you want, place your hands on the rails when you start walking.

Step #1: Steady-State Cardio

5 minutes, 5 to 6 RPE

Build up to a 5 or 6 RPE. You're breathing harder, but you can talk if you want.

Step #2: Intervals

5 minutes and 15 seconds, 7 to 8 RPE + recovery time, 3 to 4 RPE

Alternate between pushing yourself hard and recovering. To push yourself, you can increase your speed or resistance until you're at a 7 or 8 RPE-and you're working hard and can't talk.

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To recover, take as long as you need to come down to a 3 or 4 RPE, where you can talk easily. "It's important that you let yourself cool down enough to make it a true interval," Jack says.

Do this sequence three times:

  • 30 seconds, 7 to 8 RPE: Push hard for 30 seconds.
  • As needed, 3 to 4 RPE: Recover and check your posture.
  • 15 seconds, 7 to 8 RPE: Push hard for 15 seconds.
  • As needed, 3 to 4 RPE: Recover and check your posture.
  • 60 seconds, 7 to 8 RPE: Push hard for 60 seconds.
  • As needed, 3 to 4 RPE: Recover and check your posture.

Step #3: Steady-State Cardio and Brain Game

6 minutes, 4 to 5 RPE

Come down to a 4 or 5 RPE, and do a fun brain game. As you pedal, step, or walk, take the word "strong," and think of as many words as you can that start with each letter.

  • 1 minute: Think of words that start with S.
  • 1 minute: Think of words that start with T.
  • 1 minute: Think of words that start with R.
  • 1 minute: Think of words that start with O.
  • 1 minute: Think of words that start with N.
  • 1 minute: Think of words that start with G.

When you’re done, cool down and stretch on your own. Try these five stretches you should do after every walk.

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