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11 Ways to Build Your Best Cardio Workout

Stop slogging away in treadmill purgatory. Follow this helpful guide to lose weight and improve endurance—without hating your workout.

Getting back into the gym after a long summer, vacation, holiday, or break from working out altogether can be a daunting task. So what does the average dude do? Hop on a treadmill, get bored after 5 minutes, winded after 10, and quit after 15. No progress—just sore joints, frustration, and an ongoing hate for anything related to cardio.

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But we're here to tell you: It doesn't have to be this way.

Doing cardio has clear, in-your-face benefits for everyday life. Unfortunately, though, many people don't know what constitutes effective cardio. Gone is the day when you could run around town for a couple of miles and "be healthy" or look "fit." Today’s “fit” man needs to be strong, fast, and athletic. An hour on the elliptical, a walk on a super-inclined treadmill, or a 10-mile jog in your neighborhood will not help you attain these qualities.

Instead, a successful cardio routine involves some key elements. Stick with these basics during your next cardio routine, follow these tips, and bring your fitness to new heights:

1. Plan:

 - Know exactly what you're doing ahead of time. Aim for two or three sessions per week and workouts that progressively get harder.
 - Being able to handle more is your first basic indicator that you're progressing.

2. Timing:

 - If you always end up skipping out on your cardio, then do it when you first get to the gym, or do it on "off days."
 - It's not necessarily when you do it—just don't skip it.

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3. What’s in Your Hands?

 - If you have a magazine or book that you thought about catching up on while you worked out, throw it out. Nobody has ever gotten fit while reading and doing cardio.
 - You can only focus on one thing at a time, make it your workout. Save the book for before bed.

4. Warm-up:

 - Doing a dynamic warm-up will increase mobility, decrease your chance of injury, and prepare your body's systems for the task at hand.
 - Don't overlook warmups. Skip them and you're bound to get hurt.

5. Avoid Steady-State Cardio:

 - Unless you’re training for a long-distance race, avoid staying at the same pace for an extended period of time.
 - Varying degrees of intensity—often called HIIT, for high-intensity interval training—will increase your metabolism better than steady work will.

6. Sprint:

 - Incorporate sprints either into your normal run or as their own workout session.
 - Sprints rev the metabolism and can assist will building muscle in the legs.

7. Mix in Exercises:

 - Try mixing in bodyweight exercises between your runs.
 - This will break up a "boring session" and add a strength-building component to your workout.

8. Fight That Little Voice:

 - Ignore that voice in your head that tells you to slow down, take a break, or just flat-out quit.
 - Fitness is a discipline. Learn to embrace the work.

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9. Cool Down:

 - Bring your heart rate back down.
 - This will improve your recovery process and progressively slow the body down after an intense session.

10. Keep Track:

 - You keep a workout log of how much weight you lift, right? Keep track of how far you went and the tempo you used to get there.
 - Numbers don't lie. Documenting your progress will keep you in tune with what works and what doesn't.

11. Get Consistent:

 - One great cardio session has never gotten anyone anywhere. One month of great cardio sessions has.
 - Get into a routine and stick with it. Develop a process from warm-up to cool down.


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