These days, we’re all pressed for time and cardio is one of the first things to go when cutting back on workouts.
This is a shame because there are so many benefits to cardio, such as high levels of feel-good endorphins, greater lung capacity, more energy, and just being more powerful in everything you do.
So here we’ve put together some workouts you can do in 20 minutes or less to get your cardio fix in. An added benefit of this is that quick, intense cardio is the type of cardio workout that is least likely to subtract muscle and most likely to burn fat.
One caveat to all this that you are going to need to hustle to get the gains out of these short routines. This means that the workouts may not be the most pleasant way to spend 20 minutes of your time, at least at first. In fact, the first few times you do these, you may wish you had opted to jog for an hour instead.
However, I think you’ll soon find these workouts actually addicting once you experience the energy, fat-loss, and confidence gains you get from these exercises. Make sure you don’t do these every day, as you’ll definitely need some recovery time.
1) Basic HIIT Routine
For this workout, you are perpetually moving but at varying speeds.
After a nice warm-up and stretch, start jogging at maybe 10-20% of your maximum effort.
Then run super-hard (85% of your max) for a short period of time, before reverting back to a casual jog.
A sample HIIT routine would be:
- Jog for 60 seconds
- Run like hell for 20 seconds
You can vary how long or short each segment is depending on your fitness levels.
For example, you might try…
- Jog for 2 minutes
- Run like hell for 30 seconds
Or you can even get creative by jogging in place for a minute and then running up several flights of stairs at high intensity. The options are really limitless.
2) Sprint to Slow-Walk
In this workout, you’ll ideally have a long empty space to run in. A beach is ideal, but any grassy space is great as well.
As long as you can run 30 seconds without hitting anything, you’re in a good spot.
After a quick warm-up and stretching session, you’re ready to begin.
Get set, sprint for thirty seconds and then STOP.
Turn around and walk back very SLOWLY to your starting point. You actually want to walk about half as slow as your normal walking pace. It should be a slow Tai-Chi style walk, as if you’re moving in slow motion.
Exaggerate your arm movements as well. It will actually take more discipline for you to do this part than the actual sprinting, but believe me… this will be what lets you put the most intensity into your sprints, and will help prevent soreness the next day.
Now do this again two to three more times. You may find that you have enough energy to do a few more rounds but I suggest you not go above four until you’ve done this workout for a few weeks.
As for your intensity, make your first run at about 60% of your maximum speed, and raise it to 70%, 80%, and then 90% for rounds to follow. Once you’ve done this workout the first time, you’ll have a good reference point for how far you can push it.
3) Do-It-Yourself Aerobics
While you may roll your eyes when you see rows of ladies doing goofy aerobics at the gym, the fact is that you can get a superb cardio workout from doing movements in place, especially if you keep the intensity high.
Here is a routine that you can start with that will get you out of breath, sweating, and even a little sore… but highly energized for the rest of your day.
- 30 seconds jogging in place
- 30 seconds jumping jacks
- 30 seconds knee highs (Lift your knees high while jogging in place and keep your core tight)
- 30 seconds butt-kicks (While jogging in place, kick back so your heels touch or almost touch your buttocks, while keeping your core tight)
- 30 seconds Heisman (With your legs wide, hop from from side to side, lifting your knees up high. This is not a real jump but more of a light hop back and forth with knee raises)
- 30 seconds mountain-climbers (Pretend you’re climbing a mountain by reaching your arms up, one by one, while lifting your knees high)
Repeat this 3 to 5 times and you’ll have gotten a great solid cardio workout in under twenty minutes.
There is plenty you can add to this as well, including body weight squatting exercises, squat thrusts, pushups and more.
I highly suggest you look at the Insanity program by Beachbody, as it takes this concept to its full potential with extreme forty to sixty minute routines (with short breaks along the way).
If at all possible, stay away from pavement when doing these workouts. Pavement is a little hard on your knees when running and the intensity of these workouts will cause that impact to be all the more harder. It may take a little looking around to find a spot where you can do this, but it’ll be worth it in the long run.