A Personal Trainer’s Personal Cardio Plan

cardio plan woman on bike

Stephen Holt, Timonium personal trainer

Millions of readers of national fitness magazines including Shape, Women's Health, Fitness. Woman's Day, Family Circle, Runner's World, (and many others) have made their exercise programs both more effective AND more efficient with fitness and nutrition advice from "America's Baby Boomer Expert," Stephen Holt.

Cardio Plan Summary

Exercise about 30 minutes a day, most days of the week – or about 150 minutes a week

If you have the approval of your physician, do high intensity interval training (HIIT) 1-2 days a week

Adding a strength training workout or two a week for your entire body will help you maintain the muscle strength you need to perform at your best in your cardio workout routine.


An IG follower just DM’d me, “What are your thoughts on cardio?”

And as a word geek who pays close attention to exactly what people say, I couldn’t even begin to answer that question literally.

As a nutrition and fitness coach, my job is to find the real reason behind the question.

With 40+ years of experience in this industry, I knew what she was really looking for.

She wasn’t taking a survey ;-)

She was really asking me what SHE should do for cardio (in order to lose weight, I’m guessing).

I don’t know her goals. Or her training history. Or her medical history.

[And as “just” a personal trainer, I’m not qualified or in a position to give her medical advice diagnosis or treatment.]

Or any of the absolutely vital pieces of information I need before I start to design a personalized workout or nutrition plan for anyone.


What is a good cardio schedule?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends you get at least 150 minutes – or about 30 minutes a day, most days of the week – of exercise to improve your health and reduce your risk of certain cardiovascular diseases.

Look, I understand why people get frustrated when I tell them I can’t solve their weight loss issues in a couple of sentences or even give them a simple cardio plan on the spot.

But what I can tell you is this …

Here’s my personal cardio workout week:

[Keep in mind that I’ve finished 5 marathons (3:30 PR, thank you), was in the Olympic Bobsled trials, played Power 5/Division I football, and regularly reach my max heart in training. In short, “You do you. You ain’t me.”😉]



Hard (up to 100% max heart rate) 45 minutes on the Peloton (“Just Ride”)

My Tuesday workout is typically what we call “Fartlek” [stop giggling] in the biz. It’s a Swedish word that means “speed play.” You simply go hard when you feel like going hard and rest when you feel like you need to rest. Think of it as unstructured interval training.

Personally, this workout varies vastly according to how my body in general and my legs in specific feel that day. If my body feels fresh, I push the output. If I’m feeling stale, especially after Monday/Leg Day with lots of (burpees, squat jumps, etc.), I back off a little.



Hard, short high intensity intervals for a short total duration (about 20 minutes or so)


Typically, I’ll do Phil Campbell’s Sprint 8 protocol

30 seconds max effort/90 seconds rest, repeat for 8 reps


Occasionally, I’ll substitute to Gibala protocol

30 seconds max effort/4 minutes easy, repeat for 4-6 reps



45 min interval training on the stationary bike


1-4 minutes at high intensity/1-1:30 off, depending on my goal for the day

Recently, it’s been 4 minutes on/1 minute off (90-95% max heart rate)



Easy 6+ mile of relatively casual walking to burn a few extra calories and give my knees and hips a little break from high intensity work.

The rest of the week, I’m doing weight training exercises at my gym using – of course – my 3-4-5 Total Body Fitness System.



FAQ about Cardio Exercises


Which cardio workout burns the most fat?

Obviously, you have countless options including walking (outdoors or on a treadmill), elliptical machine, stationary bike, aerobic classes, and even jumping rope.

The specific movement doesn’t really matter as long as you’re using your entire body and focusing on your legs. Big muscles burn big calories. Exercises that focus on your arms, chest or shoulder don’t burn nearly as many calories.


What do 30-minute cardio workouts do?

For whatever reason, far too many people get hung up thinking they have to do 45 minute or 60 minute (and, no, there’s no in between for them) workouts in order to burn fat.

30 minutes is plenty, especially for speed training or high intensity workouts.

If your goal is endurance, though, you need to exercise longer and at a low to moderate intensity.


What cardio workout plan burns burn belly fat?

Like I always say, you have no more control over where you lose fat than you did over where you gained it

However …

Lower intensity (therefore, lower heart rate) cardio has been shown to be more effective at burning visceral fat. Keep in mind that visceral fat is the fat deep inside your body surrounding your internal organs. That’s the fat that’s most dangerous to your health. You can’t grab it, though.

The fat you can grab that covers your abs is called subcutaneous (“under the skin”) fat. If you’re more concerned with how you look versus your health (shame on you 😀), this type of fat responds best to training your entire body (not just your abs) using weights.

Be careful with high intensity workouts

Too many high intensity workouts too many days a week can quickly lead to physical AND mental burnout. Once you get approval from your physician, keep your high intensity workouts down to once or twice a week. (I know, I do it three times a week – cuz I’m special.)


There you have it – the cardio workout plan of an award-winning certified personal trainer and fitness coach.

So what do you do for cardio … and why? Let me know.









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