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The ProSource 30-Day Cardio Challenge



Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Training Articles, Diet Articles, Superfeature Articles | Oct 16, 2007



Ready to win the battle against body fat and improve your cardio fitness? This step-by-step plan will help you run stronger and longer '" and get you leaner in the process '" in one month.

Necessary evil? Maybe. But whether you love it or loathe it, cardio is an essential component of crafting a better physique, from your shoulders to your six pack.

Here, we provide a month's worth of aerobic workouts that steadily and progressively get more challenging as the month goes on, helping you build your cardio fitness while burning body fat. Whether you find cardio difficult but need to improve to fire up your weight loss efforts, or you're looking for a new and demanding routine to replace the one you follow now, this challenge is for you.

DAY 1: Power Walk
Time: 25 minutes
Instructions: You'll start off your month with what should prove to be a swift but relatively easy outdoor walk, where you simply walk vigorously at a rapid pace. If you're extremely motivated because you're just starting off on this 31-day venture, you'll probably be tempted do more, but hold back. Don't worry, this program increases in intensity quickly, and exceeding the recommendations each day could push you into an overtrained state, where your body struggles to recover from bouts of exercise (especially if you're also either starting or continuing a weight-training program concurrently with this cardio plan, which we strongly suggest).

DAY 2: Power Walk
Time: 30 minutes
Instructions: Today, you'll power walk again, increasing your time by five minutes. As a note here and throughout the program, a critical component of cardio is your athletic shoes. A good general rule of thumb is, if your shoes cause foot discomfort or pain, or even worse, shinsplints, replace them immediately.

DAY 3: Power Walk Hill Repeats
Time: About 25 minutes
Instructions: For this, you'll need to find a challenging hill in your area that's about a 4-6% grade. After a five-minute walk on a relatively flat terrain, power walk up to the top of the hill as fast as you can without breaking into a run, then walk back down. Repeat the up-and-down sequence for 15 minutes, then take a five-minute walk again on a relatively flat surface as a cool down. If you need to do this indoors for lack of a hill or because of inclement weather, it can be replicated on a treadmill with an incline feature (something to keep in mind for any of the outdoor cardio prescribed in this program).

DAY 4: Rest

DAY 5: Elliptical Trainer
Time: 25 minutes
Instructions: The elliptical provides a rhythmic, low-impact cardiovascular workout that's great whether you're doing a steady-pace session (as you'll do here) or an interval training workout, as you'll complete later in the month. After a three-minute warm-up at a pace around 4* on the perceived-exertion scale, you'll up your speed to a consistent pace in the 6-7 perceived exertion range '" you should break a sweat but not be caught out of breath at any point during the activity. Slow back down gradually to your warm-up velocity in the final three minutes of your 25-minute bout.
* For most of your cardio workouts this month, you'll judge your exertion on this 1-10 scale: 1 is a resting state, 3-4 is low intensity, 5-6 is moderately challenging, 7-8 is high intensity, and 10 is an absolute maximum effort, one which you could only keep up for a short time. Be honest with yourself for best results.

DAY 6: Treadmill Jog
Time: 30 minutes
Instructions: Start at a pace of around 4 on the exertion scale for 5 minutes, then increase to 6-7 (adjusting the speed of the treadmill to meet this exertion level). At the start of the 25th minute, gradually slow to your original warm-up gait. If you prefer, you can do this workout outdoors.

DAY 7: Rest

DAY 8: Stationary Bike Intervals
Time: 25 minutes
Instructions: For this session, you'll get your first taste of interval training, which consists of bouts of medium-intensity activity interspersed with short all-out bursts. In the workout, you'll start off with five minutes at an exertion of 3-4, then speed up to a faster (5-6 exertion) pace for two minutes. From there, watch the timer on the machine '" every time it hits a minute mark starting at 8:00, go as hard as you can for 15 seconds, then drop back down to the 5-6 exertion pace for 45 seconds. Continue that pattern, sprinting 15 seconds every minute, until the last five minutes, where you return to your warm-up speed for a cool-down.

DAY 9: Power Walk
Time: 40 minutes
Instructions: As in Day 1 and 2, you'll hit the great outdoors (or your nearest treadmill), this time for 40 minutes of fast-paced walking.

DAY 10: Treadmill Jog
Time: 35 minutes
Instructions: Follow the instructions for Day 6, with a five-minute warm-up and cool-down and a 6-7 exertion pace in between, this time for five more minutes total.

DAY 11: Rest

DAY 12: Elliptical Trainer Intervals
Time: 30 minutes
Instructions: Perform the same workout as described in Day 8, except you'll try your hand at intervals on an elliptical instead of a bike, and add five minutes of training time.

DAY 13: Stationary Bike
Time: 40 minutes
Instructions: Start at a pace of around 4 on the exertion scale for 5 minutes, then increase your pace to 6-7 (adjusting the tension and your speed to meet this exertion level). At the start of the 35th minute, gradually slow to your original warm-up tempo. If you have a mountain or road bike, you can also perform this workout outdoors.

DAY 14: Jogging Hill Repeats
Time: About 25 minutes
Instructions: Follow the instructions for Day 3, but this time, instead of power walking up the hill, you'll jog.

DAY 15: Rest

DAY 16: StepMill
Time: 30 minutes
Instructions: Today introduces a change of scenery equipment-wise. The StepMill is a little akin to walking up a down escalator, and it'll get your blood pumping. In between a five-minute warm-up and cool-down at an exertion of 3-4, perform a steady rate of stair climbing at an intensity of about 7.

DAY 17: Treadmill Intervals
Time: 30 minutes
Instructions: This is a similar workout to Day 8 and 12, except you'll do intervals on a treadmill instead of an elliptical or bike. Also, extend your max-effort sprints to 30 seconds every minute instead of 15.

DAY 18: Elliptical
Time: 45 minutes
Instructions: Follow the instructions for Day 5, except extend your warm-up and cool-down from 3 to 5 minutes, leaving 35 minutes for a steady-state workout at a 6-7 on the exertion scale.

DAY 19: Stationary Bike
Time: 50 minutes
Instructions: Follow the instructions for Day 13, increasing your workout time by 10 minutes.

DAY 20: Rest

DAY 21: Incline Treadmill
Time: 40 minutes
Instructions: Follow the instructions for Day 6, with a five-minute warm-up and cool-down and a 6-7 exertion pace in between, this time for 10 more minutes total. Also, instead of running on a flat surface, use the incline feature, inclining 2-5% depending on your level of fitness '" adjust it up and down during the workout for variety.

DAY 22: Elliptical Trainer
Time: 50 minutes
Instructions: Follow the directions for Day 18 '" this time, the core of your workout (between the warm-up and cool-down) will be 40 minutes at 7 on the exertion scale.

DAY 23: Sprint Hill Repeats
Time: About 25 minutes
Instructions: Follow the instructions for Day 3 (and also performed on Day 14), but this time, instead of power walking or jogging up the hill, you'll do sprints at full speed.

DAY 24: Rest

DAY 25: Treadmill Jog
Time: 55 minutes
Instructions: Use the guidelines for Day 6, keeping up the 7 exertion pace for an additional 25 minutes (for 45 minutes total) between the 5-minute warm-up and cool-down.

DAY 26: StepMill
Time: 45 minutes
Instructions: Follow the directions for Day 16; the core of this workout will be 15 minutes longer in between a five-minute warm-up and cool-down.

DAY 27: Elliptical Intervals
Time: 40 minutes
Instructions: This interval workout extends the max effort sprints to a full minute, with two minutes of medium-intensity exertion in between. Follow the chart below.

Pace Minutes Exertion (1-10 scale)
Slow (warm-up) 5 3-4
Medium 2 5-6
Near-max effort 1 7
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 8
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 9
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 9
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 8
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 8
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 8
Medium 2 5
Near-max effort 1 8
Medium 2 5-6
Near-max effort 1 7
Medium 3 5-6
Slow (cool-down) 5 3-4

DAY 28: Rest
DAY 29: Treadmill Intervals & Stationary Bike
Time: 60 minutes
Instructions: This workout combines treadmill intervals and a steady-state stationary bike ride. You'll start with the below interval workout on the treadmill for 30 minutes, then finish with 30 minutes on a bike at a 6-7 pace on the exertion scale (without the five-minute warm-up, as you'll be plenty warm already).

Pace Minutes Exertion (1-10 scale)
Slow (warm-up) 5 3-4
Medium 2 5-6
Near-max effort 1 7
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 8
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 8
Medium 2 5-6
Max effort 1 8
Medium 2 5-6
Near-max effort  1 7
Medium 2 5
Slow (cool-down) 5 3-4

DAY 30: Sprint Hill Repeats & Outdoor Jog
Time: 60 minutes
Instructions: To start, follow the instructions for Day 3, but, like on Day 23, you'll sprint up the hill instead of power walk; also, add 5 minutes to the work time so you're sprinting up the hill and walking down for 20 minutes instead of 15. Finish your training session with 30 minutes of a steady-pace jog at an exertion level of 6-7. With that, congratulate yourself '" you've completed the ProSource Cardio Challenge!




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Disclaimer: The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.





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