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The following is an excerpt from the book Lean, Long & Strong: The 6-Week Strength-Training, Fat-Burning Program for Women
By Wini Linguvic
Published by Rodale; January 2005, $17.95US/$25.95CAN; 1-57954-956-X
Copyright © 2005 Wini Linguvic

Spin, Swim, or Jog:
The Choice Is Yours

Many people ask me what I think the best type of cardio exercise is for them. My answer is always the same: The best cardio exercise for you is the kind that you will actually do. If you're going to stick with your exercise routine, you've got to pick an activity that you enjoy. For inspiration, you might want to think back to what you enjoyed doing as a child. Did you love the sensation of riding your bike down your neighborhood street, the wind blowing your hair as you zipped along? Then maybe it's time to get pedaling once again. Is grabbing a jump rope and sneaking in 20 minutes of exercise while you watch the evening news more your speed? That's a fine form of cardiovascular exercise, too. Or maybe you've always loved the simplicity of jogging. If so, there's no time like the present to strap on those running shoes and go explore your neighborhood.

My only caution is to make sure you choose a form of exercise that works for your body. If not, you risk injury. For example, running can be very stressful to the body. If you have back or knee problems, you might want to choose a more gentle activity, such as walking or swimming.

Here's a list of cardio exercises I recommend, since you can do them on your own and they don't involve a lot of starting and stopping, unlike activities such as playing softball or tennis.

  • Walking
  • Jogging alternating with walking
  • Swimming
  • Cycling outdoors
  • Stationary cycling
  • Using a stairclimber
  • Using an elliptical machine
  • Jumping rope
  • Using a rowing machine
If you're just starting and exercise program and are unsure which cardio activity to choose, I recommend walking easy on the joints, it can be done anywhere and taking a 20-minute walk during the day is a great way to relieve stress.

Of course, feel free to mix up your cardio workouts. Maybe you'll want to walk some days, cycle other. Or perhaps you'll find that changing up your cardio workouts with swimming, jumping rope, and using the rowing machine keeps you motivated. This is fine and leaves you less prone to injury as well as boredom. Just have fun!

How Hard Should I Work?

When it comes to cardiovascular exercise, a common mistake is working too hard. For example, we've all seen people at the health club who increase the speed on the stairclimbing machines so much that it's impossible for them to stay upright in correct alignment without falling off. So they hold on to the railing for dear life as they do these teeny-tiny steps over and over again. The worst is when they're holding on and leaning to one side, They're either straining their wrists and shoulders because they need their arms to hold them upright, or they're straining their backs because they're leaning into the machine with no regard for their posture. When we look at their 20 minutes to an hour a day spent doing cardio work this way and multiply it by three times a week for a few weeks, all those minutes of bad form add up. It's no wonder they usually end up dropping out of their exercise program due to injury.

What you do while you're exercising is a training ground for the real world. How you do anything is how you do everything. If you have bad posture on the stairclimbing machine, how is your posture going to look when you're standing in line? Good form creates more good form.

On the other hand, if you don't work out hard enough, you'll get very little benefit from your workout, and you'll probably end up dropping out because you're not seeing results. Doing an easy 20 minutes on a stationary bike while reading the morning paper and talking on your cell phone is just not enough to get results. You'll need to pick up the intensity a bit. A little more energy for the time you spend on your cardio workout really adds up.

How can you tell if you're working hard enough? A heart rate monitor will give you a very accurate way to make sure you're working within your specific target zone. But if you'd prefer a less high-tech method, nothing beats the convenience of simply rating your perceived exertion. Rate of perceived exertion, or RPE, on a scale from one to nine provides a standard measurement for evaluating your exercise intensity. Take a look at the chart that follows.

By taking note of your perceived exertion, you can increase your intensity if you're not challenging yourself hard enough, or decrease it if you're working at a level that you can't sustain or that risks injury. For example, if you're a walker, you can increase your intensity by increasing your speed, using your arms more, or increasing the incline if you're on a treadmill or walking up hills outside.

Reprinted from: Lean, Long & Strong: The 6-Week Strength-Training, Fat-Burning Program for Women By Wini Linguvic  © 2005 Wini Linguvic. Permission granted by Rodale, Inc., Emmaus, PA 18098. Available wherever books are sold or directly from the publisher by calling (800) 848-4735 or visit their website at

For more information, please visit the author's website at