I blame the pandemic, injuries, and living in a small apartment for the fact that I haven't had a regular cardio routine for the past few years. Recently, though, my excuses have started running out. My aches and pains have healed, and I've been doing more strength, yoga, and barre workouts — but I just can't get consistent with cardio.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that my cardio load stalled at one run and two or three walks per week — well below the minimum 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise recommended per week by the American Heart Association. I'm missing out on the physical and mental health benefits of a solid cardio routine: increased energy; stress reduction; and general cardiovascular health, including lower blood pressure. Above all, however, I miss the endorphin rush and the burning-lungs feeling of giving it my all during an intense aerobic session.
What Are Cardio Workout Finishers?
I decided to start my back-to-cardio plan with cardio workout finishers, which are short (five- to 10-minute), intense aerobic workouts designed to be done after a noncardio routine. (That said, you can also use workout finishers after any type of workout to expend any extra energy you still have in the tank.)
Cardio workout finishers can help you burn more calories (if weight loss is your goal), but they're also a great way to get some cardio in without committing to a full-length workout. "It can motivate you to follow through until the end [of the workout,] because instead of thinking about 40 to 50 minutes of cardio, you just have five to 10," Shaina McGregor, ACE-certified group fitness instructor at The Ness in New York City, tells POPSUGAR. Doing cardio after strength work also allows you to dedicate the most energy to properly executing your strength exercises, which helps you build muscle and avoid injury. Plus, "cardio in itself is great to improve blood flow and cardiovascular health," McGregor says — any way you can add it into your day is good news for your overall health.
The key with cardio finishers is to listen to your body, McGregor says. "I would not recommend it if you have absolutely no more energy to give after an intense workout," she says. Check in with yourself and see if you're truly able to add another five to 10 minutes or if it's better to finish your workout now.
I Tried 1 Week of Cardio Finishers
For one week, I did one cardio workout finisher per day following my 20- to 30-minute barre strength workouts. My goal was to see how these quick bursts felt for my body and whether they could reignite my love for cardio. In that sense, the experiment was a success. I did need to get used to the feeling of intense cardio again (my lungs were BURNING after the first few workouts), but I loved the rush of endorphins every morning, which left me with more energy throughout the day. The cardio finishers I tried from YouTube never pushed me beyond my limits, although I did have to stop and rest or modify from time to time.
I recommend trying cardio finishers if you, like me, need some help getting into the cardio mood — but make sure you're choosing a finisher that's right for you. "Push your body when it can handle the extra burst and rest when you need a break," McGregor advises. Make sure to pay attention to any injuries as well, and consider consulting a trainer or fitness professional if you're not sure about a workout. Lastly, McGregor says, "Do something that you enjoy! Cardio doesn't have to be a bore."
Check out my favorite YouTube cardio workout finishers ahead. (Note that these workouts don't typically include a warmup. If you're doing a finisher as a stand-alone workout, make sure to start with a quick warmup first. And either way, don't forget to cool down afterward!)