My favorite cardio and strength training workouts

At the risk of sounding completely cliché posting about my favorite workouts on January 2nd, I promise this has nothing to do with resolutions, diets, fads, or “new beginnings” (although, more power to you if that’s the journey you’re embarking on today. You can do it!) and more so just because I thought it was time to share with you all what I’ve been loving for workouts recently now that both half marathons are over. I have actually still been working out and not just eating all this food!


1. Running:

This will still be my first love, but I’ve cut it back from 20-25 mile weeks to more like 10-13 mile weeks in the past month.

Outdoor runs have been mostly music-less, Garmin-less 3-4 mile relatively easy, steady state runs on the bike trail.

new years run

Indoor runs on the treadmill have been 2-4 mile HIIT workouts. I find these to be the best “bang for your buck” kind of workout. They can literally take as little as 20 minutes and in that time I’ll cover at least 2 miles and work up a ridiculous sweat. They’re also great for those days when you really don’t feel like working out so you tell yourself “just 20 minutes”.

These are two of my current favorites:

HIIT treadmill workout HIIT treadmill workout

Obviously, speeds can be adjusted to your fitness/comfort level. I’m 99% sure my treadmill is not calibrated correctly at home because at 8.0, I literally feel like I’m going to fly off the thing and I can run that outside no problem during a sprint. At hotel gyms that speed also seems much more feasible, so these are specific to my home treadmill which is apparently fast.

2. Biking:

indoor bike stand

Now that my bike trainer is set up, this has become a legitimate cross training cardio option. I rubber band my iPhone around my handlebars, turn on an episode of Mad Men on Netflix and pedal away for 47 minutes. I haven’t set up an actual “workout” but I try to pedal relatively easy for the first 5 minutes, increase the resistance for the next 20, increase again for the next 15 and then start a cool down for the remainder. Watching TV really makes the time fly, I highly recommend the ghetto rubber band method. Winking smile

3. DVDs:

30 day shred

This could be considered strength too but considering it’s body weight and 5 pound hand weights at most, I feel like it’s more of a cardio workout for me. Sometimes this is another option for a quick/don’t feel like doing much today workout or, sometimes I couple this with a HIIT session. Either way, this was the first workout DVD I ever owned and it still does a great job of getting your heart rate up and making you sweat for all of a 25 minute commitment. I usually do this exclusively on level 3.


Here’s where I confess that I kind of fell off the NROLFW bandwagon. My last update was at the end of stage 2. I did actually finish stage 3 (just never posted about it) but the stage got delayed by half marathon training. Then I decided to take a few weeks break as the half marathons were finishing up and promised to get back to the program after the races. Well, it’s definitely “after” and I haven’t done it.

However, that’s not to say I haven’t been strength training. I just haven’t felt the desire to follow the actual NROLFW program.

1. Yoga:

yoga meltdown

Again my girl Jillian comes in handy when I’m craving some yoga or a low-intensity strength workout. This is not “fluffy” yoga, my arms are usually jello the day after this dvd from all those damn chaturanga pushups.

2. Upper body:

upper body workout

Some of these are from the NROLFW stages, some are from other workouts I’ve seen around. This usually takes me around 30 minutes and leaves me s-o-r-e the next day. I’m still trying to follow the NROLFW “mantra” and lift heavy. For me right now, most of these sets are performed using 15-20lb. dumbbells. I’m quickly outgrowing the 20 lbers though and am going to need to invest in some 25 lb. ones. Those things are not cheap!

3. Lower body:

NROLFW has what they call a “body matrix” workout at the end of some stages. It’s intense to say the least so I’ve tacked it on to the end of many cardio sessions lately for some added focus on my legs. I’ll be honest, I’m not as diligent with leg strength training given the fact that both my go-to cardio options (running & biking) are leg dominant.

body matrix

I know you’re looking at this thinking “that doesn’t look so bad” because that’s what I thought the first time too, until I got to jumping lunge #15 and thought I was going to die. NROLFW says to time yourself doing this, then rest for twice the amount of time it took you to do it before doing it one more time. I consider myself in pretty good shape and I’ve yet to make it through a whole second round!

4. Abs:

-Planks have become my #1 favorite ab exercise as of late. I’ll usually do 2-3 ranging anywhere from 90-120 seconds. Here is my expert advice on planks: play on your phone while timing yourself. Twitter makes the seconds FLY by. Winking smile

-Swiss ball jack knife Almost like a plank, but with movement. Love this one.

-Crunches on the ball.

-Side flexion from NROLFW:

side flexion

It’s a weird and awkward movement, but it really works your side abs well.


So there you have it. A usual week consists of 3 runs, 1-2 bike sessions and 3 strength sessions. I’ve been getting between 4-5 days of workouts in a week during the past month, but would really like to increase that to 5-6 now that the chaos of the holidays is behind us.

I have no real goals right now and it kind of feels nice. Sometimes I like having something to work towards, other times I’m fine just keeping my fitness levels steady. I like being able to run 5 miles without any “real” effort so that’s my magic number right now with running. As for strength, I feel like that’s a continual process that I’ll just keep doing and increasing as I outgrow weights.

This nonchalant attitude is exactly how I felt last year at this time after my half marathon so I’m not surprised it’s happened again. Give me 2-3 months and I’ll be itching to sign up for something!


Do you have any fitness goals right now?

What’s your favorite type of cardio/strength training?


    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      haha yeah, it feels very weird and I wasn’t sure I was doing it correctly but then the next day my side abs were sore, so I figured it must’ve been right!

  1. Kim (Book Worm Runs)

    I really need to work on the strength training!! :( I could do cardio all day long but for some reason I just have a mental block when it comes to weights.

    Right now I am just trying to get back into running/working out after pregnancy. 19+ weeks of no physical activity what so ever has really killed any endurance I may have had!!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      That would be amazing. I’m so weak in the pull up department. I’d like to buy a pull up bar soon and work my way up to that as well. I hate the fact that my husband who doesn’t work out at all, can do a bunch of them and I can’t even do one!

  2. Holly

    My goals right now are to get stronger and to get faster — I started doing 2 intense strength training sessions in the gym each week and I can definitely notice a difference!

    I love Jillian’s dvds too — my favorite is probably Burn Fat Boost Metabolism — it is all body weight/cardio exercises and it is really intense.

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I have but it’s been awhile. My middle/high school actually had a rock climbing wall and “project adventure” course so I did climbing there. My college gym had a huge rock climbing wall too but for some reason I never took advantage of it while there. I would love to get back into that but I have no idea where to do that around here!

  3. Tiff @ Love Sweat and Beers

    I always love lifting heavy. Seeing my strength is so energizing, especially since I work out in the mornings. Normally, I hate running, but lately, I’ve been really enjoying my runs. I do two 30-minutes treadmill runs during the week with a longer one on the weekends. My knees don’t like it, but I do! We’ll see how long this phase lasts.

  4. Diana @ Sneakers2Sandals

    For some reason those ab workouts where I have to lay on my side just do not work for me. I can’t get coordinated enough…it’s amazing I can even run in a straight line. I try those all the time thinking that when my abs get stronger I’ll be able to do it..but no…I end up bruising myself!

  5. kari @ Running Ricig

    I used to do body pump classes at the gym 3 days a week for strength training. But then having a dog and having a life got in the way of going to the gym, so I gave up strength training altogether. I’m one of those where if I don’t have someone doing it with me, I’m not going to do it on my own.

    Running is a whole different story. I’m a maniac.

  6. Amanda

    All of my workouts consist of classes at my gym (getting my money’s worth!). And to think I used to be too intimidated to try group fitness a year ago is just crazy to me now. I’m currently loving bodypump and bodyattack (both les mills), spin, and bosu classes. By far, bodyattack is the most challenging for me. That is some seriously intense cardio and strength training!

  7. Julie @ Table for Two

    I have fitness goals but I can’t ever keep them. The only real fitness I can keep up with is dancing — like Dance Central 2 on the Kinect or dance classes like Zumba and Jazzercise. Everything else bores me, I need to be stimulated. It’s really weird, but that’s just how I’ve always been — it takes a lot to get me interested haha, you have some pretty sweet fitness goals though, I wish I could jump right in and do some of those!

  8. Corinne

    It’s nice to see someone post about just going with the flow for the new year, all these resolutions and diets never work. Great plan to just maintain your fitness! Jillian has great DVDs and she’s free on Exercise TV (don’t know if you have Fios?) do you belong to a gym or do this all with your own equipment??

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      We have a home gym in our basement so I do it all at home. I wish we had Fios. We’re the only town in the entire county without Fios available!

  9. Kris |

    Thank you Doll for these FAB workouts!!! I’m going to try the upper body one, I love a good upper body workout! Sigh, I wish I loved cardio more…..ugh.

    I don’t know if you know, but as my “full time business” I promote a 90 Day Health Challenge sooooo I’m always in new health goals and helping people do the same! Nothing beats a home based biz that helps people get fit and feel better, so I know how you’d be inspired to write this post!

    I’m motivated right now to get major definition for miami in 10 days!!


  10. Paige @ Running Around Normal

    Fun take on this post :) HIIT’s probably my favorite right now. As far as goals go…I don’t really have any right now. Just keep doing what I’m doing I suppose. Soon though, I want to sign up for crossfit. Not sure when that’ll happen though!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I want to try crossfit so badly but I looked up gyms and the closest one to me is 35 minutes away. Not cool.

  11. Deanna

    I love Jillian’s DVDs. I’ve been eying the yoga dvd, but I’m generally not a yoga fan. Pilates I can do all day, but yoga? Bleh. I’ve been off the running bandwagon for awhile, and I just realized I have a half marathon in 2 months. I really need to start up again.

  12. liza@docrunsforhealth

    I am training for my first full marathon. I am a slow runner and have no time goal, so it is no pressure and fun!
    For strength I use Jillian’s DVD and not much else :( Want to sign up for 2 free sessions with the local CrossFit gym. I used to love yoga, but haven’t done any in 3 months!
    I love the idea of not having any fitness goals except maintenance!

  13. emily

    This year I definitely want to focus on constantly changing up my exercise regime. (Trying new classes, alternating between cardio and strength training, etc.) I gain SO much more when I vary my workouts because I never let my body get too comfortable.
    Your workouts sound awesome, girl! Running and spin are definitely my two favorite types of cardiovascular exercise. But, lately I’ve been loving the conditioning classes at my gym. The combination of strength and cardio kicks my butt!

  14. Kate

    Damn, girl! I just started NROLFW today and I was using 10 pound dumbbells and struggling, haha. I hope one day to get up to at least 20 pounds :)

  15. Jess

    I love your approach to your workouts right now – they are solid and balanced without feeling overly planned/scheduled, if that makes sense. It can be so easy to get stuck in overscheduling yourself workout-wise esp when training for a race or other fitness related goal. Though there is something to be said for a brand spankin’ new training schedule for a race too, both have their merits, I must say! I’m kinda itching to get into training mode again even though I have a few months to go before that happens. I need to be patient!

  16. Jennifer @ Peanut Butter and Peppers

    I love both of those workouts from Jillian. The Shred is what got me started on my exercise program, but honestly I haven’t liked her last couple of DVD’s. For strength training I love Jackie Warner workouts. I am currently doing her 30 jump start, which is awesome strength training. I feel like my arms going to fall off. So my goal this year is to strength train 3 times a week, and do cardio 3 times a week. Well see how it goes! Happy New Years!!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I might have to try Jackie out, I could use someone besides Jillian yelling at me. There’s only so much of her voice I can take ;)

  17. Amanda - RunToTheFinish

    i have wondered about jillian’s yoga. i am trying to do a mix of yoga and weights for my strength work and figured she would kill me :0)

    i like that last ab exercise so I’ll be trying that, right after the tweeting plank :)

  18. meg

    Just found your blog and thought this was a great post! I didn’t realize you could turn a bike into a stationary like that. I’d love to do the same – do you have any tips on buying a bike trainer? I’m curious if there’s anything specific to look for, a brand you’d recommend or if you’re happy with yours, etc. Thanks!

    1. Running to the Kitchen Post author

      I honestly don’t have any tips. It was a gift but I love it. I’ve heard people recommend the Bell Motivator. Mine is a different brand, but exactly the same thing and similar price. I think on Amazon they’re around $70-80. Definitely worth it for being able to use your bike the whole winter in my opinion!

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