Skip to main content

Workout Wedneday Tip – Female Fitness Cardio Tips

By May 30, 2012April 16th, 201461 Comments


weight loss tips

cardio for women

Having a female fitness cardio plan that delivers results is a key component of any fitness program.  Just like a car engine not working properly without all its parts – a female fitness routine without all the components will not work!

“What should I do for cardio?” is one of my most popular questions so let’s scuba dive with the topic!


Your Two Cardio Options 

There are essentially two types of cardio: high-intensity and steady-state. Before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re on the same page as to how we define each of these two.

Often, when I mention high-intensity cardio to someone, they immediately say, “Yeah, the cardio I do is high-intensity.”

Then I ask them how long their intervals are and they either look at me like I’m from another planet, or they think they miss understood what I’m asking and say “I go for 30 minutes.”

High-intensity, at least as for purposes of this article, is defined as something so intense that you couldn’t keep it up for more than 60 seconds — no matter how badly you wanted to! So even though your incline treadmill walk may feel like “high-intensity cardio,” it isn’t.

Running at 10 mph on a 10 degree incline for 10 seconds; now that is high-intensity!

Now that we’re on the same page as to the definition, you can clearly see that to do high-intensity cardio, you’d have to do it in spurts — do some, rest, then do some more, and so on. That’s exactly what we call high-intensity interval training, or HIIT (pronounced “hit”).

When most people think of cardio, they think of steady-state cardio. For that reason, I often simply refer to it as regular cardio. Since high-intensity cardio has its’ own, cool acronym, let’s refer to steady-state cardio as “SSC.”

Steady-state cardio is any cardio that’s done at an intensity low enough that it can be maintained for a longer period of time. While you may warm-up and cool-down, any cardio session where you keep roughly the same pace throughout your session is steady-state.

Ever go to the gym and think, “Well I have a lot of fat to lose – better jump on the treadmill” or  “I ate way too many sweets this weekend – I better do CARDIO”.

Of course you have, we all have.

What you probably don’t know is that while you are slowly burning “some” calories, others are stripping twice as much fat off their bodies and in half the time!


Here Are The Facts:

  1. You can burn fat 2x FASTER and in HALF the time by incorporating High Intensity Training (HIT) into your exercise routine.
  2. Cardiovascular exercise (slow and at a steady pace) burns much fewer calories than HIT.
  3. Doing too much cardio is tough on your joints and ligaments.
  4. Too much cardio will result in burning muscle instead of fat.

Here Is The Science

When it comes to weight loss, it doesn’t matter what type of fuel (food) you use. What matters is how many calories you burn as opposed to how many calories you take in.

In order to lose fat you must have a negative energy expenditure. Simple!

Energy out > Energy in 


The Basics of Burning Fat

Our energy comes from fat, carbs and protein. Which one our body utilizes depends on the kind of activity we are performing. Most people want to use fat for energy. Sounds legitimate as we assume the more fat we can use as fuel, the less fat we’ll have in our bodies. But using more fat doesn’t automatically lead to losing more fat.

Understanding the best way to burn fat starts with some basic facts on HOW your body gets its energy:

  • The body primarily uses carbs and fats for fuel. A small amount of protein is used during exercise but protein is mainly used to repair the muscles after exercise.
  • The ratio of these fuels will shift depending on the activity you are doing.
  • Given the metabolic pathways available to break down carbs for energy are more efficient than the pathways available for fat breakdown, the body will rely more on carbs for fuel than fat during HIT. This is good.
  • For long, slower exercise fat is used more for energy than carbs.

When it comes to weight loss in female fitness cardio programs, it doesn’t matter what type of fuel you use. What matters is how many calories you burn as opposed to how many calories you take in. 

That said… burn WAY more calories during High Intensity Training than your standard female fitness cardio aerobic exercise.


Building a HIIT Program

Even if you’re a COMPLETE beginner you can introduce yourself to interval training workouts with 3-5 minutes and add 1-2 minutes each week.

You MUST respect the intensity factor involved in interval training and not do too much too soon or else you risk injury.

Here’s my step mill interval training workout on the step mill:

30 minutes of 1 minute intervals. I go HARD (80-90% intensity) for 1 minute and then SLOW (30-40% intensity) for a minute. That means I do 15 HARD intervals in total and this revs up your metabolic rate to burn calories for up to 36 hours after your workout is done! WOW!

If you’re a beginner you could start with a 6 minute workout. 1 minute hard and 1 minute easy and remember, 1 minute hard is YOUR hard, not MY hard.

Work at YOUR level of current  female fitness cardio level.

As with your weight training, be sure to take in a post-workout drink (or quickly absorbed meal) to help replenish lost glycogen and repair the muscle tissues.

Think about it this way – when you sit or sleep, you’re in your prime fat-burning mode. But you’ve probably never contemplated the idea of sleeping more to lose weight, as lovely as that thought is.  The bottom line: Just because you’re using more fat as energy doesn’t mean you’re burning more calories.  Take these tips for the ultimate in female fitness cardio weight loss.

For an instructional video on HIIT training check out this link:

Join the discussion 61 Comments

  • Raquel says:

    Thanks! I love to swim but definitely that is a better way to burn more calories… got a question about red beans and other legumes, how can you include them as protein if they also count as a carbs? And how much is a serving? Thanks

    • Stephanie says:

      I have the same question about beans and other legumes. Since I am vegan, it is either beans, legumes, or protein powders for me. Any ideas/assistance would be greatly appreciated 🙂

      • Flavia says:

        I need to study vegetarian diets more but I would treat them like both a carb and protein and do the best that you can without going over the amount of carbs for the day.

    • Flavia says:

      see above 🙂

  • Vanessa Lee says:

    HI Flavia,

    Ever since you sent out an email a while ago about HIT I have been loving the stepper at the gym!! I have never sweat so much before in my life and now I fell like I actually did a cardio workout at the gym. I used to do the incline treadmill and felt good, but nothing like the feeling I get from 1 min intervals for 30 mins on the stepper. I have been increasing my level on the stepper too as I do it more often to make it tougher for me. Thanks so much for this tip as I have definitely seen improvement 🙂 you’re definitely an inspiration to me and I look forward to your emails all the time!


  • Katharina Stein says:

    Hi Flavia,

    I am doing 15 minutes on the cross trainer. For 30 seconds I run really fast and then I am doing 1 minutes rest. Are 30 seconds ok, or should I do 1 minutes high ok? And when I am doing the hard periode for 30 seconds, should I just step harder or make the step-level higher, so that the steps are heavier?

    Thanks, Greetings from germany

    • Flavia says:

      30 seconds is great, you can mix it up when you are comfortable also. Faster or at a higher level to make it harder.

  • Lisa says:

    G’day F,

    Do you ever use a spin bike in any of your training sessions? I have one sitting here but never seem to use it. I prefer the weights. If you don’t use one and have got to lookin’ like you do, then I’m gonna get rid of it.
    Cheers LB

  • Michaela says:

    Witch time is best to do HIIT? Right after wake up, right before weight training, right after weight traing, before I go to sleep? If none of them, how many hours between HIIT and weight training? And if I’m doing HIIT in the morning, should I eat before I do HIIT?
    Thx M:)

  • Arrian C. says:

    Thank you for this tip. I am going to do the HIIT routine at the gym in about an hour. I just ate a balance meal. Toast with small swipe of peanut butter and flaxseed, and one yogurt plane with added raspberry, blueberry, and blackberry. I hope this is an ok meal to begin my day?

    Let me know if that is ok. I got tired of having eggs all the time, so I switched it up.

    Hope your doing well Flavia…..also how do I get my one time phone call? I bought your flavlicious program, but don’t know how to access my phone call?

    • Flavia says:

      all you do is click the link underneith where it says “coaching call” and you can listen to it right away. Some of those foods are not in the list given in FBL.

  • Kaedi B. says:

    Hi Flavia,

    Love this post! Wanted to know what work pace you use on the step mill? I go for 20-30 minutes with 1 minute intervals my rest is at 80 steps a minute and my work is at 150 steps a minute. What is usually your rest and work pace?


    • Flavia says:

      Not too sure, I use the levels. Slow is level 4 and hard is 12-16 (depending on how much energy I have)

  • Carla says:

    How do you keep track of the time? I mean 1 minute is short but you are exercising intensely. Do you use a stop watch?

  • Flavia says:

    Hi Flavia we have the name, I am from Brazil.
    Is Spinning class considered a HIIT cardio?

    • Flavia says:

      yes, as long as you do the high intensity with the low which most spinning classes have. Thanks Flavia!!

      • Susan says:

        Hi Flavia, With our rough Canadian winters getting outside to do run/walk intervals is just not in the cards. I have access to a treadmill, but it is my neighbours and she prefers not to run on it. How about walk/fast walk intervals? I am afraid I am going to reverse the weight loss that I did this summer. HELP!

        • Anna says:

          Hi Susan,
          Yes walk/fast walk will still be a good, low impact HIIT workout! You can also increase the incline to up the intensity. 🙂
          All the best!
          Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

        • Flavia says:

          humm yes!! This is tricky. If you have stairs you can do that or you can do bodyweight exercises in intervals. EX. jump squats 30 seconds, 30 seconds rest (do this 10 times) and/or lunge jumps (40 seconds with 20 seconds rest) Make sense??

  • Adria says:

    Hi Flavia, I’m really enjoying your new program! My left arm is considerably weaker and flabbier than my right. Any tips to get it to the same fitness level as the right arm? Thanks!!

    • Flavia says:

      Ya just keep going bilateral movements and do only as many reps with your strong arm as you can with your weak arm. They will catch up.

  • Tara says:

    Flavia – you once wrote that when you were trying to lose three pounds of fat for a photo shoot that you were eating carbs before and after workouts – to give energy for the workout and then to help recover. What kind of carbs did you mean? Could I eat half a bagel with cream cheese before and the other half after or are you talking complex carbs? Thanks.

    • Flavia says:

      NO, not a bagel. No processed foods all breads and cream cheese is processed. You need whole foods, sweet potatoes, brown rice, quinoa, wheat-free!

      • Tara says:

        Thanks Flavia! And congratulations on your work. The world needs more people setting the record straight 🙂

  • MELODY says:

    I do what I call a walk/jog/run in the mornings and the weight just fell right off. I walk 1/2 mile, jog 1/2 mile, run flat out 1/4 mile, then jog, then run, etc., finishing off with a walk. I would do this everyday after my workup. After a month or so of this, I was disappointed in myself because I could do more than 20 minutes a day. I kept wondering why I couldn’t build up more endurance. Being 50 years old, I thought it was just age. THEN, I found out that was all I supposed to do and only 2-3 times a week instead of everyday. What a relief to find out it wasn’t because I was old!

  • 猫猫 says:

    I have a question about calories in and calories out. I have read a lot of articles in which calories are not all equal, and I have also read about how some foods change your hormones which can lead to fat storage. With regard to this, is the calories in and calories out model still accurate?

    By the way, yesterday I found out that my 1 rep max for squats is 95 lbs!!! (Barbell = 45 lbs + 25 lbs plates on each side…and I’m approximately 92 lbs.) I really want to thank you for pursuing your passions in fitness and helping others. Without your programs and continual advice, I do not believe I would have progressed so far. I have never had a personal trainer, and have trained myself through following your program. Thank you so much for producing high quality stuff :).

    I am actively working to improve my 1 rep max 🙂

    • Flavia says:

      Oh yes, to lose weight you still need to burn more calories than you consume..but a calorie is not a calorie and what you eat TOTALLY effects your hormones. That what Curvalicious is all about!

      Thank you!

  • kc says:

    Hi flavia,
    I usually workout at night before going to bed because of my busy schedule. Do I still have to take a post-workout meal or drink even if I am already going to bed after the workout? Thanks

    • Flavia says:

      Yes, this is the most important time to eat. At least have a shake with some carbs and protein. Oatmeal, protein shake or even some prunes, banana, brown rice cakes with protein.

  • Tammy A says:

    Hi Flavia –

    I was wondering what your thoughts are on low-fat chocolate milk as a recovery drink. Also, what about mixing BCAA with chocolate milk (rather than protein shake)? I’ve not tried the BCAA powder yet and wondering what it’s best to mix with.

    Thanks so much – love your Curvalicious! I’m on Week 1/Day 3 🙂

    • Flavia says:

      Hey Tammy, I don’t think any milk products are good, especially for fat loss. It isn’t the worst thing in the world and the best time to have it after a workout but truly it won’t do much for recovery and there are better choices that will get your to your goal a lot faster. BCAAs aren’t great tasting. I have them with water…I add them to my workout water and drink it during my workout. There are flavored ones out there but most have artificial sweetners. You could add them to your protein shake also.

  • Tammy A says:

    Thanks Flavia. I picked up some BCAA “raspberry” flavored powder yesterday. It’s tastes OK just mixed with water but it has the artificial sweetener in it, which I am very sensitive to (it tends to give me a headache). The store I stopped at only had that and a one brand of capsule (which had caffeine added) – so I opted for the powder for now. I’ll shop online to get something better – I was just so anxious to try this stuff (I’m impulsive that way! LOL)

    I have read so many articles over the years about chocolate milk vs protein shake (for recovery). I don’t normally have protein shakes, but may add that iin – especially if I end up buying an unflavored BCAA

  • Tracy says:

    Thanks Flav. You inspire me every time. Sometimes we all need a reminder to kick start us again 🙂

    Your a machine 🙂

  • Jill says:

    Would a 90 minute bikram yoga class count as a long steady cardio workout or could it count as one of our interval work outs for the week? Thanks!!!

  • Sophia says:

    I weigh 160 pounds and I am 5’6. I work out and try to eat right (with a few bumpy days) but the weight just seems to be stuck on me. How do I push myself to get 15 or more pounds off? How much is my success dependent upon me eating right?

    • Anna says:

      Hi Sophia,
      Exercise is important but diet is the biggest contributing factor in fat loss. If you haven’t purchased Flavia’s Full Body Licious program it would be awesome for you! Flavia lays out exactly what you should be eating and why. Think positive, you can do this! Whenever I need some motivation I love to read through Flavia’s blog and watch you tube videos of fit women like Flavia, Emily Stirling, and Diana Chaloux.

    • Flavia says:

      Will make or break your goals. You can’t lose weight without eating right unless your metabolism is super effective (people that stay lean and eat whatever they want) or if you are a Marathon runner (although some still stay plump).

  • Trelle says:

    This is great. So glad I found you, Flavia. I have a pretty impressive digital library since my quest for staying fit andhealthy began. Your programs (FBL and Curvalicious) are both just amazing programs and allow me to stay in way better shape than I hoped for and do it all from home! Thanks, lady. YOu rock!

  • Lindsey Zimmerman says:

    Has anyone tried P90X plyometrics dvd and do they considered HIIT?

    • Anna says:

      Hi Lindsey,
      I have done P90X. I would consider plyometrics HIIT if you really focus on working hard and jacking up that heart rate during the exercises and then let it come back down during the rest periods. For me personally, I find that doing so many different exercises and turning all different ways is a bit stressful on my joints. I prefer to stick to just 3 – 4 exercises and repeat those or use a machine. But if it seems to work for you, go get it!

  • Liz says:

    Hello Flavia!

    I am 25, 5’6 ” and 138lbs. I’m a regular at the gym, but I’ve hit a plateau and would like to change up my current routine to lose these last 5-10lbs of fat in problem areas. I frequently do group fitness classes at the gym. The gym classes are a 60min mix of weights & aerobic type exercises (steps, jumping jacks, pylo, etc.). Would you consider these classes slow & steady cardio OR HIIT?

    My other question is how much slow & steady cardio should I be doing per week? How many HIIT sessions per week?

    My current schedule is as follows:

    Mon- 60min aerobic/weight class
    60min spin
    Tues- 75min hot power vinyasa yoga
    Wed- 60min barre (with arms & ab exercises incorporated)
    60min spin
    Thurs-60min aerobic/weight class
    60min warm yoga

    Thanks so much for your help!

    • Anna says:

      Hi Liz,
      The classes could be considered HIIT if you really focus on getting your heart rate high and breathing hard for 30 seconds to a minute then letting your heart rate come back down for 30 seconds to a minute then spiking it again. A true High Intensity Interval Training session should be so difficult that it can’t last more than 20 – 30 minutes.

      Flavia recommends doing 3, 20 minutes sessions of HIIT and one 40 minute session of steady state cardio if needed (along side 4 – 5 days of weight training)

    • Flavia says:

      Hey Liz,

      They are HIIT if you are feeling like you are giving your all at times. The key to HIIT is pushing yourself right to your limit basically (in a safe way) you should have no doubt when you do HIIT because it will be impossible to push yourself any harder.

      Looks like you could use some weight training in your routine, build some muscle to burn a lot more calories during the day!

      You may also be used to a lot of those workouts and your body may not feel stimulated anymore to change. Looks like a great plan but you will need to change things up to make a change.

      All the best girl!

  • Heidi says:


    I am 45 and am post menopausal. I never used to struggle with my weight but since I went through menopause so early I now find it hard to lose fat quickly. I eat clean and have for 2 yrs now. That used to work but the last 2 years the weight has slowly accumulated. I did p90x but didn’t lose anything. I don’t weigh myself but do go by how my clothes fit. I am 5’6″ and weigh 134. I used to weigh 122. I am thinking I need to do more weights. I do hit training and 1 day of steady cardio but never take a rest day because I feel I will gain weight. Any help on how to get those last 10 pounds off would be great. Basically it’s my belly, hips, butt and upper legs. Thanks for all your help and your commitment to women. I will keep fighting to have my lean body back and won’t let menopause win!
    Heidi 🙂

    • Anna says:

      Hi Heidi,
      Absoloutely, more weight training should do the trick! Building muscle is so beneficial for many things, here is an article Flavia wrote on it’s importance:
      If you are a beginner (weight training less than 1 year) I would recommend you start with Flavia’s Full Body Licious program then you can move onto Curvalicious later. 🙂
      All the best!
      – Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

  • Kristi says:

    I started curvalicious a couple weeks ago and am still struggling with HIIT. Not actually struggling because its easy. But based on 80% of my max heart rate, I should be staying around 150 which is barely a 10:00 mile pace and way too easy for me. Plus, during my off times (resting) my heart rate doesn’t decrease nearly as much as it should. Don’t get me wrong…I’m still shredding some extra fat but it certainly doesn’t feel like high intensity. Any suggestions Flavia?

    • Flavia says:

      Hey Kristi, push harder. Don’t worry so much about the numbers, you should be fatiguing really quickly with HIIT.

  • Lauren says:

    i was wondering what would be best to eat after a fasted cardio HIIT session…morning are always best and I handle being able to complete the cardio no problem after not eating. what would you recommend?

  • Petula says:

    Hey I’m 25 years old and put on a lot of weight over the last 2 years I have a full day of working and attend classes after work I recently started doing cardio early in the morning before going to work and doing weight training on my 2 off days after work that I don’t attend classes I want to know what is best to eat or drink before my cardio session in the morning or is it best to cardio on my empty stomach while I’m still in starvation mode?

    • Anna says:

      Hi Petula,
      You want to make sure you are well hydrated with water. Having some BCAAs either in pill form or powder before your cardio would be great to ensure you are not burning muscle.
      All the best!
      Anna, CPT, FF Specialist

  • Lindi says:

    Hi There, i see you mentioned Hiit for 30 minutes, 1min high, 1min low, do you maybe have a example for use on treadmill, like incline 10, speed 10 for high, and incline 5 , speed 5 , etc for min is that about sufficiant enough and should there be resting periods in between where you basicly step onto side rails for 30 sec or 1 min inbetween? Also , i want to know, when you do a Hiit treadmill exercise, i have one where you Hiit for 15 secoonds rest o siderails for the other 45, and than eventualy go on to 20 sec Hiit and than 40 sec rest on siderails, so even though the calories are still climbing according to the treadmill, are you actualy still burning when you taking the rest on the side? is it fair to say that you burned 400 calorories but for 40% of the time you were on the siderails between youre intervals? because the calories are still counting but I’m standing on the side waiting for the next intercval? am i fooling myself and should i best stick to youre idea of 1 min hard, 1 min less for 30 minutes?

Leave a Reply