Runs aren’t the only way to get a good cardio workout. In fact, they aren’t the best way to built lung-busting fitness, unless you’re crushing hills or putting in speed on the track. Great cardio workouts are all about getting your heart rate up and keeping it up. The result should be obvious: You’re panting for breath and burning serious calories all the while. Yes, you can rearrange some furniture and take on such a workout at home. You don’t need much space or much time (about 20 minutes), but you will need determination. Here we go.
Minutes 0-1: Warm Up/Front Lunges
How to: Clear the perimeter of your living room and walk the edges via deep lunges. Start by stepping far forward with your right leg, bending your right knee until it’s over your right toes, and keeping your back (left) leg straight. Push through the ball of your left foot and swing left leg far forward, landing in a low lunge on your left side. Continue alternating low lunges for 60 seconds.
Minutes 1-3: Warm Up/Side Lunges
How to: Step widely to the right with your right leg, landing in a deep lunge (right knee bent over toes, left leg straight). Push off the side of your left foot to bring feet back together and come to standing. Step right again and repeat side lunges for 60 seconds. Switch to left side lunges (lead with the left side step, push off back to standing with the right side) for 60 seconds.
Minutes 3-5: Box Steps
How to: Find a step stool or low chair and step up with your right leg, then transfer weight to your left leg, then step down again with your right, then down with your left. Do 10 box steps on your right as fast as you can; switch to do 10 on the left. That’s one set; do as many sets as you can, as fast as you can, for two minutes.
Minutes 5-9: High Knees/Butt Kickers
How to: Start by running fast in place, hiking your knees as high as they will go (aim for knees to chest) with every step for 30 seconds. Immediately shift to butt kickers—running in place while “kicking” backwards (trying to hit your butt with your heel on every step). Do this for 30 seconds then switch to thigh knees again. Repeat this front/back sequence four times.
Minutes 9-11: Hop the Bench
How to: Stand facing that step stool or low chair you just used for box steps. This time, rather then step up on it, you’re going to crouch low, swing your arms, spring off the floor, and jump over it. (If the stool is too high for you to clear, a stack of books or your kid’s toy chest will do.) Once you clear the bench, turn around and jump back to the start. Do 10 jumps without stopping; take a 20-second breather, then do 10 more.
Minutes 11-13: Ladder Drills
How to: Place a broomstick, mop, fireplace poker, duster handle, and anything else that lies flat in a straight line in a row on the floor in front of you. Space these objects—10 total—about a foot apart in a straight line. Stand at the head of the line and proceed to single-leg hop on your right leg from one “space” to the next, clearing the item on the floor each time and never letting your left foot touch the ground. When you get to the end of the line, turn around and hop back on your left leg. Next, turn sideways, place your feet tightly together, bend your knees and begin to side jump over the handles, never letting your feet separate. When you get to the end of the line, come back leading with your opposite side. On your third out-and-back, hopscotch the line—starting on two feet, spaced wide apart, then jumping onto a single foot, then back to both feet, wide apart, as you clear each bar until you reach the end of the line. Turn around and repeat coming back tot the start.
Minutes 13-16: Squat Jumps/Wall Pushups
How to: Start this full-body move with your feet hip-width apart, facing a wall about three feet away. Sink your butt toward the floor and bend your knees until they are over your toes. Push through your heels and jump vertically in the air. Land with soft knees, then immediately lean your weight forward, stretching your arms in front of you until they come in contact with the wall. Bend elbows and do a wall push-up. As you straighten your arms, push off the wall and back to standing upright. Get ready for another squat.
Minutes 16-18: Traveling Pushups
How to: Sneak a little full-body strength training into the mix with this high-energy sequence. Go back to your “ladder” of broomsticks and mop handles. Starting on the far left end, get down on all fours. Position yourself so that your body is between the two lines. Stretch your legs behind you and extend your arms so that your body forms a long line. Do a pushup. As you return to the extended plank position, step your right hand over the divider and into the next space; move your right leg to the side to follow. Bring your left hand and leg over closer to the right. Do another pushup. Repeat sequence, stepping over the handles each time until you reach the end of the line. Repeat coming back in the other direction, leading with your left side. Continue for two minutes.
Minutes 18-20: Jumping Jacks
How to: You know this one: Jump legs apart, jump legs together. But instead of the arms up/arms down traditional style, you’re going to keep your arms raised in the air the whole time (which increases your heart rate). Repeat for two minutes. (To make it harder, either jump faster or grab lightweight objects in each hand for extra resistance.)