My secret go-to for feeling lean and fit

My dogs guarding me during a cardio workout

My dogs guarding me during a cardio workout

The information in this blog might fly in the face of what a lot of trainers – especially big-shot online trainers – tell you to do. In fact, it might fly in the face of what I have told you in the past.

Here’s the deal: when I want to start feeling leaner/fitter/generally “better,” I have a simple go-to formula. First, I make sure I’m fitting in at least three strength-training workouts a week with compound exercises like squats, deadlifts, pull-ups, lunges and dumbbell chest presses. And when I do those workouts, I make sure I attack them. I strap on my iPod and keep moving, super-setting my exercises like a boss.

And then when I am done with the weights, I implement my go-to secret.

Why is it secret? Because when I do this, I feel like I am going against what all the trendy trainers (who generally are guys, and generally are under the age of 40) say you should do (and in fact, even some of my personal trainer books say this isn’t so great).

Here it is: I try to do 45 minutes of cardio 5 days a week.

I know, I know. Cardio is supposedly “bad.” It supposedly “eats your muscle.” It supposedly wrecks your metabolism.

Maybe I’m weird, but it makes me feel better. I always feel lighter on my feet when I do more cardio. I sleep better. And I get leaner. It is a formula that has worked for me for the past 30 years. Yes, I said it: 30 years. You can’t argue with that. Well, maybe you can argue with it, but I’d say that’s a pretty good track record for something feeling “right” and getting results, at least when it comes to me and my body.

Better than the lightness, leanness and improved sleep, doing the cardio workouts also helps me have a lot more fun. When I walk my dog I don’t give a second thought about breaking into a jog to play with her. It is nothing to dash across the grocery store parking lot to retrieve a shopping cart for someone in a handicapped parking zone. I can run up stairs, I can zip up the skinny jeans I swore I’d never buy, and I’m generally more cheerful.

I mix up my cardio workouts. I don’t overthink – I do them intuitively. Sometimes I do steady-state (when you just get on a piece of equipment and zone out at a moderate pace for the allotted period of time). Sometimes I do intervals. Sometimes I dance. Sometimes I switch up cardio machines. Sometimes I do calisthenics. Other times I grab a kettlebell.

And a lot of times, I do all of that in the same workout. I generally wear a heart rate monitor to see how hard (or not) I am working, so that I know the workout is effective.

So, that’s my go-to secret. Do you have a workout secret? What is it?

Wendy Watkins

About Wendy Watkins

Wendy Watkins is a Bangor-based personal trainer, fitness coach, studio owner, and writer/editor. She is the author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Losing 20 Pounds in 2 Months. Visit her website at