Right now I’m about 5’1 and 110 lbs. My problem is I have trouble judging my exercise intensity, or if something even counts as exercise. Sometimes I’m not even sure if an exercise session should count for strength, cardio, or both. On a weekly basis, I have an hour fifteen of intermediate ballet/pointe, an hour and a half of open gym (gymnastics), and I teach two Tae Kwon Do classes–one I never get to work out in, and one where I can usually manage at least twenty minutes where I work out with my students. I switch up circuit training, running, barre work, yoga, walking, conditioning, jump rope, climbing stairs, dancing, extra TKD (usually forms), and whatever else strikes my fancy–I don’t really have set routine. With cardio, I’m never sure what actually counts and what intensity it counts as; with conditioning, I’m never sure if I’ve done enough. The only way I can tell I’m working hard is if I feel like I’m going to throw up.

Does ballet count as moderate cardio? Should I reduce the amount of cardio time I count it for given all the time spent listening to directions and corrections? Should gymnastics count as cardio or strength training? It’s not straightforwardly either, but after a hundred handsprings my shoulders think I’ve been doing serious conditioning and after twenty minutes of vault Where do martial arts fit in?  How do I know when I’ve done enough conditioning? I’ve tried measuring by maximum heart rate and the talk test, but I always feel like they’re telling my I’m working harder than I am. Should I just trust the numbers for cardio, and how much is enough when it comes to strength training?

A typical schedule for me right now is:

Sunday–Some kind of cardio at home (30-60 minutes) and strength training
Monday–Ballet/pointe class (75 minutes)
Tuesday–Gymnastics open gym (75 minutes), sometimes Tae Kwon Do (75 minutes)
Wednesday–Some kind of cardio at home (30-60 minutes) and strength training
Thursday–Tae Kwon Do (90 minutes)–this is the class I’m most likely to be able to participate in
Friday–Gymnastics open gym (90 minutes), strength training
Saturday–Tae Kwon Do (150 minutes)–this is the class I’m least likely to participate in, some kind of cardio (30-60 minutes)

-Amanda

Ok, holy crap, that’s a loaded question.  I didn’t edit very much of it because I want everyone to see the full scope of the workouts, and the urgency of the question.
First of all, you are more active than about 90% percent of the population, so right there entitles you to take a deep breath and be happy that you are healthy.  You obviously are in good shape, are of a healthy weight, and can kick some serious ass- so good for you.
I hear a few different questions embedded in there, so I’ll take each one individually.
What counts as cardio and strength training? Cardio is easy.  Cardiovascular exercise is characterized by having the heart rate elevated to a level for an extended period of time to gain cardiovascular benefits.  The level at which this occurs is about 60%-80% of your maximum heart rate.  Your max heart rate is 220- your age.  This is a rough estimate.  Some people can get higher and be fine, other’s can’t reach that high without feeling like they are climbing Mt. Everest.
Strength training is a bit more difficult.  Strength training is meant to increase strength, prevent injury, increase bone density, and even out imbalances.  We only use certain muscles and movements throughout the day, which can create imbalanced in strength and flexibility, which leads to injury and, in your case, can hinder performance.  In order to fix that, you have to work all your major muscle groups throughout their full range of motion- this is calculated.  It doesn’t properly happen by accident, even if you are doing sports.
Notice I didn’t say lose weight anywhere in there. That’s because no form of exercise is meant to melt fat- weight loss is a natural side effect of both cardio and strength training, not the purpose of it.  It happens naturally, and people that don’t need to lose weight still need to do both.
How do I gauge intensity? Like I said above, heart rate and the talk test (you should be able to talk in short sentences, but not be able to sing a song) are just gauges.  Based on your workouts, you are probably in fantastic shape, so the effects of a tough work out might not hit you as hard.  I would go by heart rate, more than how you feel, as it is obvious that you are a stickler for killer workouts.  For cardio, since you workout in bursts, I would wear a heart rate monitor and make sure that your average for the whole workout is within your 60%-80% range.
When you strength train, you want to hit each major muscle group (chest, back, bis, tris, core, abs, hams, quads, and calves).  You should lift weight heavy enough that you fail (can’t do one more with good form) around 12-15 reps for tone and endurance, or 6-8 reps for size and strength.  You can combine upper and lower body exercises to cut down on time and increase intensity.
Frequency– your frequency is fine.  I would even tell you to take a day off here and there, like your extra cardio at home, since you are getting tons, but I know that is difficult when working out is your job or you are competitive.  Just be careful of over training, which can be dangerous.  If you are often nursing injuries, develop a high resting heart rate, are constantly fatigued, lose your menstral cycle or suffer from headaches you are over training and want to back off- your performance and health will suffer.
relax, and do what you love.  You are definitely active enough and don’t want to over think it.  It sounds like you’re having fun, just make sure you are eating enough for your activity level and let loose every once in a while 😉
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