Off-Season Cardio vs. Contest Prep


As a professional athlete, I like to stay in decent shape and be active all year, even when I’m not training for a contest. There’s a difference in my off-season cardio vs. contest prep, but I stay healthy and fit year-round for myself and as a general lifestyle choice, not just for a single day on stage.

I’m one of the few athletes I know who also does cardio in the off-season instead of just during contest prep. The myth of losing muscle from doing cardio doesn’t apply to me, and I believe you should always incorporate some sort of cardio or endurance training, especially for your heart health. As long as you consume 5-6 meals a day consistently and stay on top of your eating habits, the muscle isn’t going anywhere. Plus, as a figure athlete, I don’t need to be as big as a bodybuilder.

Off-Season Cardio

During the off-season, I do about 30 minutes of high-intensity cardio on a Stair Master, or sometimes I switch it up with the bike for some variation. People often ask me if they should do cardio before weight training or after; I prefer to do my cardio work before weight training to get myself thoroughly warmed up for the weight session. Sometimes I do some ab exercises or butt training before cardio, but nothing too intense.

Contest-Prep Cardio

During contest prep, my cardio regimen changes depending on how I look and how far away I am from my contest date. I typically start with an hour and a half, with an hour in the morning and another half hour before or after my evening workout. Once your metabolism spikes, you should be able to burn more fat while doing the same amount of cardio, or you can pick it up a bit if you need to get leaner. I help to kick that up even more by using Tight Xtreme with my cardio sessions. My meal plan stays pretty much the same, but I increase or decrease my carb consumption depending on how I look.

As a beginner, you should try to incorporate 20-30 minutes of cardio to start. You’ll be able to do more once your body is used to the process. When I first started, I could only do 15 minutes and I’d be exhausted. The more you do it, the better it gets!
Tina Nguyen