Throughout each day, you’re probably making all kinds of quick decisions—responding to emails, scheduling upcoming appointments, replying to texts, making lunch or dinner plans—which can be…a lot. One of the best things about steady-state cardio is that it can be a great time to tune out. As in, you start the clock, and regardless of whether you’re jogging outside, rowing, cycling, or doing something else entirely, you can use the time to let your mind wander. 

If you’re moving at a medium rate of perceived exertion (RPE, which we’ll break down below), as we’re suggesting for today’s workout (3–4 for Just Enough and 4–5 for Just a Little More), steady-state cardio can also be a kind of meditation. You should be exercising at a level that, after a few minutes, you find a smooth cadence to your breath and a breeziness to your movement. In other words, you find your groove. 

Here’s what to know about your RPE for today: The scale below is based on one from the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), and it’ll help you gauge your intensity for your cardio routine.

  • RPE: 0 – At rest.
  • RPE: 1 – Very light effort. You can easily hold a conversation.
  • RPE: 2–3 – Your warm-ups, cooldowns, and recovery intervals. You can speak comfortably in full sentences. 
  • RPE: 4–5 – Moderate effort. Talking in more than a sentence or two at a time is difficult. 
  • RPE: 6–7 – High, vigorous effort. You can only speak a few words or phrases at a time—not full sentences.
  • RPE: 8–9 – Very hard effort. Talking is almost impossible. Maybe you can muster a breathless “yes” or “no.”
  • RPE: 10 – All-out, maximum effort. Talking is out of the question.

No matter what you choose to do today—rowing, cycling, running, or using the elliptical—focus on finding that sweet spot where you’re able to work a little harder than normal but still have enough ease to your movement to let your mind clear.

Just Enough Movement Directions:

  • 10 minutes steady-state cardio (RPE: 3–4)

Just a Little More Movement Directions:

  • 20–30 minutes steady-state cardio (RPE: 4-5) 

Photographer: Katie Thompson. Wardrobe styling: Rika Watanabe. Makeup: Monica Alvarez at See Management. Hair: Erin Piper Hershleb at L’Atelier. Creative director: Amber Venerable.

Molly Tellekson wears: Top: Lululemon, similar styles. Bottoms: Reebok Lux High-Waisted Colorblock Tights, $65. Shoes: APL TechLoom Phantom, $185.