Are you a cardio hater? Like it or not, cardiovascular exercise is a vital component of a healthy lifestyle.
It’s probably not news to you at this point, but years of research has shown that cardiovascular activities — those that raise your heart rate and improve your physical fitness — significantly reduce your risk of heart disease, improve blood pressure, reduce the risk of diabetes, and generally help you live a longer, healthier life.
Cardio is just one of those necessary evils that are part of getting (and staying) healthy. You just have to find a way to do it and get through it. So while I can’t guarantee that these strategies will turn you into a cardio lover, here are 5 of my favorite ways to make it suck a little less.
Pick an activity you actually enjoy.
Stop for a second and really think about it— do you truly hate cardio or do you just hate the activities that you’ve been choosing, so far? If I had to guess, you probably just haven’t come across the activity that works best for you.
When I see people dragging their feet about doing cardio, they’re usually talking about the same few pieces of equipment that you can find in any gym— treadmills, stationary bikes, elliptical machines, and stepmills. But if that’s all you’re thinking about when cardio comes to mind, you’re seriously limiting the possibilities of really enjoyable activities that are great sources of cardiovascular exercise.
Here are just a few examples of activities you could experiment with: swimming, boxing, dance classes, water aerobics, cross-country skiing, kayaking, hiking, roller blading, paddle boarding, jumping rope, climbing stairs, high-intensity interval training (HIIT), kickboxing, and rowing. See? You have a TON of options— this list is only the beginning. And not a single one involves using the machines you keep telling yourself you “hate” at the gym.
Skip the same old steady-state routine.
Maybe it isn’t so much the type of exercise that you hate. Maybe what you’re doing is just boring. I mean, even cardio lovers get sick of doing the same old thing, day after day.
There are a ton of ways to spice things up and make cardio more enjoyable. If you’re at the gym, don’t think you need to pick one machine to get a good, 30-minute workout— try doing 10 minutes on the treadmill, 10 minutes on the bike, and 10 minutes on the stepmill. Or vary the incline, resistance, or speed on a single machine to help break up the monotony and give yourself a new challenge. One of my favorite ways to do this is by doing pyramid intervals on the treadmill. Give this one a try:
5 min warm-up
3 min run at an easy-moderate pace (ex: 6.0), followed by 2 min recovery
2 min run at a moderate pace (7.0), followed by 1 min recovery
1 min run at a challenging pace (8.0), followed by 30 sec recovery
30 sec run at a sprint (9.0), followed by 30 sec recovery
30 sec run at a sprint (10.0), followed by 3 minute recovery
Repeat running portion of the workout
5 min cool-down
The running portion of this workout comes in at 28 minutes, and the speed/incline can easily be adjusted for every fitness level.
It can be tough to get motivated when you’re on your own, so why not give a new fitness class a try? Not only is it a great way to change things up, you might just learn a new skill while you’re at it.
Most gyms offer some type of group exercise, from dance fitness classes like Zumba to circuit training and HIIT-style classes. Not only will the camaraderie of working out in a group make things more fun, but having an instructor to push you might offer more of a challenge than what you get from exercising alone.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking your gym offers the only option— many communities have great opportunities for cardio-based activities outside of the gym. Do a web search and see if you have a local running, cycling, or rowing club. Not only is this a great way to workout, but it can give you the opportunity to join a community of like-minded people who can help encourage you on your fitness journey.
If a big group isn’t your thing, recruit a friend or family member to meet you for a workout. This will give you an opportunity to catch up on everything going on in your lives and get your workout in at the same time. And don’t make the mistake of only inviting your fit friends and family— finding a partner who has been looking for a little inspiration of their own might just give them the motivation they need to start their own fitness journey and adopt a healthier lifestyle.
Tune yourself out.
Nothing makes a cardio workout fly by like a good distraction. Try building a killer playlist to help make those cardio workouts more enjoyable, or even create a few different options to keep things fresh from day to day. Another option is to find a show you love to binge-watch and save it for your cardio days. Not only will it help the time to pass quickly, but you’ll be less likely to skip that workout when you’re dying to know what happens in the next episode.
Have you tried any of these strategies to get motivated and help yourself stop hating cardio? Do you have any other cardio game plans that work for you? I’d love to hear what you’ve got. Head on over to our Facebook page and drop a comment to share!
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