The benefits of cardio are undeniable, from improved heart health, to an increased metabolism, and even an increase in endorphins, which can help ease the symptoms of depression, and fatigue. I could sit here all day and list out endless benefits of cardio but I know many of you out there will still loathe the idea of actually doing cardio, and trust me, I understand. So allow me to share a few of my personal tips for making cardio a little more interesting and enjoyable. These tips may not make you fall in love with cardio but maybe they can, at the very least, help you get through your cardio sessions with a little more ease.
This article is actually being written on my phone while I’m doing some LISS on the treadmill because I too think cardio is incredibly boring. However I have managed to find ways to make it more interesting so now it is something I can truly enjoy, and even sometimes, look forward to.
[Update: My heart rate is currently 160, I’m sweating like crazy and am only semi-concerned that I may lose my balance on the treadmill as I try to type this. Wish me luck.]
- Listen to Music
This may seem like an obvious one. Most people listen to music at the gym, but it’s important to listen to the right music at the gym, something interesting and upbeat. Take some time and create some good playlists for the gym with some motivating songs. You want your playlist to be able to inspire you, drive you forward and keep your going ‘til the end. Then when you’re at the gym, put your headphones in, turn the volume up, and put on that great playlist. Really focus on the music, listen to the lyrics, feel the beat and lose yourself in the music. Let it drive you.
- Do It With A Friend
Sometimes it’s just easier not to go it alone. Bring a friend to the gym. It can help to have someone to chat with to pass the time. Or if you’re more competitive, you can use the addition of someone else to push you even farther in your workouts.
- Try HIIT Cardio
I personally have a love/hate relationship with HIIT cardio. HIIT cardio stands for High Intensity Internal Training. There are many benefits to this type of training, one of them being, they’re pretty short workout sessions. HIIT cardio sessions are only going to be about 10-20 minutes as opposed to LISS cardio (Low Intensity Steady State), which is usually about 45-60 minutes. If one of the reasons you hate cardio is because it’s boring and time consuming, give HIIT a try, it will help you to get in and out fast. Work in ratios of 1:3, 1:2, or 1:1 with the internals being anywhere from 30-90 seconds. For example: in a 1:2 ratio with 30 second intervals, you would go all out as fast and intense as you can for 30 seconds, and then exercise at a more moderate pace for 60 seconds, and repeat. Just make sure you are doing adequate warm ups and cool downs as well.
- Make It A Game
To help push yourself during aerobic interval training, make a playlist of 5-10 of your favorite motivating songs. Start the playlist and increase you’re intensity every time the chorus comes on for each song. Once the chorus is finished, you can revert back to less intense work. This will help you explore your limits of intensity while enjoying your favorites songs (or just make you dread the chorus of them, sorry).
*The following tips are intended for LISS cardio only. These types of “distractions” would not be advisable during a HIIT session.
- Use Different Machines
Sometimes I like to mix it up and change machines during my longer cardio sessions. For example: you can start out on the treadmill for a half hour, then move on to the arc trainer for the next half hour. There are so many different cardio machines: treadmill, Stairmaster, bikes, elliptical, arc trainer, and don’t forget the great outdoors. Use multiple machines, or methods of cardio during one session to keep it interesting.
- Watch TV/ Netflix/ YouTube
Most gyms have TVs and with smartphones and tablets, watching Netflix or YouTube can be done almost anywhere. I personally love to catch up on some of my favorite fitness YouTubers while I work through a cardio session. Watching TV or even a movie can really help to pass the time without thinking about it.
- Browse The Internet, Answer Emails, Or You Know, Write An Article About Cardio
I sometimes like to use my cardio sessions to catch up on some work. I answer emails, do research, and even write articles. I like to try to multitask during cardio. If I’m going to spend a whole hour on a treadmill, I need to get some other stuff done as well.
- Use The Time For Introspection and Goal Planning
This one might sound a little cheesy but I do it often. Cardio releases endorphins into the brain, and for me, during cardio, I feel extremely motivated and positive. Sometimes I like to use my cardio to listen to some music and really think about things, set some goals for the future, or just clear my head altogether.
- Get Out Of The Gym
The gym isn’t the only place you can do cardio. You can of course go for a jog or walk around your neighborhood, but you can also use the time to go on an adventure. I love hiking, it’s a great way to explore, take in nature, and get in some good cardio without it necessarily feeling like cardio.
- Essentially, Distract Yourself From The Fact That You’re Doing Cardio
Bottom line, you need to trick your brain into forgetting that you’re doing cardio and there are about a million different ways to do that. In addition to what is listed above, here are a few extra tips and things you can do during cardio:
- Use a towel to cover the timer on the cardio machine so you don’t keep checking how much longer you have to go
- Plan out your meals for the week
- Write out your grocery list
- Search new recipes
- Catch up on the news
- Read articles
- Try different methods of cardio like kickboxing or dancing
The other day at the gym I saw this woman on the treadmill, she had the machine at full incline, going at about 2 mph, headphones in, and she was dancing, full on dancing, having the time of here life on the treadmill. She didn’t care what anyone thought, she was making a good time of her cardio session, and that’s what it’s all about, you need to try new things and find what works for you.
[Update: I did an hour of fast paced walking at an incline on the treadmill, burned around 600 calories, and thankfully did not fall off while trying to type out this article on my phone.]
Have your own tips or tricks to make a more interesting cardio session? Tell us about them in the comments below.