Cardio doesn’t have to be boring!

Let’s be honest. When you say the word ‘cardio’ to the average gym goer, we immediately think of pounding away on the treadmill for half an hour or checking Facebook whilst ticking over on the cross trainer.

It doesn’t have to be like that!

For a good cardiovascular workout, the main goal is to get your heart rate up and get a good sweat on. With a little imagination there are so many different ways to burn some calories and, whisper it quietly, but you might even have a lot of fun doing them.

My preference is to do things that are more taxing than your average treadmill jog. Personally, I find that working at the higher intensity feels more effective and also it’s doing the same job in half the time, which can’t be a bad thing. There are literally hundreds of perfectly good suggestions we could throw around here, but to give you a few ideas, here are some of my favourites:

Sprints

Pick a reasonable distance (30–40m usually works well I find). Sprint flat out from one end to the other. Get your rest by walking back slowly to the starting point. Try eight or ten sprints through and see how you get on from there.

If you want to make it tougher, rather than lengthening the sprint I’d recommend finding a good hill and doing the same 30–40m dash up the slope then walking back down.

Prowler/sled work

You may have seen these in your gym, they’re very popular. Set up a little course like for your sprints above and then decide either to push or pull the dead weight of the sled with you. Get your rest and then bring it back to the starting point.

If you can get to the stage where you’re pushing a heavy prowler uphill then you deserve a LOT of credit and you’ll be the fittest, most explosive guy/girl in town!

Loaded carries

Farmer walks, sandbag carries, yoke walks. Whatever the object is isn’t really important. Pick up something heavy and carry it as far as you can, take a brief rest and pick it up and go again. It can be quite humbling and as an added bonus, it will also do wonders for your grip strength.

Barbell complexes

Ok, here’s the plan. Pick a logical sequence of exercises, set up a barbell with an appropriate weight, set your timer and get working. Here’s an example of one of my favourites:

5 deadlifts

5 power cleans

5 front squats

5 over head presses

5 back squats

5 good mornings

Complete that through without stopping, give yourself a set rest period (maybe 90 seconds to start, but you can decrease this over time as you get used to it), then go again. A few rounds of that will definitely get the blood pumping. Be careful not to rush the movements themselves though, don’t time your actual set and try to do it more quickly. It’s more important to make sure your form doesn’t break down and as such I’d suggest only timing the rest periods.

Bodyweight challenges

Again, the internet has hundreds of examples of challenges like these. To give you my favourite, I like to pick four exercises such as press ups, pull ups, bodyweight squats and burpees and assign one to each of the four playing card suits. So if I’ve given ‘hearts’ to press ups for instance, then turning over the eight of hearts means that I have to do eight press ups.

To start with, make the aces one rep and all the picture cards ten reps — that will be tough enough and works out at 85 reps of each exercise if you work your way through the whole deck with the jokers taken out.

Shoot for below ten minutes to complete the entire deck, and then you can add in jokers, make the picture cards worth more, or just keep trying to beat your time!

Take up a sport

Remember how you loved playing football but packed it in? Get back into it with a game of 5-a-side here and there. You used to cycle or swim? Whatever it is you’re into, find space for it in your week and make it happen.

Sign up for an exercise class

Whatever your gym offers, whatever you fancy, just get moving. Spin? Body pump? Body combat? It doesn’t really matter as long as you get active. These classes can definitely have a place in a good routine.

If none of the above are filling you full of enthusiasm and you’re happy with a walk or a cycle, my suggestion would be to mix it up a bit where possible. I once spoke to a lady who was paying £35pm to drive to the gym, walk on the treadmill for 30 minutes and then drive home again. Now, I think it’s brilliant that she was making an effort to improve her fitness and body composition, but why not save the money and just go outside for a walk instead? You can take different routes each time to keep it interesting and you’ll also get some fresh air as well.

Whatever it is you choose to do for cardio isn’t really important as long as it’s challenging and you don’t hate it, but hopefully the suggestions in this article have given you a few new ideas to make your next cardio session a little more interesting.

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