Ditching the Dreadmill

Cardio for those who hate to do cardio

There are many reasons why people hate to do cardio. I’ve heard them all, and I even have a couple of reasons for why I don’t like doing cardio. I certainly don’t hate doing cardio; it’s just time-consuming and a bit boring. To some people, the thought of getting on a treadmill, elliptical or lifecycle is like hearing a faucet leak throughout an entire night.

I usually do traditional cardio once or twice per week, for about 12 to 20 minutes; I will even do a 30-minute session every few weeks, but I also may skip traditional cardio for a week or two at a time. But knowing the health benefits and importance of getting exercise for your heart and lungs (cardiovascular exercise) by elevating your heart rate has made me seek alternative ways to get my cardio in without the boring, monotonous feeling of a treadmill, and without taking up a bunch of my valuable time.

The key to getting the greatest benefits for your heart and lungs is to have your heart rate elevated between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR) for at least 30 continuous minutes; then to do this three to four times per week. So if you play pick-up basketball or tennis at the health club, and consider this to be your cardio, you’re out of luck. There are too many pauses where your rate goes way below 60% of your MHR, especially if your team loses a lot. That’s not to say there aren’t health benefits from playing those sports, it’s just not the most beneficial form of cardio, and does little for burning fat. You truly need to keep your heart rate elevated on a continuous basis for at least 30 minutes.

Here are some tips for getting 30-plus minutes of cardio, plus building muscle, and saving time.

Do strength-training exercises that require multiple large muscle groups, balance, and combined movements. They tend to raise your heart rate more, and keep it elevated, by demanding more blood (nutrients) and oxygen (energy). A few examples are a Squat + Shoulder Press; a Lunge + Torso Rotation with a medicine ball: and a Single-Leg Dead-lift + Bicep Curl (see video).

There are literally hundreds of exercises and combinations you can do, and you can do them individually, as super-sets (one exercise, followed immediately by another, then rest); tri-sets (three consecutive exercises, then rest); or circuit training (4 or more exercises in a row, then rest). Regardless of the format you choose, the critical factor is to monitor your heart rate, so that it doesn’t go below 60 percent of your MHR.

I strongly recommend exercising with a Heart Rate Monitor (Polar or Ecko; $50 - $99). It will make your workouts more interesting and keep you on track to build muscle and burn fat.

If your goal is to burn extra fat, do about 12 to 20 minutes of traditional cardio immediately after your strength-training session. You will use stored fat for energy, since you will have depleted your glycogen (sugar) stores during the strength-training portion of your workout. Additionally, you can add 15 to 20 second, high intensity intervals every three to four minutes for even more fat burning and added health benefits. Remember, intervals are for more experienced exercisers, so if you’re just starting out, skip them for a while until you’re comfortable with the duration of the workouts.

So there you have it. Even if you hate cardio, you can still get it in, without ever feeling like you really did cardio, and with the pleasure of never needing to get on a treadmill.

Disclaimer: Please consult with your doctor or Physician before starting a new exercise program or changing your current one.

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