If you’re anything like me, you dread doing cardio. My primary focus when I hit the gym is to lift weights, focussing on progressive overload to improve my body composition. However, cardio has many proven health benefits, and so it should form part of any exercise routine.
To help make cardio more exciting, try one or more of these tips.
Find a Gym Buddy or Running Partner
Since I found a gym buddy, my workouts have improved. In the past, I would have stopped lifting weights at rep eight or nine, yet with the extra encouragement, I find the energy for another one or two reps, at least.
The motivational benefits of a gym partner are not confined to weight lifting sessions. When on a run, it is easy to slow down or stop to check your phone whenever you like. However, when you’re with a running partner doesn’t keep stopping or slowing down, you’ll find you get more out of your workout.
If your partner is more advanced than you, you should view this as a good thing. Having been where you are, they are likely to empathise and help you get through a work out that might have seemed too much without their help.
Set Targets to Beat
The best way to progress in fitness is to track your results and aim to improve on them. Once you set a new record, look to beat it next time; after all, who doesn’t like beating a personal best? Not me, that’s for sure!
If you’re not tracking your results, you run the risk of spinning your wheels. If you’re hitting the gym with a set pace and set time to work to, you simply won’t progress. In addition, your body will become accustomed to this form of stimulation and your overall metabolic response will be muted.
Look to increase your speed, reps or distance for an exercise, or reduce the time it takes to complete. This way, you are always challenging your body and forcing it to improve. It is also important to remember that progress is not linear: beating your personal best week in, week out is not how it works, and even if it starts out like that, you will eventually plateau.
Throw in Some HIIT
Following on from the previous point, if your cardio workout consists of steady-state exercises, you might want to try throwing in some high-intensity interval training (HIIT). While steady-state does exactly what it says on the tin (keeps heart-rate and oxygen consumption steady), HIIT training takes your heart rate and oxygen intake to another level.
Typically, a HIIT session will last between five and 45 minutes, but don’t worry, you won’t be at high-intensity for the entire duration! The high-intensity part of the exercise, which generally lasts 20 to 90 seconds, is broken up by rest periods. These rest periods are essential to allow for recovery.
When you first start out, you might opt for a work/rest ratio of 1:2. Basically, this means if you’re going all-out for 30 seconds, you will rest for 60 seconds. As your endurance improves, you can reduce the ratio to 1:1.5 and then down to 1:1.
In all fairness, I’ve not met many people who enjoy HIIT training. When I say “enjoy” I mean actively look forward to it. This makes it the perfect form of exercise for those wanting to keep fit but don’t have time.
Upgrade your Cardio Equipment
If you’re happy plodding along on the exercise bike or treadmill but fancy a change of scenery, you’ll be pleased to hear that you can. Exercise equipment manufacturers are always looking for ways to improve their products and outdo their competitors, and the resulting devices are very impressive.
It is now possible to select HD locations from around the world to run or cycle. The detail is perfect, and some equipment even allows you to broadcast the locations to your television, rather than rely on the treadmill or exercise bike monitor. If you want to find out more, you can check out this exercise bike guide to find out what features you should be looking for.
At the end of the day, cardio doesn’t have to be boring: simply set targets and goals, find a gym buddy, throw in some HIIT sessions and upgrade your equipment for a more satisfying experience. The health benefits of cardio are undeniable, so anything that makes your sessions more enjoyable must be a good thing.