5 Ways to Improve Your Cardio
Cardio. The “c” word. We love to hate it. Why? It’s hard and boring. The thing is, it doesn’t have to be boring! So many people fall into the trap of thinking that in order to do cardio you have to go to the gym and mindlessly walk up stairs or jog on the treadmill until your lungs are screaming and your legs are jello. Sound familiar?
The purpose of cardio isn’t to bore you to tears, or torture you for 30 minutes a day. The purpose is to elevate your heart and respiratory rate so that you are able to reap the benefits of regularly doing cardiovascular activity, which include but are not limited to: reduction in body fat, lower blood pressure, healthier cholesterol levels, increased mood, reduced risk of heart attack and stroke, and improved respiratory function/health.
Chances are if you’re reading this, you knew at least some (or maybe all) of the benefits of cardio, so why aren’t you doing enough cardio, or any at all? Chances are it’s because traditional cardio is difficult and has little to no enjoyment factor. At least when you’re lifting weights you get a great pump, am I right?
All jokes aside, I’ve seen people achieve some of their best results, and create the most sustainable cardio regiments, by incorporating things that provide some kind of enjoyment or challenge.
Check out these 5 sure-fire ways to improve your cardio and make it fun!
1. Get Outside?
Conditions permitting, try to go outside for your cardio! This opens up a world of possibilities that include jogging, biking, kayaking, hiking, rollerblading, and more! Remember, the goal of your cardio activity is to elevate your heart rate and respiratory rate, so as long as your chosen activity adequately raises those two measurably, more power to you! As an added bonus, if you don’t drive to your outdoor activity, you’ll clock extra cardio time, and save time and money by not having to drive to and from the gym to do indoor cardio.
2. Play a Game?
A great way to significantly increase the “fun” factor of your cardio is to play games/challenge yourself. Can you hit 2000 steps in 30 minutes on the stair mill? How about a mile in under 8 minutes on the treadmill? How long can you jump rope without stopping? By finding a way to set challenging goals for yourself while you’re doing your cardio, you’ll keep things more interesting and rewarding while simultaneously pushing yourself every session.
3. Watch/Listen to a Cardio Series
Enjoy watching T.V. series? Are you a big podcast person? Put that to work for you! Find a T.V. show that has 20-30 minute episodes (45 if you’re feeling frisky) and commit to only watching the show while you’re doing cardio! The better your show gets, the more positive incentive you have to do your cardio! Same thing goes with podcasts if you’d rather listen than watch. Find a podcast you like, and commit to only listening while doing your cardio. I’ve found that listening intently to the spoken word while doing cardio really drowns out cardio pains!
4. Give Circuit Training a Try
Remember, the purpose of cardio is to elevate your heart and respiratory rate, and there are no rules about how you do that! That being said, why not kill a couple of birds with one stone and incorporate circuit based cardio with weight training movements that address your focus areas! Want a tighter waist and toned glutes? Do a circuit that involves a lot of squat variations and abdominal work! Looking to build your calves and shoulders? Jumping rope and doing pushups will not only have your heart rate and respiratory rate through the roof; your shoulders and chest will be on fire too! Just make sure that the circuit you design is intense enough to keep your heart rate appropriately elevated the whole time.
5. Get Wet
One often-overlooked option for cardio involves utilizing the pool! Swimming and/or treading water is not only very cardio-intensive exercise, but it also has a couple of attributes that are unique to the pool. First, is that it is zero impact on your joints, meaning it’s a great option for those that have problem joints, or if you’re just feeling a little beat up and under-recovered from your normal exercise protocol. Swimming and/or treading water is also one of the few forms of cardio that is as taxing on your upper body as it is on your lower body, especially the shoulders and chest. This makes it a great cardio option for those trying to improve those body parts as well. Don’t believe me? Go look at how developed Olympic swimmers’ chest and shoulders are!
Now that you’re armed with some options to make your cardio more interesting and fun, I want to challenge you to really commit to reaching your cardio training goals for just two weeks, and then take stock of how you feel. I can guarantee you’ll feel higher energy levels, a clearer mind, and an overall better feeling body!
About the Author
Hunter Labrada is the 2018 NPC Nationals Champion and an IFBB Pro Bodybuilder. He is also 2018 NPC Jr. Nationals Champion and was voted 2016 NPC Texas Athlete of the Year. Hunter is a certified personal trainer and fitness expert who has been featured in Bodybuilding.com, and in Flex, Ironman, and Muscular Development magazines. For more on Hunter, follow him on Instagram and visit www.hunterlabrada.com.