Cardio For People Who Hate Cardio

As the weather starts to change this time of year, it will become more and more difficult for people, not just my clients, to keep up any degree of moderate activity.

Around our area (northeast Ohio), there are hiking and biking trails galore and, pandemic notwithstanding, the opportunity for 5Ks, half marathons, and marathons for well over half the year.

I, myself, average over 15,000 steps a day during a normal workday at RevFit. While I have the build of a runner, I do not run. I hate running. And, to be quite fair, one thing I don’t really need to do is cardio for fat loss.

However, I am not the norm. Most of my clients don’t get 15,000 steps a day and, again due to that damn virus, many people have almost been forced to be more sedentary than normal.

Because I train a wide range of clientele (ages, genders, goals, and preferences), I know that some people not only love their cardio work, they never have an issue getting their mileage or time in.

This article is for the people who, at least in terms of preference, are like me: they don’t like cardio one bit. I’ll say that these strategies might not help you find a love for cardio, but…maybe you’ll hate it marginally less.

Let me get one major thing out of the way first: You do NOT need to do cardiovascular activity for fat loss. Can it help? Yes. Is it the most effective and efficient way to lose weight? No. That will come from your dietary intake.

That being said, if you are already not working with a large amount of calories for weight loss purposes (Hi, ladies, I’m talking to you) then you may need to have some more cardio in the mix to help.

Please don’t read what I’m not writing. We live in a nation that has little to no concept of moderation. Some cardio, good. Hours and hours of self-flagellation on a treadmill or HIIT class, not so good.

What I’ve found over the years is that many clients love to watch a good TV show. Now, with more options available than ever on regular television or your streaming platform of choice, you can kill two birds with one stone, in a sense.

I’ll use some of these examples, fresh from a conversation with one of my online clients, Tammy B.

Tammy records “General Hospital” and likes to watch the episode(s) when she has time around her work schedule. She has an exercise bike that affords her the convenience of equipment she can utilize in the comforts of her own home. Since the bike is somewhat portable, she can move it in the room where she watches her show of choice.

In Tammy’s case, the first obstacle has just been to actually get the time in. I gave her these three options to start and progress with.

Ride the bike during the commercial breaks. This gives her just a couple of minutes of riding time and then she gets to sit down and recover during the actual showtime. If the show is an hour long, let’s assume she gets approximately 15 minutes of riding time in an hour span with approximately 45 minutes of recovery. We’re not aiming for speed, necessarily, we’re aiming for consistency.

Ride the bike during showtime. This option is a progression once she feels she can tackle the commercial times and wants to ramp it up. Now, she can flip the cardio option around and only ride the bike while the show is on, using the commercial time as recovery. She may not be able to complete all of these intervals initially, but even if she gets halfway through, she’s already put in more time than she would have if she had stuck to the commercial breaks.

Ride with 1:1 ratios. Tammy gets to be creative with this one. One way to do it, is to shoot for 10 minutes of riding time with 10 minutes of recovery time. If the show is an hour long, that’s 30 minutes of time with ample recovery in between. This can be a good variation to work with if she isn’t quite ready to be riding with the aforementioned intervals of showtime (which would put her at roughly 45 minutes of riding time). Using the same pattern, she could do 15 minutes on and 15 minutes off as well. Or, another option would be 5 minutes on and 5 minutes off.

In your case, if your conditioning isn’t a concern and you don’t find yourself challenged with the three options above, you can always just aim for a straight session of work equal to the length of the episode.

While I certainly don’t discourage anyone from watching a show they enjoy, it’s easy to get lost in 2-3 hours of sitting time and not find the motivation to start some activity. This way, you reward your cardio efforts with some entertainment and can still get the steps/strides in.

A caveat for the folks who aren’t training for a specific event is two-fold: it is painfully difficult to get an accurate amount of calories burned for your activity. While something is better than nothing, even the trackers available on the market can have wild variations of showing expenditure. In addition, many people find that an increase in cardiovascular work also significantly increases their hunger. This can be a real bear to deal with when you’re dieting for fat loss.

However, traditional cardio (elliptical, treadmill, rower, bike) is not the only option available to you. Prior to COVID, we would sometimes train clients with density workouts. These are strength based routines set to time. We would set a timer for 20 minutes and aim for as many rounds as possible within the time frame.

A sample workout might look something like this:

Bodyweight or Goblet Squats (10 reps)

Hip Thrusts (15 reps)

Push-Ups (10 reps)

Lateral Lunges (8 reps each side)

Dumbbell Push Press (10 reps)

Plank (30s)

Work the routine from top to bottom and then repeat. If you’re using weights, start light. It’s not uncommon to get through as many as 6-8 rounds within 20 minutes. That’s a considerable amount of volume.

These options are by no means exhaustive. You can find ways to spice up your routine with jumping jacks, kettlebell swings, high knees, battle ropes, etc. assuming that you have access to the equipment you might need.

The goal, as always, is just to get more exercise in than you might normally and to do it in as sane a way as possible. Intensity can only take you so far and none of us are getting younger (I’m certainly not), which can be that irritating reminder that our joints don’t necessarily like all the jumping and pounding we do on them.

As you’ll see below, even Coach Sebastian finds a way to get some extra steps in.

“We Make Great People Greater”

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