You have another cardio session lined up and ready to go, and you are dreading it. You feel like you’ve been there, done that – about five hundred times over. If you head straight to a piece of cardio equipment at the gym, hop on, and you know the drill from there, then it’s no surprise that you are bored silly.
Cardio can be annoying if you put no creativity into it. But put just a little bit of creativity into your cardio routine, and you’ll be fairing much better.
What you do need to stop and consider in the first place is how much cardio you need to be doing. Many women get caught up in the notion that they need to be doing hours and hours of cardio each week, but this isn’t correct. Cardio is simply a vehicle to increase your calorie burn. You can use other methods of training to accomplish the same task and don’t forget the fact that if you prefer not to do cardio, you could cut back on your calorie intake and achieve the same goal.
This said, cardio does have other benefits such as boosting your cardiovascular health and lowering stress, so there are bonuses to doing it, but there are many ways to reap these same benefits that don’t involve spending a good 30-60 minutes on a single machine making a repetitive movement pattern.
So first you might want to decide just how much time and effort you want to devote to cardio training in the first place and cut back on that. If you can cut back, you’ll immediately find that cardio does get less annoying going forward because you’re only spending less time doing it.
This said, let’s now take some time to go over a few methods you can use to make cardio less annoying, so you might even look forward to the next session rather than dread it (a novel concept, right?!?).
Perhaps the simplest and most common way of shaking up your cardio routine is adding interval training. Interval training helps make cardio less boring by working in two different manners. First, it helps to shorten the duration of the cardio session.
Since you’ll be working far harder when doing this workout with intervals, you can’t exercise for long. If you used to do a cardio session that took an hour to complete, once you add interval training into the mix, you might find that you are now just doing a 20-25 minute session. You’re in and out, and before you know it, you’re in better shape than you’ve ever been.
As an added benefit, when you add intervals, you’ll also be constantly changing the pace back and forth, so this helps to add more interest to the cardio session, breaking up the boredom as well.
When you got at one solid pace for quite some time, that’s when things get boring, and you’ll want to toss in the towel.
Interval training offers so many great benefits that stretch beyond just helping to crush boredom as well that it makes it a fantastic technique to incorporate into your routine.
When you add intervals, you’ll notice:
- Improved levels of fat-burning both during the session as well as after the workout is over1
- Greater strength, speed and power development
- Enhanced ability to withstand fatigue
- Improved focus and determination
- Better insulin sensitivity
- Lowered cholesterol levels
- Decreased resting heart rates
- Reduced stress levels
- Improved moods
- Reduced risk of cardiovascular disease2
Interval training is compelling, but at the same time, very intense as well so make sure that you prepare for what it’s going to demand of you.
Have A Mini Triathlon
Another thing you can do is have yourself a mini-triathlon. If you do prefer the steady-state cardio training that’s done at a moderate pace or perhaps you’re a beginner, and that’s all you can tolerate at this point, no problem. But do break it up.
Rather than doing a full hour on the treadmill, for instance, do 20 minutes on the elliptical, 20 minutes on the bike, and 20 minutes on the treadmill. This way, you will move from machine to machine, and each time you do, you reawaken your interest.
Plus, it will also help from progress and overtraining standpoint as well. Overuse injuries are quite familiar with cardio training because you are making the same repetitive motion over and over again. If you change it up and incorporate different modes of cardio, you won’t have to deal with this.
Likewise, because you are doing different modes of cardio training, your body will be challenged differently. This will help to ensure that you make good progress over the long term.
You don’t necessarily have to choose these three modes of cardio training either. Choose whichever three you feel works best for you.
Get A Partner
Another fun way to pump up your workout routine and make it less annoying is to get a partner to join you. Whether you want a partner there to talk to and take your mind off the exercise or you want a partner to make a mini-competition out of it – having someone by your side can help.
When selecting a workout buddy to do your cardio training, do keep a few things in mind, however. That partner should have a similar workout motivation level as you. And who should want to exercise at about the same time of the day/week as you do, and they should be at about the same fitness level as you (if possible).
This helps make coordinating your workouts a bit easier and also helps ensure that you can stay by each other’s side without a problem.
The one thing to note though is that if you are using a workout partner only for the company, chances are, you may not work quite as hard with them there as you would alone since you’ll now be talking.
It is okay if you are planning on doing low to moderate intensity cardio anyway. If your goal calls for more intense cardio training, you may want to think hard about whether you’ll get the workout you need to in using this technique.
A competition with a partner may then be a better approach as then you’ll both be motivating each other to push harder and raise that intensity level.
Sometimes you have to get out of the gym to wake your cardio routine up and do something different. Head outside and go for a jog, walk, rollerblade, bike, or otherwise. Find a fun trail in your area that you’ve never explored and let the sights help take your mind off what you are doing (training CARDIO!).
The beautiful thing about this is that because you are exploring new terrain, it can also add some additional training benefits as well. For instance, if you are a jogger who is always going on the treadmill, this is fine, but that treadmill is very predictable. It’s flat ground (possibly an incline if you make it), but still very much the same.
The road is much different and more unpredictable, so this adds a whole new level of training stimulus to the mix. It’ll wake up both your mind and body and help you see better results.
You need to head outside and find a new path every workout, but every 5-6 sessions, it may be a great idea.
Plus, the fresh air will always do you some good and having the change of scenery will also make the gym less ‘same old, same old’ when it comes time to do your lifting sessions.
If you do both cardio and weight lifting in the same place and are there five to six days per week, it’s only a matter of time before you’ll start to feel like you’re spending all your spare time in that one space.
Make It Circuit Training
Perhaps the best thing for you to do at this point is to ditch your cardio session altogether merely. Try a new form of cardio instead. For instance, line up some strength training or bodyweight exercises, lighten the load a bit and then perform a circuit based cardio workout session.
You may always be using heavy weights and lifting in the 8-10 rep range on these exercises, but they can also be effective strung together without much rest and doing 15-20 reps as well.
Don’t expect to make significant strength gains from this method. If you work hard, you will torch calories before and after the session is over while also helping to get your heart rate up and see impressive cardiovascular progress.
Because the exercises are continually changing using this model, it’s hard to feel bored. Time will pass quickly, and that cardio session will be over before you know it.
Vary Your Pace
If you aren’t quite at the place yet to do interval training, don’t fret. As a beginner, you can work your way towards that by only varying your pace. Rather than going at one steady speed or resistance on your cardio training machine for the full two hours, try doing a few different paces. Do one for five minutes, another for two minutes, and another for ten minutes. Go by how you feel.
Push yourself but don’t exhaust yourself. You want to remain comfortable but still challenged. If you do this for a while, eventually you’ll start to feel better about working at higher intensity levels, which then will mean you are ready to move forward to high-intensity interval training (HIIT) instead.
Now, I don’t typically recommend watching TV while doing cardio training as it tends to turn off the body and let your mind check out (meaning, you won’t be working so hard!), but if you have a smooth session planned anyway and are at home, why not?
A few things will help you pass the time faster than watching your favorite TV show while doing cardio, so as long as your session will permit it, go for it.
If you do have a more intense session planned, use music as entertainment. If you aren’t already listening to music while you exercise, it can be a great motivator to keep going and make your session more enjoyable.
Or, if you prefer, use the time to listen to a podcast and foster some self-growth as well. It can be an excellent way to help enrich your life while getting those workout sessions in.
Hire A Trainer
Finally, if you really can’t shake the cardio boredom issue, consider hiring a trainer to help you go through a cardio session together and have them come up with unique and fun exercises to string together to get your heart rate up.
Sometimes it takes having someone else choose the exercises you do so there is that element of surprise in the mix to shake things up.
They might use exercises that you never even thought of as well, such as using kettlebells, Bosu balls, battle ropes, and so forth, so you’ll learn some new moves while challenging your body.
It can be a great way to bust through plateaus with your training and make you hungry for your next session. Even if you hire a trainer to do some cardio with you once per week, this might be enough to get you motivated enough to do your other sessions all on your own.
So keep these tips in mind and don’t feel like you’re going to restrict yourself to boring workouts for the rest of your days. Be willing to shake it up a bit, add some creativity, and get out of your comfort zone. If you are, you’ll find that cardio can be a fun part of your workout week.
Shannon Clark holds a degree in Exercise Science from the University of Alberta, where she specialized in Sports Performance and Psychology. In addition to her degree, she is an AFLCA certified personal trainer and has been working in the field for over 15 years now, and has helped others of all ages lose weight, build muscle, and improve their physical performance. She’s been featured in Bodybuilding.com, Muscle & Strength Hers and Oxygen magazine.