Is it true? Yes.
We’ve been conditioned to believe that treadmill running is one of the best and few cardio options while at the gym. The paradigm makes sense, it’s easy and uncomplicated to run a couple miles at the gym and call it day. There is no denying that running can be a great workout; however, I’d argue that deferring to the treadmill has created a significant barrier between you and your fitness goals.
The reason being is that it inhibits creating a routine. Cardio becomes a source of uninspired obligation, which naturally leads to a lack of motivation and ultimately inconsistent workouts. In other words, the key to a sustainable and enjoyable fitness lifestyle is finding workouts that are stimulating enough to create a positive habit.
Therefore, to help guide you towards a path of health and fitness consistency, here are some of my favorite treadmill alternatives:
Boxing is the perfect intersection between cardio and strength development. Boxing, for me, works on many levels:
- The technique required to defend yourself and throw punches is incredibly challenging and requires precision focus. The combination presents an engaging opportunity to work on something new each session.
- Boxing recruits both big and small muscles which can get your lats, obliques, shoulders, forearms, and calves all ripped. The repetitive force created by punching combinations and resistance of heavy bags/mits/etc. offer you an awesome all-in-one workout.
Although you can practice on your own, my recommendation is to find a trainer or class until you have the basic technique. Once you feel confident with multiple combos, defensive posture, and footwork, you can workout on your own.
I trained privately for two years and became addicted to the training. I now incorporate boxing workout into my regular workout schedule.
Here is a sample workout you can do:
When I say HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training), I recommend it as more of a workout philosophy. For me, the workout style originated from football. I was fortunate enough to train with some incredible mentors who played NFL and served in the Marine corps. They both preached that you should practice/train like you play (arguably a great overall life philosophy). For example, all my workouts would be shaped around a typical football series. tl;dr for a football play: exert maximum energy for (~15 seconds), rest (~15-30 seconds) and repeat. Therefore, weight training under this cadence effectively prepares you for the physical exertion (cardio/strength recovery) required for a 60-minute game.
Now, most of you are not training to play football, but there is a lot to take away from this concept, similarly to HITFIT. Meaning, by maintaining a consistent pace with calculated breaks, you can get the similar effects of running on the treadmill while weight lifting.
Of course, traditional HITFIT doesn’t have as many breaks as I typically include, but that’s because I incorporate conventional Olympic lifts (bench, squat, power clean). When I don’t do one of those lifts, I will adapt.
Here are some general rules to follow:
- Make all your workouts circuits (see example below)
- Each set should only have rest time to allow you to the next movement (~45-60 seconds max)
- In between sets, you can take a more extended rest (~60-120 seconds) and enough time for a short water break.
- Always include at least 1 dynamic movement in each workout group as it ensures that you maintain cardio heart rate levels.
Here is an example workout:
Group Fitness Class
Fitness classes are often an effective way to get the most “cardio” out of a workout. Of course, it does come at a price premium. I think between the actual workout and the community around the class, it’s a great option.
There are countless options available to those interested, and I won’t go into detail of which to choose (you can find that here), but I will share some things to consider when selecting a class.
- Consider the instructor – The biggest reason why people consistently take fitness classes is that they have a favorite instructor. The instructor serves as your fitness muse as they curate your workout, inspire (hopefully), and also play DJ, thus have a considerable impact on how you feel about the class and if you get the most out of it.
- Consider your fitness level – I don’t want to dissuade anyone from taking a class, but if you are rehabbing from an injury or just beginning your fitness journey, I’d recommend starting with a personal trainer before a group class. The reason is that these classes often assume your fitness level is relatively high and that you are comfortable with the various techniques and forms (if not, that’s why you sign a waiver). The most significant deterrent to fitness longevity and cardio is an injury, and the last thing you want to do is put yourself in a position where you are practicing poor technique which leads to an injury (e.g. back, neck, groin, etc.)
- Consider your community – As the instructor is a significant factor in your satisfaction/success with a group class, so is the community you participate with. It cannot be understated, working out with others guarantees maximum effort and, more importantly, holds you accountable to show up day after day to put in the work.
Here are some of my favorite cardio equipment/movements to integrate into your everyday workout to ensure cardio like heart rate
The fan bike is a great machine for an end-of-workout cardio burnout. In 20 seconds, you can burn ~20 calories, so the bike offers a high return of results in a concise amount of time. I like the following burnout after my boxing workout:
- 4×15 calories
- 4×20 pushups
- No rest
Jump rope is one of the easiest movements to improve your workout. Buy a jump rope and add this superset in your circuit:
- Single leg (60 seconds – 30 each leg)
- High knees (60 seconds)
- Double unders (60 seconds)
- Speed (60 seconds)
Battle ropes are another great workout finisher, but I know they intimidate a lot of people because they are loud. Step out of your comfort zone and do the following workout:
- Drummers 3×30 reps
- Slams 3×15 reps
- Side turners 3×10 reps
- Slam + Burpees 3×10 reps
Like jump rope, the rowing machine is a great movement to integrate in your pre-existing workout to maintain a high heart-rate.
Here is an example workout:
- Kettlebell Swings 3×20
- High Plank Shoulder Taps 3×30
- Dumbbell Rows 3×30
- Row Machine 3x250M
Additionally, here is my own graph depicting Effort vs Time graph associated with each of the movements discussed. Conceptualizing workouts like this helps me create my workouts for the week as I try to complement each movement with effort and time.
It’s understandable as to why so many people rely on the treadmill for their cardio – it’s simple and easy to do. However, that same reason can be attributed as to why people have inconsistent workout routines.
Working out doesn’t need to be an obligation and can actually be a lot of fun. The sooner you push your fitness boundaries, the more likely you will see results. Hopefully, these workouts can inspire you to rethink your approach to cardio and workout routine.
What are you waiting for?
If interested in your own personal workout plan, please contact me here.