Make Cardio Fun – Break Fitness Plateaus and Enjoy Workouts

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You run, bike, jog, do water aerobics or put in hours on the elliptical machine and now you are starting to feel like you are in a cardio rut. Maybe you’ve reached a fitness plateau and just can’t seem to take your cardio to the next level. Your workout shouldn’t be boring. Add some fun to your cardio workout to keep your interest and continue to enjoy the benefits of heart healthy cardiovascular exercise. Cardio, also called aerobic exercise, is endurance exercise. Cardio is intense enough to make you sweat, cause your heart to pound and make you breathe heavily. Cardio exercise increases the oxygen levels in your blood and improves the efficiency of your entire cardiovascular system. The more you train, the greater your endurance and performance. Any exercise that uses your large muscle groups and makes you sweat is a cardio workout. Strive to get at least 150 minutes of moderate cardio exercise every week (30 minutes a day, 5 days per week).

Do Things You Enjoy
Select cardio activities that you enjoy doing to help prevent boredom and keep the fun in your exercise routine. If you enjoy riding a bicycle on weekends, why not try out the stationary bike at the gym? Give that recumbent stationary bike a try, too. When the treadmill seems monotonous, take your aerobic walk outside and enjoy a brisk walk outdoors. For a real challenge, find a place where you have to walk uphill for the first half of your walk. You can change up your treadmill routine and do interval training by increasing the incline, speeding up and slowing down your workout. Instead of merely counting 1, 2, 3, 4 repetitions of each step during aerobics, play your favorite music while working out to keep you motivated and keep you moving. Cardio isn’t just working out on a treadmill or running for 30 minutes every day. Any physical activity that increases your respiration, heart rate and makes you sweat is cardio exercise. Play tennis with a friend or take the kids for a game basketball in the park. Tossing and chasing a ball with the kids or your dog can be fun and a good cardio workout. Mowing your lawn and raking leaves is also cardio if you sweat and your heart rate is elevated.

Cardio with Friends
Recruit one or more friends to join you in your daily cardio workout. You can keep each other motivated and engage in a little friendly competition. You and your cardio pals can push each other to go farther, faster, longer and harder during your workout. You’ll all benefit from the workout by becoming more fit and strengthening your bond as friends. Enter into a friendly competition with friends, such as a short 5K walk or run for charity. Make it a habit to meet your friends at the gym every other day and then enjoy a low-fat frozen yogurt or other healthy treat after your workout. Invite your friends to join you in a water aerobics class or go swimming with you every weekend. Take a kickboxing or Taebo class with your best friend. You’ll both get a great cardio workout while learning some self defense moves. You and your best buddy at work can take a brisk walk in the afternoon after lunch every day or during your breaks. When you workout with friends, the time seems to go by much faster because you enjoy spending time with them.

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Circuit and Interval Training
It’s easy to become bored and get into a fitness rut if you do the same exercise routine day after day. Mix it up and bring some excitement to your workout with interval and circuit training. Interval training, also called HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), consists of short bursts of vigorous cardio followed by a rest period of lighter cardio exercise. You can get all of the benefits of a full 30 minutes of cardio in less time when you do interval training. You’ll burn more fat in less time, too. If you like to run, then sprint as fast as you can for 2 to 3 minutes and then slow down for 1 minute. Sprint again and then slow down again. Set the treadmill for interval training by increasing and decreasing the speed and incline for your workout.

Don’t do the same exercise routine every day. Try different types of exercise to work different muscle groups and keep boredom away. Circuit training a couple of days each week will work your whole body and make your exercise routine more fun. You can do circuit training at home or in the gym. Some ideas might be to do some intense jumping jacks for 5 minutes and then doing some step aerobics for 5 minutes. Follow step aerobics by jumping rope and then mix it up with some intense bodyweight exercises, such as push-ups, squats and lunges. Grab a medicine ball or a gallon of milk and do some Russian twists. Your personal trainer at the gym can help you design a cardio circuit routine that moves you from one machine to the next in rapid succession. Rest for about 1 minute between each type of exercise to catch your breath, and then move right to the next exercise.

Get The Most Out of Your Cardio Workout
Exercise in the morning before breakfast or in the evening before dinner and at least 2 hours after your last meal. When you exercise on an empty stomach, your body uses stored carbohydrates and fat for energy, thereby burning body fat. Keep your workout between 20 minutes and 40 minutes to avoid undertraining and overtraining. Add a strength training element to your cardio workout to increase muscle mass as you burn fat. Push-ups strengthen your upper body, crunches work your abs and squats strengthen your hips and lower body. Add dumbbells to your workout to increase the intensity and help strengthen your arms as you jog, run or use a stair climber or treadmill machine. Try out new machines at your gym. If you normally use the elliptical or stair stepper, why not give that rowing machine a try?

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About Author

Robin Reichert

I'm an AFPA certified personal trainer, AFPA certified nutrition consultant, NASM certified youth exercise specialist, online fitness coach and freelance writer specializing in health and fitness. I hold a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from the University of San Francisco and a Master of Science in natural health. I'm also an active member of the world's largest association for fitness and wellness professionals. See my profile page for more information!

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