“Cardio is hardio.” “My favorite kind of cardio is no cardio.” “I wish I loved cardio as much as I love literally anything else.” You get the idea. Despite regularly packed treadmills, ellipticals, and stair climbers, cardio isn’t necessarily as popular as it may seem. Long-form cardio, specifically, can seem particularly mind-numbing, especially if it’s regularly your go-to workout.
Don’t get us wrong; we certainly recognize cardio as one of the quintessential components of a well-rounded fitness routine. But sometimes we wish we could do it just a bit less. So we asked Aaptiv trainers, Ackeem Emmons and Erin Sanders, to share some tips to cut down on cardio and still get results. If you spend your sweat sessions willing the clock to spring forward, read on.
1. Redefine cardio. Our first problem with cardio is the way we think about cardio. It doesn’t have to mean logging endless miles on an elliptical or treadmill. “Most of us loathe cardio,” admits Emmons. “To work around it, we have to know what it actually is.” He explains that cardio is simply physical exercise that depends on aerobic energy — it can be low or high intensity. “You don’t have to run, sprint, or jump,” he says. “Training at a pace, rhythm, or certain intensity level can constitute as cardiovascular training.” Incorporate intervals of varying resistances and inclines into your cardio workouts to take them up a notch, cut through the boredom, and slash the time.
2. HIIT it hard. ICYMI: HIIT, or high-intensity interval training, is the easiest way to get an effective workout in a shorter amount of time. HIIT helps you get lean via different levels of intensity, allowing your body to burn both fat and calories. It’s really a full-body form of exercise, pairing short, intense movements with minimal recovery windows. All of this allows for efficient fat burn, increased endurance, and improved strength. HIIT can come in many forms: as intervals on a cardio machine, as bodyweight movements like squat jumps and burpees, or even as a method of weightlifting.
3. Pick up the weights. By now someone must’ve told you that strength training is one of the most effective and efficient ways to see results. Sanders suggests added strength-based exercises into your routine 3-4 days a week. “Incorporate strength training moves into a circuit workout so you get your heart rate up, burn calories, and build muscle as well,” she says.
Emmons seconds that and recommends creating a strength workout that’s still based in the basics of cardio and keeps that heart rate up. “Lifting heavy weights quickly is not the safest route, but staying in the gym for hours isn’t ideal either,” he says. “To lift and get my cardiovascular training in simultaneously, I simply shorten my rest period.” This ensures that you’re working toward those results in a shorter period of time.
4. Clean up your diet. The food you eat plays a huge role in your results. In fact, it plays a bigger role in weight loss than exercise. “You can train like an Olympian, but if your diet isn’t up to par, you’re not going to see results,” Emmons says. “Everyone is different and there isn’t a specific diet for everyone.” He recommends researching and trying new recipes. Always consider how a new or improved diet might fit in with your current lifestyle and settle on something that will last long-term. And, of course, don’t be too strict with yourself. “It’s easy to get caught up with the little mistakes or guilty pleasures,” he says. “It’s not what you do all of the time; it’s what you do most of the time.”
(Photos via Getty)