Changing up your cardio routine is vital to staying motivated and keeping your fitness and weight loss goals within reach. You should change up your cardio routine on a frequent basis, at a minimum of every four to six weeks. Here are some ways you can spice up your routine with high intensity interval training (HIIT).
Start Using Intervals and Tempo Work
For speed intervals, you can increase your speed to a challenging level for a set amount of time. Change up the intervals as often as possible. Play with speeds and length of time for each set. Some ideas:
- Equal time ratios. One minute hard, One minute easy. (Try the same with two minutes, three minutes, or reduce the time to 45 or 30 seconds of each work-to-rest ratio.)
- Equal distance ratios. One mile hard (FAST), one mile easy, repeat. You can choose any distance you like. A quarter-mile is a great starting point, and work your way up from there.
- Tempo Oreos. The good stuff is in the middle. Start easy, and increase your speed in the middle of your workout. Hold it there for as long as you can manage and take it back down. An example: 10 minutes warm up, 20 minutes tempo push, 10 minutes easy/cool down.
- Pyramids. Increase the amount of time of distance for each speed drill. An example: warm up for five minutes, increase your speed by 1.0 miles per hour, slow it down to your original pace, increase it by 2.0 miles per hour, slow down to original pace, increase 3.0 miles per hour, back to original pace, increase 3.5 miles per hour, back to original pace, 3.0 up, original, 2.0 up, original, cool down.
- Hills. By varying the incline of your walking or running workout, you not only add additional stressors, but also utilize different leg and core muscles. When you add the incline, it’s important to remember that you’re simulating an outdoor workout. When we’re outside walking or running, we wouldn’t be holding onto cacti or shrubbery, so you probably should avoid holding onto the handrails. Not only will you burn 30% fewer calories, but you’ll be training yourself to walk or run inefficiently. To assist your climb up the hill, focus on engaging your core muscles and very slightly hinge forward from your hips. Endeavor to maintain a neutral spine position and avoid letting your shoulders creep up as the incline increases.
Dance Your Way to Fitness with Musical Cardio
This is my all-time favorite cardio trick, but the #1 necessity is a killer playlist. Find a playlist that pumps you up, and be sure to include a mix of slower and faster songs. During the slow songs, visualize them as hills and chances to use hill challenges. Increase the resistance according to the music, or play fun games, like for every time the artist repeats a word, add resistance. (You’ll hate that word by the time the song is over!) Use up-tempo songs for speed. During each fast-paced chorus, crank up your speed and use it as a sprint. Recover during the verses.
Use Your Entire Body
The most effective cardio methods are ones with functional purposes—and exercises that utilize your entire body: upper, lower, and core. If you want to get an efficient and quick workout, you need to challenge yourself. I think the best options are running/walking, jump roping, rowing, plyometrica, and functional cardio, including calisthenics.
Put the Magazine, eReader, Tablet, Smartphone, Everything Away
I’m sorry to say it, and I love reading on cardio equipment just as much as anyone, but if you’re short on time and want a quick workout, you need to focus and put the reading away. While it’s an enjoyable way to pass the time, when you can read or focus on something else entirely, you’re not giving 100% to your workout. Of course, reading on the treadmill is a thousand times better than not going to the gym at all, but if you’re looking for results and don’t have a ton of time (to waste), you need to challenge yourself. Remember: no challenge, no change.
If you’re looking for a distraction during your workout, use a crazy awesome playlist instead. Audiobooks are also fun for longer, steady-state cardio, but I don’t find them to be as motivating for killer short-duration workouts. Find out what pushes your workout buttons, and put the distractions away.