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When you hate running: Other ways to get cardio in

February 5, 2021 katiegibbas

When you hate running: Other ways to get cardio in

February 5, 2021 Katie Gibas

Whether you’re a beginner just starting to workout or an advanced athlete, there are plenty of options to get in different types of cardio at home or close by.


What you need to know:

  • The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise every week, or 30 minutes 5 days a week.
  • Start small and build up.
  • High-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts are a great alternative to running while building strength at the same time.

Let’s face it: running isn’t for everyone. And even people who do run don’t like it. A recent study by Strava, an exercise tracking app, of 25,000 of its users asked why they run, and only 8% said they loved running. That’s right, 8% of people who run and use this app say they love it! Half of the respondents said they tolerate or hate running, and 63% said their favorite part is the finish line. They call it the Runner’s Paradox: people hate running but love how they feel after.

“Running is a great exercise but it is not for everyone. Don’t be afraid of exercising just because you aren’t an elite runner. You can still be active even if you’re not at that level,” says Kristy Smorol, communications director for the American Heart Association. “You can get moving, you can get active really without much equipment. If you have sneakers, you can go for a walk.”

150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week

The American Heart Association recommends 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise per week, or about 30 minutes 5 days a week. “When you are snow shoveling, that is cardio exercise. When you’re cleaning the house, put some elbow grease into it and that’s cardio exercise. Anything that gets your heart rate up is cardio,” says Smorol. If you’re trying to gauge your activity’s intensity level, here are some things to consider:

  • If you can talk AND sing, you’re probably exercising at a low-intensity level.
  • If you can comfortably talk, but NOT sing, you’re probably exercising at a moderate intensity level.
  • If you have trouble talking and CANNOT sing, you’re probably exercising at a high-intensity level.

“We really want you to get your heartbeat going. That’s what’s going to strengthen your heart,” says Smorol. “Getting your cardio exercise is really important for your heart health because it can impact so many of the important numbers you need to pay attention to. It can help lower your blood pressure, cholesterol and BMI. All of these things impact your heart health.”

If running just isn’t for you, let’s check out some other ways to get your cardio in.

My favorite part about Western New York is there are great outdoor cardio options year-round

Whether it’s biking, kayaking or roller blading in the summer or skiing, ice skating and snowshoeing (or walking up the sledding hill) in the winter, there’s something for everyone. If you have a bit of snow, you can check out some of these places around the area for outdoor fun (make sure to call ahead to see if there are COVID restrictions). If you are new to any these activities, there are plenty of options for lessons and rentals.

If those still don’t sound like something you want to try, there are plenty of cardio options in and around your own home with little to no equipment. If you want to have a little fun with it, “Take 10 minutes in the morning to have a dance party before you get ready for work. On your lunch break, take a 10-minute walk, and then maybe after dinner, you have another dance party or you have to walk the dog or you’re cleaning the house and get really into vacuuming, that’s 30 minutes of exercise in a day and you’ve met your goal right there,” says Smorol.

Start small and build up so you don’t get frustrated

Staying motivated can be tough, so choose something that you want and like to do. “You can do the exercise level that works for you. If you like to walk, do that. That’s great exercise. If you’re somebody that likes to do those (high-intensity interval training) classes, or Zumba, or yoga or spinning, whatever it is that’s going to keep you active, that’s what’s best for you,” says Smorol.

I bought a basic bike trainer several years ago, and I love it because I put my own bike on it (with a trainer tire so I don’t ruin the regular tire), turn on the TV and ride inside. You could even grab some workout ideas if you want to do more than just a straight ride. There are limitations, like limited resistance options, so if you’re looking for hills, courses, power programs, or more, you might consider a smart trainer, which you can pair with different apps.

If you want a workout with little to no equipment, you can try HIIT workouts or strength training. Check out some workout ideas here.

Trevor Buccieri, Mindset and Transformation Coach, started Core Capacity Transformations.

Full disclosure: I am a member here.

“The way we design our HIIT workouts is we’re actually hitting cardiovascular through strength training,” says Buccieri.  “It’s a matter of creating short rest periods and longer work periods and that will get your heart rate up. The whole theory is what’s the difference if you’re getting your heart rate up to that exact same level through running or through squats and pushups for example. There really isn’t a difference. Cardiovascularly, you’re getting the same benefits, but the beauty is you’re working your muscular system as well.”

There are many free, introductory HIIT workouts available on YouTube and other social media platforms to get you started. If you’re looking for a more guided approach, since the pandemic, many gyms, like Core Capacity Transformations, have switched to all virtual, live-streamed classes, providing workouts you can do in your own home with little to no equipment.

I use an exercise band to add a little resistance. I have a heart rate monitor and sometimes my heart rate is in the 140s on the days that are more cardio. The cool thing about these workouts is that there’s a different one each day of the week, and you repeat them for four weeks and then get a new set of workouts. That way your body is constantly adapting.

If you need some ideas to get started, you can check out some of Core Capacity Transformations free workouts with videos to break down all the moves.

If you hate running, you have a lot of options to get your heart pumping. You can always grab a buddy, whether socially distanced or virtually, to keep you motivated. The most important thing is to get started and have fun!

Katie Gibas
Katie Gibas

Katie spent 12 years as a journalist, including hosting a monthly national Healthy Living show. You can usually find Katie and her husband traveling, skiing, and scuba diving. Of course, Katie is a huge Bills fan, even naming her dog Chug Flutie.

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