Running on a treadmill has sadly become the staple for fat loss. Endless rows of people running in place has become a common sight in most gyms. Most watch TV while some stare blankly into space as they toil away. If you ask me, they look like hamsters running inside a wheel – driven by their eagerness to reach a goal they will never achieve. Philosophical ramblings aside, it’s a pity that many gym goers have never ventured beyond these contraptions. There are loads more things to do out there that are more fun and effective. So why then are you still doing cardio like a hamster?
- Nothing beats the real thing. As long as the weather and your location permits it, it’s always better to run or walk outside. The changing scenery will have you occupied and you will cover greater distances than when you are using a boring treadmill. A simple walk around the block is a great start especially for heavier individuals. Walking is a low-impact activity that spares the knees and lower back. Have a hill near your home or on the way to your gym? You can have the most invigorating cardio routines doing hill sprints. The object is to run up the hill and walk down it – that’s one set. Seems easy until you actually try doing it. Start with 5 sets and work your way up. Relegate treadmill running or walking to winter and rainy days.
- Pick up a sport. The beauty with going with sports as your source for cardio is that playing with others will never be boring. There are lots of good non-contact choices out there for people who just want to sweat and not get all banged up. Golf, basketball, tennis, badminton, you name it. Even your office softball tournament or flag football league serves as great options.
- Vent out your frustrations on a punching bag. You can have so much fun – and burn so much excess fat – when you go for a boxing cardio session. But as fun as hitting a bag is, there are some precautions that you have to take. First, a lesson in anatomy. The human hand is made up of 27 bones plus countless ligaments and cartilage. This large number of relatively tiny bones is necessary for dexterity and fine control. The downside to this is that it’s deceptively easy to injure your hand. The solution: hand wraps. Wraps are long strips of cloth that resemble bandages. Learn the proper way of binding your hands to ensure a pain and injury free session. With that out of the way, there are actually many variations you can use to keep things interesting. You can do “rounds”. Set up a timer or have someone call out 3-minute active phases interspaced with 1-minute rests – just like in boxing. Start with three rounds and add more rounds as you conditioning improves. Or you can count punches thrown. Perfect for those without fancy stopwatches or those training alone. Just throw 50 punches all-out and catch your breath after. Repeat as necessary. Increase the number of punches or decrease rest time as you improve. There are lots more things to do with a punching bag. Experimenting with them is half the fun.
- Go for a swim. Since swimming involves the whole body, even just a few laps on the pool will burn up those love handles. Another benefit to swimming is that since your entire body is suspended and buoyant, there is very little impact on your joints. For those who can’t swim, even wading through the water is good exercise. Water is a lot denser than air, and any attempt to run through it will be a challenge. This added resistance will burn up a lot of calories without you even noticing it.
- Skip rope. Who would have thought that a simple length of rope attached to two handles at both ends could hang with state-of the-art machines? The best thing about this cardio alternative is that buying even the most expensive equipment will never max out your credit card. Using a jump rope, even for just a short while, will send streams of sweat down your forehead. Don’t get fancy early on, just get a good rhythm going.
Russell Clause is a contributing writer writing about family & health at the personal finance and credit website, CreditDonkey. Remember, the human body is one amazing machine. One of its particularly remarkable aspects is the ability to adapt. Do something difficult a couple of times and it quickly gets easy. You can take the same perspective on your personal finance, for instance, many of us just stick to one credit card, when having a card for different occasions will yield you the best results. Fill up your car with gas credit cards but when you’re booking a flight, use a frequent flyer mile credit card. This is also true for cardio. Do the same thing day in and day out and your body won’t be challenged by it anymore. And as your body adapts to the challenge, fat loss grinds to a halt. By having a lot of different approaches to cardio, not only will you keep on burning fat, you stave off boredom as well.