Mix up your cardio routine with 3 quick makeovers

Add variety to your cardiovascular workouts through interval training, new activities or short sets of multiple activities to stave off boredom and increase your fitness.

By Thom Rieck

You know it's important to get 150 minutes of cardiovascular exercise each week, the amount recommended by the American College of Sports Medicine. Yet some days, the thought of spending another minute on the "dreadmill" or elliptical trainer is just too much. If this sounds familiar, it may be time for a cardio workout makeover. Are you ready to mix it up?

In the gym, you can try a new routine without even leaving your favorite machine. Many newer fitness machines are preprogrammed with a range of cardiovascular workouts designed to vary the speed, grade or resistance, simulating rolling hills, large mountains or high-intensity intervals. Varying the effort level required not only helps keep you more engaged, but also can increase your fitness gains. It's a great challenge for your body and mind.

For another fresh approach, switch up your usual activity. Remember: Cardiovascular training is any activity that increases your heart rate for a set amount of time. Explore a variety of options at home, outdoors and in the gym. You might try walking, running, cycling, swimming, cross-country skiing, stair climbing or jumping rope. Need more convincing? Cross-training can help reduce your risk of injury by challenging and strengthening muscles and joints that don't get used much during your normal routine.

Finally, try multiple activities — within the same workout. Many people enjoy a "10-10-10" workout. You start on one machine for 10 minutes, then move to a second machine for the next 10 minutes and finish off with a third machine for the last 10 minutes. The little change of scenery seems to help the minutes fly by. You could even call yourself a triathlete by swimming, biking and running in the same workout. The possible combinations are endless!

  1. Try a program on your favorite cardio machine that automatically varies the resistance or intensity throughout, such as a hill program on a treadmill or elliptical trainer.
  2. Explore a new cardiovascular activity. If you usually run, try biking or swimming to challenge different muscle groups. Need to really shake things up? Have a 30-minute dance party at home, or take a jump-rope outside with a friend.
  3. Split it up: Move from a short session on one machine to another to add up to a 30-minute workout. Start with 10 minutes of running, followed by 10 minutes on the bike and then 10 minutes of rowing. Move quickly between activities to keep your heart rate elevated, if possible.
March 07, 2017 See more In-depth