15 Ways to Change Up Your Cardio Routine

Bored with jogging on the treadmill? Here are 15 ways to spice things up: 

1. Go Outside

If you normally head to the gym, step outside and go for a walk or a run. Find a trail, a lake, a beach, or a track. If you fancy an incline, find some hills, some stairs, or some bleachers. 

2. Go Inside

If you ARE in a gym, however, you aren’t limited to the cardio area—the treadmill, elliptical, bike, stair stepper, or rowing machine. Push or pull a sled, hit the battle ropes, flip a tire, do kettlebell swings, jump rope, or do medicine ball slams.

If your gym doesn’t have that kind of equipment, or you just feel like staying home, you can still break a sweat with just your body. Try doing some jump squats, jump lunges, mountain climbers, burpees, or even jumping jacks. 

3. Lift Weights Faster

Jen Sinkler coined this term a few years back. It describes metabolic resistance training, consisting of fast-paced, full-body, multi-joint movements, which can be done on its own, or in place of traditional cardio. Although you do want to move weight quickly, you’ll also want to grab lighter weights than you’re used to, increase the volume, and decrease your rest periods.

4. Bring a Friend

‘Nuff said. 

5. Bring a Furry Friend

I don’t mean the one you’re still trying to figure out how to tactfully mention the virtues of back waxing to. Although, come to think of it, he’s got bad breath and drools a little, too.

They’re frowned upon in (most) gyms, but do you know who’d love to go outside with you? Your dog. You might have to tone down your workout if your level of fitness is currently higher than your dog’s (i.e. don’t drag your dog on a 5-mile run if they’re only used to walks), but they make for great company, and on the plus side, if you feel awkward about whether or not to make eye contact with people as you pass them, you don’t have to make that decision with a dog, because they just look at your dog. (Obviously I’m speaking from experience.)

Need something more exciting than a walk? Head to a dog park or similar space that’s safe for off-leash play and run some sprints alongside your pet. 

6. Make it a Competition

Grab a friend and have a race. Or, if you can’t work out at the same time, post your results online. 

7. Add Intervals

If you normally go for a leisurely jog, throw a few sprints in. Pick up the pace for a short burst and then slow it back down again. Check out my article here for more on interval training.

8. Take it Faster

We’re all bound to get bored of our cardio routine if we do the same thing week after week. Some of us will just get bored faster than others. The easiest cure? A new challenge. See if you can step up your pace, add the additional challenge of an incline on the treadmill, or add weights—either dumbbells or a weight vest. 

9. Take it Slower

Derek Sivers told a great story about relaxing for the same result during his usual bike ride. You should read it. It’s not long. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

Righto. Assuming that you’re not training for a competition, what’s the harm in slowing down and not pushing yourself full speed ahead during a session every once in a while? As Derek mentioned, you don’t have to go super slow, just take your usual intensity down a notch. (I’m also assuming that you’re normally pushing yourself in your cardio sessions; if you’re not, you should start doing that.)

10. Listen to Something New

Download a new audiobook (I get a new one every month on Audible), find a new playlist, or find a new podcast to keep yourself entertained.

11. Listen to Nothing

If you’re used to being plugged in all the time, take a session to actually listen to what’s around you, whether you’re outdoors or in the gym. See what catches your attention when you’re more mindful of your environment. 

12. Take a Class

What have you always wanted to try that you’ve been putting off? Whether you secretly want to shake your hips in Zumba, learn how to throw a great punch in a boxing class, or just want someone to yell at you while you’re on the spin bike, see what the gym is offering and commit to something new.

Alternatively, what have you always NOT wanted to try? Do that. (It’s how I got into bodybuilding. More on that another day.) 

13. Dance

Speaking of Zumba, dancing is an amazing cardio workout. If you’re too embarrassed to do it in public, find some YouTube videos and dance at home. 

14. Machine Hop

It’s not the latest dance craze (although if you invent the dance move and upload a video of yourself doing it, I’ll give you a free month of coaching).

What I mean is, if you’re doing 40 minutes of cardio for example, you don’t have to spend the full 45 minutes on the treadmill. Spend 15 minutes on the treadmill, hop on a bike for 15 minutes, then hop back on the treadmill, or another machine for the last 15.

15. Play a Sport

I saved this for last, because it's not really my thing, but if sports are YOUR thing, whether it's volleyball or Calvinball, organize a game with some friends.

If you’re not the organizing type (or you don’t have friends), check out meetup.com (no affiliation) for some groups near you. 

Leave me a comment and tell me what you do to keep things interesting. Or if you've got a link to your Machine Hop. Also if you have a picture of you with your dog. Or just a picture of your dog.

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