When we do the same thing at the same pace, day after day, our bodies become used to it; progress can slow or stop.
I know too many people who become comfortable with a certain piece of equipment or type of cardio; that is all they do because that is what they know. The point of exercise isn't to stay within your comfort zone, but rather to challenge yourself to break through your boundaries. This will spill over into daily life and you will find yourself more apt to undertake challenges that you would have previously shied away from. As with anything in life, if we want to improve, we need to push ourselves.
Changing the types and tempo/intensity of cardio can result in a huge difference in the effectiveness of exercise. Each day you could choose to bike, run, stairs, jump rope, swim or kayak. Just change it up, but avoid doing every piece of cardio equipment in the gym on the same day; all you achieve is getting your body used to them all. You can also change the intensity/pace of your cardio (see HIIT training in this book). Perhaps you like to run; you can do your normal pace for a few minutes and switch to an all out sprint for 30 seconds to 1 minute. This gets your body out of a routine and challenges it to improve.
I personally like a combo of training styles. I use steady state cardio and HIIT method. I have heard that people who only do HIIT training end up lacking endurance when doing regular activities such as running. Of course this depends on how you are using the method. If you are jogging a good amount and putting in bursts of intense speed then you will probably be keeping your lungs and muscles in shape for steady state activity. I would generally say that a combination of the two types is a great idea. Your body then gets good at training in different ways when you vary the intensity of training. Finding what methods and types of workouts you like will help you progress with your personal life goals. Go with what works for your body, if running is hard on your knees then do something else. Remember this is about improving your health not ruining your body.
The two methods of cardio we are talking about:
Steady State Cardio
This is defined by keeping a nice steady pace throughout your workout. Examples would be a bike ride where you maintain a 12 mile per hour pace or a run where you sustain 10 minute miles. Steady state cardio may be a good option for someone who is new to working out.
HIIT Training is a great form of cardio to really see faster results. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training. A common example of this would be walking or jogging and then doing sprints in-between. You may do 1-2 minutes of walking and then sprint as fast and as far as you can; it may only be 5 seconds or it may be 1 minute. These can be adapted to any fitness level, but the challenge will help you see fast gains. If you are really out if shape then you may try walking for 5 minutes with a slow jog for 1 minute and then repeat. If you are in really great shape you could try a good paced jog with wind sprints in between. The great thing is this is an adaptable style and can be used at different paces and with different exercises. HIIT can be done with a bicycle, kayak, jump rope, swimming etc. Whatever you do for cardio, you can use the HIIT method. Finding what methods and types of workouts you like will help you progress your personal life goals.
How to Change it Up
If you love running marathons there is nothing wrong with continuing that. However, you may just want to throw in some other activities. You could throw in some bike rides, kayaking or dancing to mix it up a bit; this will keep your body responding to your training. As I said above, when we do the same thing all the time the body adapts and we stop seeing steady results, and it can get boring to do the same thing all the time. I don't know about you, but I like to be excited and happy to go workout, and for me that comes with variety.
#1 Upper Body Cardio - You can do more upper body cardio as well. This is great for a change of pace but also good when you are having issues with your lower body. Perhaps you just need a rest between bikes rides and runs or you have an injury that you need to stay off of. Some examples you could try would be boxing, kayaking, swimming (if you only use upper body, like treading water), or an indoor rowing machine.
#2 Add Weights - Adding weights to a cardio workout will automatically change the intensity of your workout. You can use a weighted vest, weighted backpack, dumbbells or wrist weights. If you have children, and want to include them, you could carry them in a backpack.
#3 Enter a Competition - This is something I have seen work for many people. If you are having trouble getting or staying motivated with your workouts, or just need a change of pace, then enter a competition such as marathons, obstacle courses, triathlons; the list goes on. They are going on all year long, all over the world. Signing up for one of these can be a great way to get your butt moving. This way you have a deadline getting closer and closer, and the race will happen whether you are ready or not.
#4 Get Outside - Getting outside can achieve a multitude of things. It can help your body get much-needed vitamin D, fend off depression and give you a multitude of places to workout so that you have different scenery all the time! I love doing cardio outdoors; in fact it's the only place I do cardio.
#5 Live on the Wild Side - Do something out of the ordinary. If you have never tried stand up paddle boarding then give it a go. Test out kayaking, joining a salsa class or a sports team. Doing something that is different and sometimes out of your comfort zone can put some of the fire back into life. You never really know how much fun your missing out on unless you put it back in your life intentionally.
What have you been doing for your cardio? How can you change it up? We have explored some new things you can do to change things up and stay motivated. There is so much to explore; get creative and find a handful of things to put into your routines to keep it different, interesting and effective!