Off, damned fat!
June 23, 2011 8:38 AM   Subscribe

What cardio exercises/machines would you recommend to someone who really, really hates cardio?

I'm a 29 year old female, 5'1" and 144 pounds as of my weigh-in this morning. After repeatedly falling off the exercise/diet wagon, I'm on my first week of the Eat to Live diet, and so far I've been following it 90% of the time. I really want to lose at least 20 pounds.

I know I need a boost in the exercise department. I go to Planet Fitness and I love using the weight machines. However, I think I'm not pushing myself enough. I'm sweating after a session, but it's marginal compared to other people I see. I also have this dislike of cardio (I guess because it's too reminiscent of gym class back in the day.)

How can I effectively mix up my routine to make sure I'm getting a comprehensive workout? How can I push myself to go that extra mile, as it were, without a coach or trainer, all the more so when I hate treadmills and their ilk?
posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (45 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
How do you feel about a real bicycle? Using a bike as transportation really helps you get over that "pointless exercise" feeling, because it's just how you get places. Saves you money on gas/metro etc. too, so eventually it pays for itself.
posted by hermitosis at 8:39 AM on June 23, 2011 [7 favorites]

Do it outside. Run or cycle or swim or play badminton or rollerblade or whatever.
posted by kavasa at 8:40 AM on June 23, 2011 [3 favorites]

Kickboxing classes keep me accountable (the instructor and other participants know me, so I can't skip without feeling bad), and are very high-intensity. They mix aerobic excercises with strength-training with technique, so it's not just an hour of mind-numbing cardio.
posted by heyheylanagirl at 8:42 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Walk, dance, cycle, swim, run, play a team sport that entails lots of get the idea! If cardio at the gym doesn't do it for you there are any number of enjoyable alternatives.
posted by koahiatamadl at 8:45 AM on June 23, 2011

Good music and enthusiastic dancing! On days I don't feel like running, The Cramps' "What's Inside A Girl" pulls me right out of that funk.
posted by katillathehun at 8:47 AM on June 23, 2011

The only cardio I have ever found enjoyable at all is racquetball - and I LOVE it. The game is so mentally challenging and interesting, it's like you don't even realize how exhausted you're getting. Until you stop.
posted by jbickers at 8:47 AM on June 23, 2011

I HATE treadmills and indoor cardio at the gym. The only way I get through it is by doing intervals, which don't give you enough time to feel hateful. Try that, along with things that get you outside (running, biking). Also, don't gauge your effort by sweat, because people are really variable in that department. Check your heart rate instead -- your heart should be racing and you should be breathing hard.
posted by yarly at 8:54 AM on June 23, 2011 [6 favorites]

I hate cardio, but I lurrrrve my Concept2 rowing machine. I watch episodes of trashy TV while I row, and stop every ten minutes for a breather. Forty minutes goes fast.
posted by Specklet at 8:58 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

My personal favorites are classes like kickboxing, spinning, or bootcamp. I'm always the biggest person in there, but they tend to be a great mix of cardio and strength. One of the reason they work so well is that they tend to go in intervals. I did boring old elliptical at the same heartrate for Years, and intervals are So. Much. More. Effective. I'd mourn those years of boring cardio if they hadn't been part of the overall journey.

Most machines can be programed to do intervals, and ask the staff if you have any questions - this stuff is there to work For You. If it's not kicking your tushy, you might as well just go for a walk outside (which is great, don't get me wrong) - better to get the Most out of each minute of cardio.
posted by ldthomps at 8:59 AM on June 23, 2011

Play sports. Seriously. If you hate cardio, the best way to get your cardio is to make it fun. The easiest way to do this would be to play sports.

It doesn't have to be any thing super competitive, either. Find an intramural league in your city, or get a group of friends together, and play whatever sports you enjoy. This will allow you to get your cardio in without really feeling like you're working out. You'll probably also meet some new friends, which is always a bonus.
posted by asnider at 9:00 AM on June 23, 2011 [2 favorites]

Intervals keep it short yet get a good sweat on. (HIIT)

Perhaps your lifting routine isn't pushing you hard enough?
posted by unixrat at 9:00 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Run outdoors. Treadmills are the spawn of the devil. I find it easier to run 10 miles outside than crank out a single one on a hamster wheel.
posted by momentofmagnus at 9:00 AM on June 23, 2011

I hate, despise, and loath cardio gym machines.

On the other hand, I enjoy few things more than a twenty-mile bike ride.
posted by Tomorrowful at 9:08 AM on June 23, 2011

Play sports. Seriously. If you hate cardio, the best way to get your cardio is to make it fun. The easiest way to do this would be to play sports.

This. I f-cking hate cardio with the passion of a thousand fiery suns. Find a sport you'd like and it'll never feel like exercise. For me, it's tennis. I could play tennis everyday for hours.

I have tried to love cardio, but I hate it so why torture myself? Losing weight is hard enough, why make it suck by having to do crap you hate if there are other viable options?
posted by SoulOnIce at 9:08 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

Crossfit, combined with music from Podrunner.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:11 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I asked a trainer friend what was the best form of cardio exercise, they said: the one you love to do. That's really the point. If using the machines is dreaded drudgery, find something else that is intrinsically enjoyable for you.

Personally, I put on headphones with an upbeat playlist, and walk up our local dormant volcano using trekking poles. Poles + music + uphill walking in a beautiful outdoor location = a strenuous whole-body movement that lifts my spirits and FEELS FANTASTIC.

It's changed my whole relationship with exercise. Now, instead of that gloomy dread (" I really should get to the gym...") I find myself scheming ways to squeeze in an hour walk. That's how I knew I was really onto something.
posted by ottereroticist at 9:20 AM on June 23, 2011

Ride your bike to work. Heck, ride your bike everywhere!
posted by pullayup at 9:21 AM on June 23, 2011

Yeah, intervals, with really loud music with a good beat. I find it easier to get my heart rate up and less deathly dull to have the treadmill set on a steep-ish incline. Maybe I have to focus harder to not fall off, or something.
posted by corvine at 9:23 AM on June 23, 2011

One thing that I've realized as I've been trying to recover from smoking, it's not enough to sweat. Exercising for fitness is an ugly state of being, and you have to breathe hard, sweat, grunt and be in pain for at least an hour. If you're looking for something to exercise your body for you or let you watch soap operas or whatever, you might as well get used to your current state. You have to burn the weight off, literally, and this requires a high heart rate and the attendant oxygen flow and fuel enough to provide your muscles with sugar to keep moving.

I don't think gyms are any good at all for any of this to happen. There are too many people, too many distractions and too many machines. For most people, they are a ripoff and a time-sink that takes away from actual health-making. Start with one exercise and go from there, if necessary.
posted by rhizome at 9:33 AM on June 23, 2011

I pretty much hate both cardio and sports (with a bonus of getting migraines if I exercise outside in more than 80F or so weather!), but what I do is:

-- recumbent exercise bike and the DVR or a DVD player, sometimes doing intervals to shake things up
-- Wii and Kinect games, which make moving fun and not noticeable, like sports do
-- taking a walk with my boyfriend if it's less than 80F outside
-- walking quickly around inside the building where I work after I eat lunch while listening to Teaching Company lectures on an mp3 player
posted by telophase at 9:33 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

I tend to slack off and not get continuous exercise when I play sports. The only way for me to get that nice heart rate graph where it stays fairly level in my target zone is to use the treadmill on a constant setting. The only thing that makes this not misery is good television. Game shows are really good for exercise, sports are pretty good, too. (I'm not a sports television person, but a fairly quick sport like tennis or soccer or rugby really helps. Don't bother with football, too much filler.) Check out what channels they play and look up the schedule.

And yeah, heart rate monitor. You want the speed that gets your heart rate into your target zone and holds it there. Too fast and you'll be miserable, too slow and there's no point. Just right and you can just let the TV mesmerize you.
posted by anaelith at 9:57 AM on June 23, 2011

I'm going to second just plain old cycling and the Concept2 rowing machines. I use both.

Cycling is a great way just to keep a baseline fitness. It is stealth fitness. But unless you get more serious, it won't be a way to lose a lot of weight.

Concept2 rowing machines have a great weight loss program. The point about the rowing machines is that the best way to lose weight is to row for longer at lower intensity. You really don't need to huff and puff - which means if you pair up your rowing with watching TV it can work really well.
posted by MuffinMan at 9:57 AM on June 23, 2011

Concept 2 rowing or recumbent bike. The latter has really helped strengthen my legs and has the added benefit of being able to read at the same time. I can get my heart rate up without difficulty and it has helped my weight loss along with following a sensible diet. I haven't had rhizome's experience so YMMV.
posted by TravellingCari at 10:00 AM on June 23, 2011

If you really want a bump in cardio, jump rope in between your weight training sets until you physically can't. WARNING: don't start out that way, ease into it - but eventually, skipping as fast as you can for a minute or so should have you gasping. Listen to your favorite song while you do it, if it helps.

10 minutes of skipping rope = running an 8-minute mile. It's a good, cheap way to get into HIIT with little effort/training.

Also, the rowing machine is kick-ass cardio without all the jumping and whatnot on your joints - I think it doesn't get enough credit as a gym equipment option, but it works.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 10:04 AM on June 23, 2011

I feel your pain, years ago I didn't mind the machines- prob cause I was s****d and I would just jam out to some music. Now, I am not in the greatest shape and hate the machines.

I take classes now, if your gym has them. Zumba is fun, step will keep you sweating, also hula hooping.... they also let me laugh. I try to do things that require enough coordination that you don't have time to pay attention to the time.

Also I just started Russian Kettlebells I know they are weights but they are pretty fast and you definitely get some cardio out of them.

All the best to you!
posted by ibakecake at 10:13 AM on June 23, 2011

I second that you shouldn't be looking at trying to force yourself to do cardio if you're doing it for weight\diet compensation. I think sports tend to not be enough exercise and are usually once a week for most people so that doesn't do much either.

My biggest recommendation is to get off the weight machines. There are plenty of comments you can search for, even by me, that lay out great lifting plans that anyone can do. If you do stay on the machines put together a real program that forces you to progress in some way.

Walk everyday for an hour if you can too.
posted by zephyr_words at 10:14 AM on June 23, 2011

If you do go with a rowing machine (and Concept 2 is a great brand), please have someone show you how to use it properly. As a former rowing coach, it pains me to watch some people at my gym try to use these things. Here's a good how-to video as a start. You'll notice that he pushes away from the starting point using his legs, then his back, then his arms, and the recovery is in the reverse order: arms, then back, then legs.
posted by monkeymonkey at 10:17 AM on June 23, 2011 [1 favorite]

When I asked a trainer friend what was the best form of cardio exercise, they said: the one you love to do.

This. If you hate all forms of cardio you'll never succeed. It you wan your weight loss to be permanent you have to change to your lifestyle so that you find some sort of cardio exercise that you like, or better yet, love. You'll need to keep doing exercise and watching what you eat after you lose the 20 pounds you want to lose. If you don't, you'll get the weight back faster than it took to lose it and you may gain more weight.

I love using the StepMill at a level that gets my heart rate way up on the peak intervals near explosion levels. I do all of my cardio training with a heart rate monitor. If I'm not working hard enough I go faster or heavier. If I'm going too hard, I slow down. I love losing track of time on it. I listen to uptempo music because I tend to run/climb at whatever pace the music is. I love the endorphin rush I get after I want to slow down or stop and don't. I love having to mop up the sweat on the machine when it is over.

I also love hill climbing in real life outdoors. Or bike riding. You do need to mix it up.

I hate the treadmill. I can't last a few minutes on it. But some people love it. The key is to find your exercise(s) and stick with it over the long haul.
posted by birdherder at 10:23 AM on June 23, 2011

Jump rope.
posted by 3FLryan at 10:33 AM on June 23, 2011

Hiking on trails, walking on beaches, and swimming in the ocean.
posted by infinitywaltz at 10:45 AM on June 23, 2011

My form of cardio is jumprope. It's damn fun and I look like Rocky when I get fancy with it. I'm used to getting comments (positive) in the gym.
posted by Evernix at 10:54 AM on June 23, 2011

I'm on board with CrossFit, really love the Concept 2 rower, and think working out outside beats trudging on a treadmill or elliptical any day of the week. Also: paddling (kayak or canoe), running trails or track, kettlebells (take a kettlebell to the track for multi-phase workouts like: 400 m run + 25 swings [and watch how the track walkers look at you like you're Chuck Norris sharpening your knives]), jump rope (especially double unders), climbing.

And if you live in or near a large city and you like the nightlife, there's your cardio. Learn to breakdance, salsa, or just find out where the house music is and dance until you need dry clothes.
posted by phoebus at 10:55 AM on June 23, 2011

I hate cardio, but reading on the recumbent bike is bearable. Listening to something while on the rowing machine is also okay. Otherwise, I just try to grit my teeth and get through it. But if you're lifting heavy enough (and free weights are far better than the machines), you don't need a lot of cardio.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:00 AM on June 23, 2011

Nthing racquetball! When I don't have anyone to play with in the gym I play 'double-bounce' against myself. And between games (read, two or three times in a session) I run sprints on the lines. 45 minutes flies by. Again if you're alone, take 3 or 4 balls in with you so you don't have to chase down every mis-hit ball.
posted by carsonb at 11:10 AM on June 23, 2011

First, never compare yourself to others. You are not trying to be better than them. You are trying to be better than you were. Not everyone sweats the same amount. A friend of mine and I used to go to a spinning class together. He would have hardly broken a sweat but I would be drenched and I know we both worked hard.

Second, you can't get a "comprehensive workout" with cardio. Depending on what your gym offers you could try Bodypump which is a low-weight/high-rep weightlifting program that keeps your heart in the cardio zone. Olympic weightlifting will build muscle and keep your heart pumped but would require someone to help you with its complex technique.

I would schedule a meeting with a personal trainer at your gym. They can help you assemble a program that takes into account your experience, ability, and goals. You don't have to be trained by them, just help get a program. That way you can get all the weight training and cardio you need.
posted by munchingzombie at 11:26 AM on June 23, 2011

The only way I can make myself sweat is in a class/competitive setting. Thus, spinning.

I loathe every second of it but 35 minutes and DONE, finished, virtuous, and did I say DONE?
posted by cyndigo at 12:27 PM on June 23, 2011

I want (so bad!) a rowing machine. I remember being on one back in college and the one I was using made it possible to row against the computer or another rower. It was freaking awesome. I like "racing" against someone (even if it was a computer). It pushed me a bit more than if I were doing it on my own. Honestly, it was FUN! I always feel like such a slouch on a treadmill. My form sucks, I trip over my own feet, I can only go 30 seconds before having to walk thus making me feel like a failure and then I feel super self-conscious. Never did I feel that way on a rower.
posted by Sassyfras at 12:56 PM on June 23, 2011

I used to hate any form of exercise, but tried a million DVDs, got to the point where I even tried P90X just because you could do something different each day. I started doing Crossfit and have gotten so much stronger, increased my cardio fitness, gotten more flexible and also more capable of doing things like pull-ups or push-ups or sit-ups, my body fat is being increasingly more replaced with lean muscle, and I feel a lot better. It doesn't act just like cardio by itself, but the movements you do and the intensity with which you do them will increase your cardiovascular fitness quickly and steadily.
posted by so_gracefully at 12:56 PM on June 23, 2011

I really hate working out, but I've been able to force myself to use my new stationary bike a few times a week. I watch TV while doing it and the time goes by really quickly.
posted by radioamy at 1:55 PM on June 23, 2011

You know how all the articles say you should find something you really enjoy and then it doesn't feel like exercise? I never really bought into it until I bought a bike just a few weeks ago. First time I've ridden since I was a teenager. It's low impact, great cardio, and riding my bike around the neighborhood with the breeze in my face makes me feel like a little kid again. I look forward to my short little ride so much, I can't wait to get out of the house every morning. I'm much stronger and have increased my endurance after just ten days. The starter bike is a cheapo from Craigslist, I'll trade up as I need to.
posted by raisingsand at 1:56 PM on June 23, 2011

Hill sprints.
posted by the cuban at 2:42 PM on June 23, 2011

I share your loathing for cardio. Unless we're talking about pounding a heavy bag, in which case I love it. Does your gym have a heavy bag? Learn a few basic combination punches and unleash on that thing! Do two-minute drills and try to improve your form and speed as you go (that's how I gotta trick myself into a proper cardio workout, anyhow - make it more about getting the punches right and the heartrate / breath stuff takes care of itself) Lastly, this approach has the added bonus of being an excellent safety valve for pent-up aggression. Save every frustrating moment of your day for the bag!
posted by EatTheWeek at 3:34 PM on June 23, 2011

I like taking classes (the aforementioned kickboxing and zumba). There's more of an accountability factor for you to go to a class rather than to drop in any time to do other stuff, and the instruction makes you go harder than you might be inclined to on your own. Also, I am just not into team sports other than bowling.
posted by jenfullmoon at 5:41 PM on June 23, 2011

posted by evil_esto at 4:07 AM on June 24, 2011

Since you like lifting, you might like circuits. 10-12 exercises (some combination of rowing / pushups / lunges / treadmill / chest press / wall sit / crunches / other abs stuff / back extensions / stairs / various kinds of weights), ~2 minutes each, one right after the next, then rest five minutes and run through them all again.
posted by orangejenny at 5:48 PM on June 24, 2011

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