Why the treadmill may be getting in the way of your fitness goals

For generations, gym-goes have relied on the treadmill as our go-to cardio while working out. It makes sense – it’s easy and uncomplicated to run a couple of miles and call it a day. I’m not here to suggest you are wrong for doing so; I want to present the idea that regularly deferring to the treadmill can create a significant barrier between you and your fitness goals.

I believe it’s a barrier because it inhibits you from creating a sustainable fitness routine. Relying on the treadmill for your cardio can quickly become a source of uninspired obligation, which results in demotivation and inconsistent workouts. In other words, the key to a sustainable and enjoyable fitness lifestyle is finding sustainable and enjoyable habits that are stimulating enough to create a positive routine.

Therefore, to help guide you towards a path of health and fitness consistency and satisfaction, here are some of my favorite cardio workouts:

Boxing

Over the last few years, I have become a boxing advocate. It’s the perfect intersection between cardio and strength development, while also creating a positive byproduct of self-confidence and self-defense experience.

As a workout, I specifically enjoy that:

  1. The technique required to defend yourself and throw punches is incredibly challenging and requires precision focus.  The combination presents an engaging opportunity to work on something new each session.
  2. Boxing recruits both big and small muscles which can get your lats, obliques, shoulders, forearms, and calves all ripped. The constant force created by punching combinations and resistance of heavy bags, mits, etc. offer you an awesome all-in-one workout.

Although you can practice on your own, my recommendation is to find a trainer or class until you have the basic technique. Once you feel confident with multiple combos, defensive posture, and footwork, you can workout on your own.

I trained privately for two years and became addicted to the training. I now incorporate boxing workout into my regular workout schedule.

Here is a sample workout you can do:

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HIIT

HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is a common workout style offered in some class form at most gyms. Not only do I recommend incorporating a class within your routine – as discussed later in my post, I strongly recommend adopting it as general workout philosophy even outside the confines of a class.

For me, I’ve been applying the HIIT philosophy since my early football days. I was fortunate enough to train with some incredible mentors who played NFL and served in the Marine corps. They both preached that you should practice/train as you would play in a game (arguably a great overall life philosophy). For example, all my workouts were shaped around a football game scenario. tl;dr for a football play: exert maximum energy for (~15 seconds), rest (~15-30 seconds) and repeat. Therefore, weight training under this cadence effectively prepares you for the physical exertion (cardio/strength recovery) required for a 60-minute football game.

Now, most of you are not training to play football, but there is a lot to take away from this concept, as it relates to HIIT. By maintaining a consistent pace with calculated breaks, you can get the similar effects of running on the treadmill while weight lifting.

Here are some general rules to follow:

  1. Make all your workouts circuits (see example below)
  2. Each set should only have rest time to allow you to the next movement (~45-60 seconds max)
  3. In between sets, you can take a more extended rest (~60-120 seconds) and enough time for a short water break.
  4. Always include at least 1 dynamic movement in each workout group as it ensures that you maintain cardio heart rate levels.

Here is an example workout:

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Group Fitness Class

Fitness classes are often an effective way to get the most “cardio” out of a workout. Of course, it does come at a price premium. I think between the actual exercise and the community around the class; it’s a great option.

There are countless options available to those interested, and I won’t go into detail of which to choose (you can find that here), but I will share some things to consider when selecting a class.

  1. Consider the instructor – The biggest reason why people consistently take fitness classes is that they have a favorite instructor. The instructor serves as the fitness muse and has a considerable impact on your motivation and satisfaction.
  2. Consider your fitness level – I don’t want to dissuade anyone from taking a class, but if you are beginning (or re-starting) your fitness journey, I’d recommend starting with a personal trainer. The reason I make this point is that, in a class setting, there is an assumption that your fitness level is moderate to high. If you don’t fall under that category, you are putting yourself in a position of practicing poor technique and injury.
  3. Consider your community – As the instructor is a significant factor in your satisfaction/success with a group class, so can be the class community. In my experience, working out with other fun and like-minded individuals not only can maximize your fitness input/output but also serves as an excellent accountability contingency to show up and put in the work.

Misc equipment

Here are some of my favorite cardio equipment/movements to integrate into your everyday workout:

Fan Bike

The fan bike is a superb machine for an end-of-workout cardio burnout. In 20 seconds, you can burn ~20 calories, so the bike offers a high return of results in a brief amount of time. I like the following burnout after my boxing workout:

  • 4×15 calories
  • 4×20 pushups
    • 30 seconds rest

Jump Rope

Jump rope is one of the easiest movements to improve your workout. Buy a jump rope and add this superset in your circuit:

  • Single leg jumps (60 seconds – 30 each leg)
  • High knees jumps (60 seconds)
  • Double unders (60 seconds)
  • Speed jumps (60 seconds)

Battle Ropes

Battle ropes are another great workout finisher. I know they intimidate a lot of people because they are loud, but I’d encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and do the following workout:

  • Drummers 3×30 reps
  • Slams 3×15 reps
  • Side turners 3×10 reps
  • Slam + Burpees 3×10 reps

Rowing Machine

Like jump rope, the rowing machine is a great movement to integrate in your pre-existing workout to maintain a high heart-rate.

Here is an example workout:

  • Kettlebell Swings 3×20
  • High Plank Shoulder Taps 3×30
  • Dumbbell Rows 3×30
  • Row Machine 3x250M

Additionally

Here is a quick graph I created that visualizes how I value/asses my cardio options. Conceptualizing workouts like this helps me create my workouts for the week as I try to complement each movement with effort and time.

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Effort vs Time graph associated with each of the misc equipment movements/exercises

Conclusion

It’s understandable as to why so many people rely on the treadmill for their cardio – it’s simple and easy to do. However, that same reason can be attributed as to why people have inconsistent workout routines.

Working out doesn’t need to be an obligation and can rewarding and enjoyable. The sooner you push your fitness boundaries, the more likely you will see results. Hopefully, these workouts can inspire you to rethink your approach to cardio and workout routine.

What are you waiting for?

If interested in your own personal workout plan, please contact me here

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