‘So, What Do You Do For Cardio?’
– The dreaded words that your new PT throws at you, on the very first session!
Let me just say that, even though I am a woman, I do not have any desire to run endlessly on the treadmill, cycle into a non-moving oblivion in a spin class or endlessly swing my legs backwards and forwards on the cross trainer.
In short, I hate (and I mean HATE) cardio! Passionately and irrefutably! I also think that anyone who enjoys cardio probably has some sort of mental illness or insecurity, sorry to all the triathletes out there, but seriously, unless your marriage is miserable, what possesses you to wake up at 5am on a Saturday and cycle 50km? Madness, clearly! But each to their own!
That said, I am not eighteen anymore and, unfortunately, even though I am floating around my mid-twenties, fat does creep up on you! Which fine to certain extent, except when you sell weight-loss programs or pose for a fitness shoots, then fat is not exactly helpful! However, if you are trying to get pregnant, please keep a good level of fat and consult your doctor, I am not a doctor.
To be fair to it, cardio is super for a few things: burning fat, helping you live longer, climbing stairs with your weekly shop, when the elevator breaks-down (for the fourth time that week) and apparently it promotes a better night’s sleep and less stress! ‘Sounds great! Where can I sign up?’ I hear you shout! And then the reality of it sets in!
So, if like me, the word cardio fills you with as much dread as the idea of moving to Syria and primarily causes stress, as opposed to alleviating it, then you are in the right place because I have come up with a little list of sneaky cardio solutions that can help you unlock a few of the benefits of cardio, without making you feel like a hot sticky mess. Thats right the treadmill is not the only way!
1. Country Walks & Large-City Shopping Trips
Okay so lets start with this one as most people won’t really count it as cardio, but it is! It is a Low Intensity Steady State (LISS) cardiovascular workout, which sounds like the best cardio to me!
First of all, the main benefit of a country walk is it gets you outside and in nature, with a nice bonus of Vitamin D! Well maybe not this summer, as all I have seen is rain since I returned to the UK!
Walking in a forest, by a river, through fields (stick to footpaths please, I hold no responsibility for shotgun wounds!), has endless mental health benefits, reducing stress, anxiety and depression, as well as I am told helping to manage panic attacks and, we can all agree, natural beauty is uplifting!
Try to aim for around 6 km minimum, it doesn’t take that long to walk 6km and it gets the blood moving a bit faster. Oh and take someone with you if you fancy, you know your dog, a date or your dad! This makes it a social thing too, so you barely notice that its cardio!
Now ladies, this is the winner, shopping trips are basically a marathon, we all know that! I have had two city holidays this summer and have seen a wonderful amount of fat-loss on those weekends! I spent one weekend in Antwerp, where I walked an average of 13km a day and the other in Luxembourg where I was walking 10km to 15kms a day. You don’t notice it, you feel great, sleep like the proverbial baby and there is shopping involved! Whats not to love?! City weekends here we come!
Okay! Okay! So I know this one sounds a lot like real cardio and it is. But there is no leaning over the side of a machine, red in the face and wheezing! So that’s a bonus. I love swimming, I mean the fact I lived in the tropics for the last four years and had the magnificent, warm waters of the Indian Ocean to play in helps!
This morning I went for a swim in a gym, not quite as romantic, but once you get under the water, there is this golden silence that is just so calming. Just remember your goggles, most UK pools are chlorine, and my bloodshot eyes can confirm that goggles are required. But guessing which box your goggles are in when you are in the middle of a move is no mean feat! Also its not great for your hair, so take some conditioner. It just goes to show that silence and contemplation blended with cardio comes at a price!
Try to do at least twenty minutes and mix up the strokes a bit so that you don’t get bored. I like to add a few sprint laps in too, to keep it interesting.
3. Sun Salutations
Well this is a Yoga website, so you did sort of know that this one was coming!
I am not talking about floating around on your yoga mat. I mean full-on Ashtanga Vinyasa Sun Salutations. These will strengthen your whole body, make you sweat and pant and if you do them regularly, your doctor will turn to you and ask, with a concerned face, ‘are you very sporty?’ as he takes your heart rate! And you can proudly proclaim ‘Yes’ to be rewarded by his sigh of relief!
So Lets start with Surya Namaskar A for five rounds and then Surya Namaskar B for 7 rounds. Full please, so chaturangas and jumps are included, move with the inhale and exhale and hold downward facing dog for 5 breaths. Take a break of one to two minutes and repeat for three sets.
Or if you are feeling really adventurous try a Yoga Mala, not everyday, unless you are made of time! A Yoga Mala is twelve rounds of seven sun salutation As and two Sun Salutation Bs, totalling 108 Sun Salutations. Most people practice it as a change of season activity and it is harder than you think, don’t say I didn’t warn you!
No, you do not have to sign up for your local Zumba class. Actually just go for it in the car at the traffic lights next time or go clubbing and don’t drink just dance… you will burn calories like there is no tomorrow. Plus everyone around you is too drunk to notice how out of rhythm you might be, or maybe not! But if you are me, definitely in a rhythm of my own!
So turn the music up and enjoy yourself! I promise I won’t tell anyone about your secret cardio!
5. Hill Sprints
Now this is for those who need to lose weight quickly, probably in time for an event and this is, no questions about it, serious cardio. Running might make you turn pale and mutter something about wanting knees in your retirement and I am with you all the way on this one but, you know, desperate measures and all that!
First find a hill or a treadmill that has incline features (I know I said no treadmills but a lot of England can be quite flat). Now sprint for 20 seconds at 9-12% incline, at around 8.5 to 10 kph, depending upon how powerful your sprint is. Repeat until your legs think you have a deep hatred for them, mainly your hamstrings, probably anything from 9 to 15 times. Go home and have a bath, eat some berries (cherries are the best for muscle recovery) and pray that the dreaded DOMS won’t catch up with you.
There is no need to actually compete, most of us are pretty happy with a full set of teeth and a functioning brain but box training of any type is genuinely awesome for your fitness. All that skipping and jabbing will see you living, practically, forever. Plus you’ve got it handled if you ever face a mugging.
Join a kickboxing, Muay Thai or traditional boxing class, there is bound to be one fairly near you and for the ladies most of the coaches are pretty dreamy to look at, so there’s your motivation!
7. Active Days Out
This one is a great one to do with your best friend or significant other.
Why not try kayaking, rock climbing, hiking, skiing, ice skating? Literally take your pick and go for an Adventure. Don’t kill yourself, otherwise you’ll offset your other training but the occasional adventure definitely boosts the cardio meter, plus makes great memories! Also I’d rather see a picture of your kayak trip on Instagram than how many different angles you can take a picture of you deadlifting the same weight.
Okay so some of these options are more obviously cardio than others but they are just suggestions of how, if like me all you do is Yoga and Lift weights, you can inject a little bit of the nightmare stuff in the least nightmarish way! And if all else fails, we all know that sex is the best form of cardio!
Good Luck and maybe you could comment and let me know what your favourite forms of less traditional cardio are!