6 Easy Ways to Hack Your Cardio Workouts

July 8, 2015

You know that you need a little bit of cardio in your training plan in order to have a healthy heart and to see the best results from your workouts, you just can’t get seem to lace up your sneakers and get going. Yep, it’s exercise apathy.

But getting the most out of cardio doesn’t have to mean killing yourself on the treadmill for an extra 30 minutes (we promise!). Here are six  hacks you can use to see more results from your workout—without tacking on extra hours.

Use a heart-rate monitor.

Today we’re used to tracking every bodily function, from our sleep cycle to our daily step count. Take advantage of the plethora of affordable wearable technology available and use a heart rate monitor to track your workouts. You’ll be able to see exactly how hard you’re working in real time. During your workout, aim to be in your target heart rate zone, which is a pretty broad range of anywhere from 50-85 percent of your max heart rate. (Pro tip: If you’re looking to burn more fat in your workout try to keep your heart rate around 55-70 percent of your HR max.)

Try interval training.

Up the intensity of your workout by incorporating interval training. On its most basic level, interval training is simply alternating between bouts of hard work and recovery. If you’re wearing a heart rate monitor, you’ll see your heart rate nearly reach its max and then recover as you do ‘easier’ work. If you’re a runner, try adding intervals of speed work into your next run. A super-simple interval workout? Jog for your first mile, then alternate between one minute of sprinting (it should feel hard!) and  three minutes of running at a comfortable pace for 25 minutes.

Do full body cardio.

Sometimes we forget that cardio doesn’t have to simply be running on a treadmill or pedaling a bike. Sounds simple, but the more muscles you can use in your workout the more you’re going to get out of it! By recruiting your upper body to work as hard your lower body, you’ll increase your heart rate more quickly meaning that you’ll be able to get more out of your workout in less time. (Who can’t get behind that?) Full body plyometric movements like burpees are incredible for boosting your heart rate, or if you’re at the gym, opt for using an elliptical with handles instead of just the treadmill.

Pump up the heat.

There’s a reason those hot yoga classes seem so much more challenging than your regular yoga classes—and no, it’s not because it’s harder to balance when sweat gets in your eyes. Your heart rate increases with the temperature outside, up to 10 beats per minute once temps reach 90 degrees! Your workout will feel harder if you complete it outside on a hot summer day versus when you do the exact same workout on a crisp fall morning. Try a hot yoga class, a spin class in a heated room, or move your morning run to the afternoon when the sun is a little hotter. Of course, if you’re going to heat train, it’s imperative that you stay hydrated and maintain electrolyte balance, so definitely more water throughout the day than you normally might.

Think beyond the treadmill.

You can get your cardio in without stepping a foot onto that cursed treadmill by using a kettlebell to push your aerobic capacity and improve strength. Integrating a quick kettlebell workout once a week will not only strengthen your heart, it can also help you lose weight and build lean body mass. Our favorite go-to exercises? The basic kettlebell swing, goblet squat, and high-pull are all incredible full body movements that will have you sweating in no time!

A little cup of coffee isn’t cheating…

Your morning cup of coffee doesn’t just kickstart your brain, it also gives your body a jolt of caffeine that can potentially help you complete a better workout! A bit of caffeine has been proven to burn fat, boost pain tolerance, sharpen focus, and improve your mood, so don’t be afraid to chug down your espresso 30 minutes before your next cardio session.

If the thought of adding cardio into your workouts still sounds daunting, just remember that the more you practice the easier (and more fun) it will be.

Photo credit: Stocksy

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Michelle Pellizzon

Certified health coach and endorphin enthusiast, Michelle is an expert in healthy living and eating. When she's not writing you can find her running trails, reading about nutrition, and eating lots of guacamole.

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