Kick up your Cardio: Creative ways to improve your training
When people hear the term “cardio,” they usually think of a treadmill or other gym machine rather than improvements in heart health. Cardio, short for cardiovascular exercise, is any exercise that gets the heart rate up and increases blood circulation throughout the body. For these very reasons, cardio should not be neglected. Everyone has a maximum heart rate, your 100%, which you should not exceed during exercise. This can be calculated by subtracting your age from 220. There are a variety of ways to jack up the heart rate and get the blood flowing. The more creative your cardio, the more the fun you’ll have, and the more likely you are to continue with your exercise program and keep seeing results.
Running and music are two great partners. It is really hard for me to exercise without my music, but with music I can keep my runs interesting. Instead of running inside, map out a run and go for a jog outdoors. Incorporate the music you are listening to and do walking lunges, jumping jacks, hop squats, walking high knees, running high knees or burpees during the chorus, or switch to a different exercise during each chorus. Have a song that you go to when you know you need to kick the cardio up a notch, something that motivates you. Mine is Alex Clare- Too Close. I was excited when I found that runtastic PRO has a Power Song feature, and now I use that to switch on Too Close whenever I need an extra boost.
Using stairs at a park, home, stadium, etc. is also a really great cardio activity, and does a great job of engaging the abs and toning the muscles of the lower body. As you climb, use your runtastic app to track your elevation and try to exceed your last record every time you come back to tackle the stairs. Jog to some nearby stairs and then play around with different variations: single step, skip a step, bunny hop, hop on one foot, skip two steps, sprint, wide steps with a resistance band wrapped around your angles—keeping the resistance tight of course.
Hiking is another really great and fun cardio activity to do with friends, family or alone. There are so many gorgeous places to go for hikes with well-worth-it views along the way. Lots of uphill, downhill, and dirt paths ensure that you’re working hard, confusing your muscles and strengthening them. Sometimes certain hiking trails will have big rocks and boulders that you need to climb/step over. Balancing and climbing over this terrain is a really good way to throw your body a curve ball of confusion. This unstable environment activates all of the little stabilizer muscles throughout your low body, and forces you to engage your core muscles. Depending on how long your hike is, aim to stop about 10 times to do some pushups. Use a large rock or boulder off to the side of the trail for inclined or declined pushups, or even a park bench if you are hiking around a camp site.
I have found the problem with physical fitness and working out is not motivation or intention—it is commitment. Commit to a heart healthy life style, amp up your cardio routine, keep mixing it up, eliminate boredom and eliminate excuses!