9 Ways to Make Your Cardio Workouts More Fun
It’s no secret cardio workouts offer tons of benefits: They strengthen your heart, reduce your risk of chronic conditions (like heart disease), boost your mood, increase your stamina—the list goes on.
But what do you do when you know you should to do a cardio session, but it also bores you to tears because it’s so monotonous?
We asked two trainers the best ways to keep cardio fresh and interesting, and this is what they shared with us. No matter if you’re in a cardio rut or have never liked it to begin with, these tips can jumpstart your relationship with cardio and make it a little more fun.
1. Turn up the music
The power of a great workout playlist can’t be denied. It can be the difference between phoning in and absolutely crushing it. Music is great for boosting your mood and adding that extra oomph.
Not only is music great for bringing the energy, but it also serves as a great pacer. Garmen Shui, a trainer at Orangetheory Fitness, says using the tempo of the music is a cheat code to creating a workout that’s anything but boring.
“The tempo of your music or beats per minute (bpm) can help accelerate the speed or intensity of your body movement,” Shui says.
She suggests starting with slower tempo songs, then working up to something with a faster tempo as you ramp up your workout.
“Load up that playlist with all of your upbeat favorites and turn it up,” she says.
2. Bring a friend
Instead of meeting up with a friend for brunch, why not meet up for a workout? Or maybe even both! Life is about balance, after all.
“Working out with a buddy can not only hold you each accountable to the other to show up, but it’s like you also brought your own cheerleader to help you keep going,” Shui says.
When you feel like giving up, your friend can push you to do that last rep or even make you laugh as a distraction.
“I really enjoy working out with my friends. Not only is it another way to connect with each other, but when the workout gets a little tough, you can look over at your buddy for that extra push to keep going,” Antonique Vinson, CPT, says.
3. Join an adult team or league
Adult leagues like kickball or volleyball have grown in popularity, according to Vinson. Joining a team like this can be a way to increase excitement and add a layer of competition. (Or do it for the matching T-shirts with the clever team name—looking at you, “Balling In Love.”)
You can usually find leagues through your local rec centers for a myriad of sports. Even if you don’t have a full team, you can venture out on your own. You can usually find teams looking for an extra player, which also gives you a chance to meet new people.
4. Catch up on a TV show
Doing low-intensity steady-state cardio (LISS) is the perfect time to catch up on your latest television obsession. The point of LISS is to move for longer periods of time at a comfortable pace, so multitasking is a lot easier with this type of workout.
“One of my favorite things to do is binge watch a show that’s either new to me or one that I love. It really makes the time fly by,” Vinson says.
Just think about how many days of exercise you can get in just by watching all 19 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy!
5. Take your workout outside
Working out outside is not only great for your body, but for your mental health as well. The best part of being outdoors is that you get to explore.
“While you’re outside, try a new course in your neighborhood, tackle a hill, or maybe throw on some hiking shoes and aim for a different elevation or viewpoint each time,” Shui says. The possibilities are endless.
Shui also suggests using this as a time to be a good neighbor.
“If you love dogs, ask a neighbor if they wouldn’t mind you walking their dog. Dogs can’t get enough walks in, and as every dog owner knows, a tired dog is a happy dog—and a happy owner,” she says.
“Participating in a community fitness event…is a great way to work out. I love these types of environments because you can meet new people, be in a new environment, and it takes away the monotony that tends to come with cardio training.” —Antonique Vinson, CPT
6. Try something new
Doing the same cardio routine all of the time can be boring, so try something you’ve never done before. There’s no shortage of fitness studios out there, which gives you an option to do a new workout every day if you wanted. ClassPass is an option that allows you to have access to multiple fitness studios without having to commit to a membership.
However, if you’re already a member of a fitness studio, trying something new doesn’t mean you have to go somewhere else. If you typically go to a treadmill-based class, for instance, and don’t want to go to another type of class, you can still mix it up. Shui suggests power walking instead of running.
“Power walking is no joke,” she says. “Don’t ever feel like you need to jog or run.”
7. Think back to your childhood
Nostalgia is all the rage in the fashion world, so why not bring it into your workouts, too? Vinson recommends thinking back to games you used to play as a kid.
“Doing things like double dutch, hula hooping, or skip-it is a great way to work out,” she says.
You can also use these types of games to connect with younger family members—and break a sweat in the process.
“During the pandemic, I had to entertain my niece and nephew, so we often went down to their schoolyard. Together we played tether ball, and just ducking out of the way to avoid getting beaned in the head got my heart pumping,” Shui says. “We played two square and wall ball, we ran lines on the courts, and we leveled up our hopscotch game. I added different exercises like jumping jacks or knee drives where every number in the hopscotch square is how many reps you had to do.”
8. Stay home
If dragging yourself to the gym to spend 30 minutes on the elliptical sounds like, well, a drag, the good news is you don’t need to. You don’t have to leave your house to get a great cardio session in, Shui says. Instead, turn the music up and dance like no one’s watching.
There are also tons of workouts on YouTube (including many free ones), fitness apps on your phone, and even virtual reality workouts you can do at home while feeling like you’re anywhere else in the world.
9. Participate in community fitness events
You can use websites like Eventbrite or event boards at libraries and local coffee shops to find different fitness-based activities in your community. These events are also usually free or low cost to participate in, which makes them even better.
“Participating in a community fitness event like an outdoor Zumba class or kickboxing class is a great way to work out,” Vinson says. “I love these types of environments because you can meet new people, be in a new environment, and it takes away the monotony that tends to come with cardio training.”