Best Cardio Workouts Without The Running

Sep 08, 2016 | by AIF

Running, you either love it, or hate it, either way diversity in any training session is key to improving fitness levels and, ensuring we don’t get board. So, we spoke to, Australian Institute of Fitness’ Training Maestro, Rosemary Marchese, to find out what are the BEST cardio workouts to incorporate into your next sessions.

Long gone are the days where all cardio sessions had to have a ‘long, slow run’ prescribed into them. Years ago we were being taught that you had to do the long steady-state session in order to ‘burn fat’. While it’s true that fat is a great energy source during these sessions, running may not always be the best way to get the results you’re after.

We’ve gotten a lot better in the fitness industry about trying new things when it comes to cardio. Sure, we know we need to get the heart rate up to get the heart healthier. We also know that we don’t always have to push ourselves to the point of exhaustion to get results. But it does all depend on the type of results you are after.

One of the most interesting shifts I’ve seen over my 20 years of experience in the fitness industry is the move away from only using running to ‘get better at running’. This concept that ‘if you want to get better at running then you should run and run and run.’ comes from the fact we have been taught that exercise has to be specific to your goals. And it does. That’s true. But we now know more about the benefits of adding in some variations to training to get better at running.

Running also used to be a popular exercise mode of choice for ‘fat loss programs’ but that too is shifting. It’s still a great way to get fit and perhaps lose weight but it’s not the only way. The key is to really work out what your client enjoys and program from there. Not everyone likes running, although they will tend to like it more if they are good at it!

The different schools of thought on running

There are some differing opinions on the benefits and risks associated with running. Some research points out that the body tends to produce higher levels of stress hormone cortisol and lower levels of testosterone during endurance running. The concern with this is that this can lead to muscle burn, but that really depends on how long we are talking when we say ‘endurance’. It really does take a very long time for most people to breaking down muscle during running.

Then there’s the ‘pro-running’ group with some evidence towards running perhaps not being as bad for our joints as once was believed. Whatever your school of thought, you are going to need some awesome cardio workouts that are not running. This will help you mix it up a bit and get better results for clients.

Hitting the cardio without running

#1 Jump on the elliptical

If you’re training clients at the gym this is a great way to get the whole body moving and get the heart rate up. You can control the intensity too, which is great for effective programming.

#2 The stair burn

Get your clients onto a good flight of stairs to work out the heart and lungs. That’s not even mentioning the great lower body strengthening workout too.

#3 Try the intervals

We all love a good interval training session, don’t we? With quite a bit of evidence now out to support it’s benefits, HIIT (high intensity interval training) is becoming really popular, even in fat loss programs. It also gives you another ‘win’ in regards to time-saving because of its effectiveness.

#4 High knees

Get back to old-fashioned strategies and get them to raise their knees on the spot. Add in a toe touch (opposite hand to leg) and you’re really pushing them now!

#5 Squat jumps

Move on from the old-fashioned squats and add in a leap for variation and a cardio workout.

#6 Power Yoga

Yep, some Yoga sessions can be a great cardio workout. Get your clients to fit in a session for variation, even if you don’t run them!

#7 Dancing

Yep, we sometimes forget how much of a workout this can be because it’s so fun. While you may not prescribe it you can definitely remind your clients how easily they can get some cardio by getting on the dance floor more often!



At the Australian Institute of Fitness (AIF), we are no stranger to the competitive and evolving nature of the fitness industry. That’s why we remain the #1 fitness educator since 1979. We continuously raise the bar by providing the best education and resources through dynamic and hybrid training methods that mould to your lifestyle. We are strong believers in evidence over fads, so you can be assured your training with AIF will solidify your career for the long-term.

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