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The Fitness Zone

7 Cardio Workouts That Are Way More Exciting Than Running
September 8, 2016 | by Rosemary Marchese

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!


Rose has a degree in physiotherapy, and over 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry as an author, freelance writer, trainer and assessor. She has also been a Group Exercise Instructor and Personal Trainer, as well as Editor of Fitness Pro and Clean Eating Australia magazine and author of The Essential Guide to Fitness: For the Fitness Instructor. Rose now develops learning materials for the Australian Institute of Fitness, ensuring that courses are evidence-based and innovative.

This content is not intended to be used as individual health or fitness advice divorced from that imparted by medical, health or fitness professionals. Medical clearance should always be sought before commencing an exercise regime. The Institute and the authors do no take any responsibility for accident or injury caused as a result of this information.

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