How to Stay Motivated to Exercise When You Hate Cardio

How to Stay Motivated to Exercise When You Hate Cardio

A lot of women are cardio queens.  The only type of exercise they do is cardio because it’s the only way they feel like they are burning calories.  For these women, I encourage them to explore strength training by explaining all of the benefits of it.  On the flip side, there are women who absolutely detest cardio, and avoid doing it at all costs.  As we know, however, cardiovascular exercise is a necessary part of a healthy lifestyle.  I am going to teach you how to stay motivated to exercise when you hate cardio.

Step 1 – Stop forcing yourself.

Stop forcing yourself to do cardio you hate.  If you hate running, why are you doing it?  If you hate trudging along on the elliptical trainer, there’s no reason to do it.  Living a healthy lifestyle should not include doing things you hate.  If you’re not happy with what you are doing, there’s really no point.  You will most likely not do it regularly, and your attitude towards cardio will never change to a positive one.  So please, stop doing cardio you hate.

Step 2 – Figure it out.

This is a really important step, so make sure you spend some focused time here.  You need to figure out what it is about cardio that you hate so much.  When I asked some women this question, I got the following answers:

  • Don’t like being short of breath
  • Get bored
  • Can’t keep up with instructor/others
  • Hate getting sweaty
  • Don’t like turning red
  • Feel like not making change to body, as with strength training

Any of these feeling familiar?  Maybe all of them?  You might even have your own unique reason for hating cardio that is not listed here.  One responder even told me that she hates that her hands itch when she runs.

Identifying why you hate cardio is important because then you know what kind of new options you need to look for.  If you don’t like being short of breath, sweating, or turning red, you may have a harder time.  I’m sorry to say, but those are things that just come with cardio.  However, you could choose to do low-impact cardio, which won’t rev up your heart rate as much.  You could also break up your cardio into shorter sessions, so you don’t get as sweaty and revved up as an hour long session.

If you hate that you can’t keep up with instructors in cardio classes or other participants, you are going to have to do some mental work.  First of all, it does not matter if you can’t keep up.  Are you there, doing the workout, moving your body?  Maybe not as intensely as the woman standing next to you, or the super fit instructor, but who cares.  You are doing better than if you were sitting on your butt on the couch at home eating candy bars.  Oh, and a little secret, the more consistently you do cardio activity, the easier it will become.  So even though you will eventually end up being able to keep up with others, remember that you only have to keep up with yourself.

If you feel like cardio isn’t changing your body like strength training does, that is a valid feeling.  When you do strength training, you can feel your muscles working hard, and the definition you will see in your muscles is a lot faster to notice than weight loss.  But cardio IS changing your body.  It is helping you burn calories, strengthen your heart and your bones, and helping you shed fat.

Finally, if you get bored doing cardio, see step 3.

Step 3 – Try, try again

If you think of your cardio options as running or working on a machine, then it’s time for you to broaden your horizons.  There are so many fun options out there that count as cardio.  You need to keep trying different activities until you find one or two that you absolutely love, and that don’t feel like exercise to you.

My first suggestion would be to check out group exercise classes.  The instructors have been trained in all sorts of creative fitness classes, and keep things fresh and new every time.  In the classes I teach, we never do the same exact workout.  In a group class, you don’t have to think about what you have to do, and you have someone motivating you the whole way through.  Being around all those other exercisers will make you want to keep pushing too.  Time goes by a lot faster in a class than it ever will on a treadmill or elliptical.  Classes are offered for spinning, Zumba, Jazzercise, step aerobics, cardio kickboxing, water aerobics, and boot camp.  If you don’t like the idea of a class, DVDs in your home would work too.

Another thing to do is explore some outdoor workout options.  Have you ever tried hiking?  Seriously, I think of myself as very fit, but any time I go hiking I feel like a newbie.  It is an awesome workout, and it counts as both cardio and strength training.  Working out in nature just feels good and, well, natural.  If you go with someone, you can even score some much needed social time.  There are hiking trails all over the place for beginners, intermediate, and advanced hikers.  Other outdoor options for cardio include biking, rollerblading, swimming, canoeing/kayaking, snowshoeing, skiing, paddle boarding, and so much more.

You could also consider joining an organized sport.  There are adult leagues all over the place for sports, including tennis, baseball, basketball, football, soccer, dodgeball, lacrosse, kickball and hockey.  Another consideration could be adult classes in martial arts or dancing.

You have to be able to find something you love doing among all of these options.

Step 4 – Vary your workouts

Once you go through step 3, hopefully you find three or more cardio activities you love doing, so you can rotate them and never get bored.  First of all, you don’t have to do cardio every single day.  Three days per week is good, five is even better.  Among your 3-5 cardio days, plan to do two or three different activities.  You should look forward to doing them, not dread it.  Also, don’t forget that some days you can strength train or work on flexibility with yoga.

Step 5 – Combine with strength training

This is my favorite tip for cardio haters.  When you combine your cardio with strength training, it makes it a lot less painful.  I don’t mean doing a half hour of cardio and then a half hour of strength training.  I mean doing one 30-45 minute workout where you are alternating between the two every few minutes.  Or even doing moves that count as both.  You could probably find a combination class or DVD that can choreograph this for you.  If you want to try to do it on your own, you would probably need to research some moves or a routine. I would be happy to make a fitness plan for you as part of a consultation.  Chat me up!

Cardio does not have to be, and should not be, the worst thing in the world.  You just need to think outside of the box a little bit.

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