How to Make Cardio Suck Less

We've all been there. CARDI-Ohhhh hell no. Cardio is probably to most overused and improperly done exercise in and outside of the gym.  Why do I make that claim? Because I used to be TERRIBLE at it. I would spend 45 minutes on the elliptical machine, and completely lose feeling in my toes, thinking I was doing myself a service – and my ass.

NOPE. That’s not how this works.
That’s not how any of this works.

I wasn’t adding enough resistance to the workout, nor was I increasing and decreasing my heart rate at intervals. If you don’t add resistance, the momentum of the pedals is doing the majority of the work, not your muscles, not your heart. If you don't believe me, look up "Inertia". Look, I get it. Cardio sucks. I hate running.


Yeah, you heard me – I hate running. I always have. Playing AYSO soccer, I remember being a kindergartner complaining about being out of breath. In middle school, the days of running laps around the backstops in PE classes were torture. I would get stitches in my sides from poor breathing habits and was excused more often than not. Running was a serious pain in the ass (well, feet).  I think the weirdest experience of all was saying “I’m a runner” after all of that to people who ask me now how I prefer to get my cardio in. I hate hitting the pavement BUT - I LOVE how I feel when I near the finish line or complete the mileage goal I have set for myself. It’s surreal since I feel the way that I do and how strong those negative feelings are as I lace up my shoes.

Somebody the other day asked me when it ever 'gets better'... and the simple answer is, for some, it NEVER does. That's the case for me. I get anxiety about *having* to run, but then if I don't I get anxiety about my lack of running. I'm a bit of a kook but, it is what it is.

So, how do you make it suck less??


Like I said last week in Are You Making These 4 Post-Workout Mistakes, stretching helps to reorganize your body to a natural position and posture. Stretching before a run or before you jump on an elliptical helps me mostly because my joints aren’t used to the movement yet. If I don’t warm up prior, my ankles buckle and the whole cardio experience starts off rocky. it also means you're likely to hit the gym or pavement again sooner, because you aren’t terribly sore. For all my PF-buddies, you got me!

Use Wacces Yoga Strap Stretch Restore Multi-Grip Fitness Pilates Stretching Belt Multicolor (Blue) (pictured right), or you can prefer to simply stop by the blue mats on your way out of the gym and use your own discretion. I love these bands for deepening the stretches in certain positions.

Have Rockin' Playlist

I know – that’s kind of a given. If the other things weren’t on your mind, I know this one has to be. Who likes working out without tunes? (Not me!) The kind of music you bring with you definitely sets you up for either success or failure. Ideal Fit wrote an article about the effects music has on performance, and surprise surprise, it works!

“The theory is that music can prevent exercisers from focusing on the specific physical sensations of fatigue, although some research suggests that this mechanism may be more effective at lower exercise intensities than at higher intensities, where the body’s internal cues of fatigue have a greater influence (Karageorghis & Terry 1997).”

What’s this mean? They thought that music could be used as a distraction and keep people from giving up on an exercise when they got tired or felt like giving up. They looked at intensities of certain songs and how that affected the person and their physical output. They didn’t find much of a difference in ‘exhaustion’, but another researcher looked at something else.

“Atkinson and colleagues investigated average speed, power, heart rate and RPE for 16 physically active 25-year-old males during timed trials on a cycle ergometer (Atkinson, Wilson & Eubank 2004). “Dance” music (142 beats per minute [bpm]) was used in a 10K trial, and the results were compared with those from a 10K control trial that used no music. Average speed, power and heart rate were significantly higher in the group who had musical accompaniment than in the control group."     The bottom line? 

music acts as a motivator

…allowing people to exercise with better productivity. 

Change It Up

If you run the same route every time, you might get bored. If you stick to cardio machines in the gym, throw a towel over the screen or switch from the elliptical to the stair machine. Stasis is the bane of my existence. I need something challenging and different or else I get bored, and the sheer act of completing cardio is a miserable anxiety-filled experience. I know - you’re wanting to establish a routine and YES if you’re just beginning your lifestyle change, do whatever it takes to make it a habit. BUT if you’re intermediate, don’t think that doing the same thing you did in the beginning will keep your mind and body challenged. Hit the stairs, do cardio-hopping on machines, or go a different route on your run. Trust me.

Make Sure You're Comfortable

There's nothing worse than being one or two miles out and you can already feel your heel getting a blister. That happened to me last Wednesday and made the run unbearable a little over halfway in. My favorite ways of ensuring that normally doesn’t happen are to Glide the crap outta my feet, wear injinji toe socks (so they don’t rub together), and to lace my shoes up properly. Get the right shoes, and the right size, wear an outfit you know you won’t be tugging at the whole time (look, wedgies happen. It’s ok!)

Don't Overdo It

That's one of my problems - I tend to bite off more than I can chew. Pace yourself! You have to build up to it, and if you're not warmed up, you could hurt yourself. Last week, I attempted to get in 4 miles, but knew the heat was going to knock me out. I ended up getting a blister and the heat became ridiculous on the route back with zero shade, so I wanted to take it in stride (ha!) and I stopped at 3.1.


It will tell you what you’re stopping point is, even past your mental hurdles and self-defeatist attitude. I don’t care what anyone says, if you’re pushing yourself TOO HARD you won’t get anywhere just like not pushing yourself hard enough will. Use your best judgement.  

Cardio doesn't have to be this monster you have to slay. I hope you're able to make it fun! No one regrets working out after they've done it.