Stealth Cardio Tactics (No Treadmill Required)

June 23, 2016

Cardio doesn’t have to be a dirty word. It’s been a long time since I was involved in endurance sport, but I still enjoy cardio*. However, I don’t often fancy the idea of plodding on a cross trainer for half an hour.

(*I realise that i might be kicked out of the bodybuilding “fam” for admitting this.)

So I employ Stealth Cardio tactics.

If you enjoy working up a sweat, but don’t want to do “traditional” gym indoor cardio, here are my 4 current favourites.

nicola joyce on a bike
Cardio disguised as commuting
I’ve been riding my bike to the gym (and back, obvi) a couple of times a week. Only when it’s sunny, mind. It’s not far – maybe 4 miles each way – but it involves a steep hill whichever way I go. (The gym is in the “East Cliff” part of town which should tell you something). So there’s 30+ minutes of cardio right there.

Only it doesn’t feel like cardio because 1) I like riding my bike, 2) it’s serving a purpose to get me to the gym and back again and 3) there’s plenty to see.

PS That photo is not recent. But it makes me laugh because it’s me, riding my bike, apparently to swimming club (note the 80s towelling swimming bag).

dog in a kayak
Cardio that’s funny
If you only need to do cardio for general activity levels, then the best kind is the funny kind IMO. Frankie thefitdog would agree. Here we are, attempting to paddle about together in a sea kayak. Quite possibly I found that funnier than he did. But you get my point. Challenge your kids to some sprints around the local playing field. Go and play badminton (or whatever sport you used to love) with a mate. Cardio can be fun, honest.

tabata on concept2
Cardio that’s so tough you can’t think about it til later
When I do cardio at the gym, my new favourite is the rowing machine. I’ve had some great advice from my fellow writer friend Patricia Carswell of Girl On The River, who’s a Proper Rower. I don’t know why I love the Concept2 so much, but I do! I think it’s because it’s proper hard cardio which makes me sweat buckets and feel like I might die a bit. (Don’t forget, I come from a very “ultra distance” endurance sport background).

I’ve mainly being doing “a href=””>tabata on the rowing machine. If you’re not sure what tabata is, it’s a structured form of intense interval training. One “tabata” is 8 rounds of 20 seconds HARD work/10 seconds recovery (4 minutes). I do 2 Tabatas – 16 rounds, for a total of 8 minutes.

I’ve also done a couple of 5000m rows, and a 2000m row just to see how long it would take me. Point being, if you choose a form of cardio that’s so challenging that you can’t zone out or get distracted, you might actually feel more inclined to do it. Maybe. If you’re weird like me!

Cardio that’s so short you don’t notice it til later
Finally, this is something I’ve been doing once a week: adding 1-minute bursts of cardio in to my weights workout (as giant sets). At first I wasn’t sure if this would actually feel effective. Erm… I can report that it definitely does.

The idea of course is to make the 1-minute bursts hard, so your heart rate stays high and you break a sweat. You could do this by hopping on a piece of cardio equipment, or by using a skipping rope, or doing any kind of bodyweight move like burpees. If your gym has conditioning kit (battle ropes, sled, prowler) or strongman events equipment (farmers walk handles, tyres to flip) then that would work, too. You can easily add 20 minutes of cardio to your day by doing it this way. 20 x 1-minute feels more manageable – and more fun – than 20 minutes of zombie mode on the cross trainer.

Do you do any cardio at all? What’s your favourite approach?

Stealth Cardio Tactics (No Treadmill Required) is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

Guest post: girl on the river tells us why everyone should row

November 24, 2011

Today’s guest post is from my fellow journalist, Patricia Carswell, who blogs at Girl On The River. Head on over to her blog to read about her passion for rowing – yes, even at this time of year! Brrr. Here’s girl on the river, with her argument for rowing’s rightful place in our pursuit for fitness.

It’s a bold claim, but I’m going to stand by it. Everyone should row.

I’m not saying that you should all be aspiring to appear at Henley or be following in the footsteps of Redgrave and Pinsent. What I am saying is that as an all-round contribution to your fitness, there’s nothing like it – whatever your main discipline.

Whether you’re a bodybuilder wanting to become leaner, a triathlete, runner or even couch potato, rowing has plenty to offer. For a start, it doesn’t require a river (although that’s the most scenic way of doing it). It can, of course, be done indoors on a rowing machine (or ergometer). As temperatures drop, that’s pretty appealing.

More than that, though, it’s low impact – great for runners whose knees are starting to feel it – and, crucially, it exercises every part of your body, all at once, more than any other kind of machine you’ll find in the gym.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s not all about the arms. Rowing gives your entire body – including that all-important core – an incredible work-out, and can burn a whopping 600 calories an hour. What’s not to love about that?

If you don’t believe me, take a look at this, borrowed from the Concept2 website:

If you’re watching the pennies, it’s great value, too. A rowing machine compares brilliantly with other items of gym equipment, and membership of a rowing club is way better value than joining a gym.

Of course, for the best experience of all, you need to get out on the river (or even the sea – coastal rowing is crazily fun). There’s nothing quite like the feeling of gliding along a glassy river in the evening sun with swans flying overhead and cows grazing on the bank.

Go on, just try it – what are you waiting for?

Girl on the River ( – the diary of a pint-sized rower – is the rowing blog of journalist Patricia Carswell.

Thanks Patricia! I’ve always been happier in the water than on it but perhaps you can convert me – let’s go rowing some time? 🙂

“Guest post: girl on the river tells us why everyone should row” is a post from The Fit Writer blog.

Nicola Joyce – the Fit Writer – is a freelance copywriter and journalist who writes for the sport and fitness industry. Her main website is here.

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