5 Treadmill Alternatives You’ll Actually Like
Tired of the running on the hamster wheel? Try these fun and effective ways to mix up your cardio routine
By: Erin Hicks
Upgrade Your Cardio Workout
Photo Credit: Thinkstock
Dreading your half-hour-on-the-treadmill gym routine? Then stop torturing yourself and find a cardio activity you actually enjoy.
“There are a lot of activities you can do that burn just as many, if not more calories than running on the treadmill,” says Nikki Kimbrough, certified personal trainer and Gold’s Gym Fitness Institute expert. “The key is to pick something you enjoy so you stick with it.”
Here are five non-boring ways to get your heart pumping, burn just as many calories, and see even better results.
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*The calorie count is based off someone who weighs 150-170 lbs
Treadmill Alternative #1If you haven’t jumped rope since you were on the playground, we’ve got news for you: It’s a lot more challenging than you remember. “Believe it or not, jumping rope can be a great workout—it strengthens your abs because you have to keep your core tight and it gives your metabolism a jolt,” says Kimbrough. “But to do it effectively, you have to build a rhythm so you’re not always stopping.”
How to do it: Kimbrough says start with the basic standard jumping rope with your feet together. Try bringing the rope up and over and doing a single jump for 3 minutes without stopping. Then give yourself a minute break, and try again for another 2 minutes. Try 2 minutes on, 1 minute off for about 10 minutes. And then as you start to get comfortable with that, increase the time you’re jumping by a minute each time. Once you get to 5 minutes without taking a break, you’ve developed a strong rhythm and can start building towards jumping for 30 minutes straight. “Taking breaks in between jumping is perfectly fine—it turns it into an interval workout,” says Kimbrough.
How many calories it burns: You can burn 300 calories in 30 minutes jumping rope.
Why it beats the treadmill: Jumping rope improves your agility and coordination, says Kimbrough. It's also good at strengthening your calf muscles, shoulders, and arms.
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Treadmill Alternative #2“It’s a great workout to burn off steam and energy,” says Kimbrough. “You’re strengthening your core muscles because the basic movements are like standing crunches with the upper body—you’re getting your heart rate up and you’re strengthening your upper back muscles at the same time."
How to do it: Kimbrough recommends beginners try kickboxing with a trainer or a class first to get the basic mechanics down. But after that, she says you can do it anywhere. “Do it in the living room going through the sparring routine or do it with a bag and gloves—either way it’s a great workout.”
How many calories it burns: “You’ll burn anywhere from 310 to 400 calories in 30 minutes,” says Kimbrough.
Why it beats the treadmill: Not only are you sweating but Kimbrough says you’re strengthening your upper-back muscles, core muscles, legs, and arms at the same time.
Treadmill Alternative #3“Stair climbing is a great workout—you don’t even need the machine if you can go outside and find a set of stadium stairs somewhere,” says Kimbrough.
How to do it: If you’re running outside, Kimbrough recommends putting more power into the workout by running up every other step, and speed walking down every single step on the way down to really get your heart pumping. By running up every other step, you’re making the routine an explosive, plyometric workout, which can increase the power of your legs and improve the functions of the nervous system. “I tell people to put their favorite music on and do it for 10 minutes,” she says.
If you’re on a stair machine, choose a level that’s challenging for you. “Set the stair climber on manual or choose the interval workout mode if your machine has that setting, starting with 30 minutes, working your way to 45 minutes, without stopping,” she says.
How many calories it burns: You can burn more than 500 calories in 30 minutes.
Why it beats the treadmill: “A stair workout is really a girl's (or guy’s) best friend because it shapes the butt,” says Kimbrough. “It works the lower part of your glutes, your calf muscles, and your hamstrings. You have to have strong hamstrings to have a nice rear view because those muscles are the ones that help sit your butt up.”
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Treadmill Alternative #4Sure, it’s bound to hurt your butt, but you’ll get over it. “Spin class can be a great way to learn the mechanics of riding a bike,” says Kimbrough. “It’s great for the lower body.”
How to do it: Riding a stationary bike sometimes isn’t as challenging as spinning, so Kimbrough recommends taking the popular class most gyms offer. “When you’re taking a class, you have someone dictating your tempo and telling you when to stand up and increase your intensity, so you get the full lower body workout as well as the cardio benefits.”
How many calories it burns: You’ll burn 400 to 550 calories in 30 minutes.
Why it beats the treadmill: You are burning a few more calories than you would by running, and doing something different will challenge different muscles, Kimbrough says. “Also, riding a bike will take some stress off the joints. Running can aggravate knee problems and tendinitis, so it’s good to mix things up for cross-training."
Treadmill Alternative #5Anything that will get you sweating will burn those calories, so why not do something you enjoy? Many gyms offer dance classes, so take advantage. Just make sure that you’re not dancing at a conversation's pace, says Kimbrough. “You want to challenge yourself—if you can do cardio and can carry on a full-fledged conversation, you’re not challenging yourself hard enough.”
How to do it: Take a hip-hop, salsa, Zumba, or a belly-dancing class. If you don’t have access to the gym, pick out a dance or Zumba DVD. Kimbrough says most of the videos out there are pretty good—as long as you’re sweating—so pick out whichever one you like.
How many calories it burns: You’ll burn about 330 calories in 30 minutes.
Why it beats the treadmill: It’s fun. The secret to cardio, according to Kimbrough, is doing something you enjoy so that you’ll stick with it. “The key is finding an activity you enjoy so you really sweat and burn off those calories. If you choose a cardio activity you dread—chances are you’re not going to do it.”
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