Rage Against the Machines

Ok...I need to confess.  I really don't like cardio...in fact, I kinda hate it.  My favorite things to do in the gym are to lift weights and avoid the cardio machines.  Well, I DO like the StepMill, but that's where it ends.  The thought of bouncing up and down on the elliptical machine for 30 or even 45 minutes is enough to make me want to hurt someone. Yes, I know how important it is to do cardio to burn fat and increase your cardiovascular endurance...it's all a part of being fit.  However, once I started training for Figure competitions and learned that too much cardio can actually work AGAINST you when you're trying to build lean muscle mass, it was like music to my ears.  Over the last couple of years, I've learned about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and Tabatas, which are fun (but kinda hard) ways of doing cardio that you can do without being tied to a machine for an hour.  I've also learned that lifting heavy weights can jack your heart rate up through the roof!  So now, my cardio routines involve short HIIT workouts (~20-25 minutes), 30 minutes on the StepMill, and a functional cardio session once a week.  If you're unfamiliar with HIIT, you can download my Facts About HIIT.

If you enjoy getting a good workout on a cardio machine, there's absolutely nothing wrong with that.  However, you need to know that it's NOT the only way to get a good cardio workout.


  • They can be very boring. This is especially true if you're going at the same pace for the entire workout.  Even a Law & Order marathon can't keep me on a treadmill for more than 20 minutes.
  • They overestimate the calories burned.  Basically, these machines are lying to you when they tell you you've burned 500 calories in 10 minutes.
  • They tend to encourage "cheating".  I've done it myself and I've seen other people do it...holding on the handrails or leaning over, which totally defeats the purpose of being on the machine.
  • They can be very boring. Oh, did I mention that already??
  • They are not convenient.Unless you have equipment in your house, you have to go to the gym to get in a good cardio workout.  People often use this as an excuse to skip their workouts altogether.


I prefer to make up my own cardio workouts that change every couple of minutes, which is why I love HIIT and functional cardio.  These workouts keep me mentally engaged,  the diversity makes the time go by faster, and I can do them ANYWHERE.

Here's a HIIT workout that I did this week.  I chose 5 different exercises that were challenging and that I LIKE:


You don't have to do high-intensity intervals...you can do low- or medium-intensity intervals with these same exercises.  You can also decrease the "on" interval and increase the rest interval...you have to do what's best for YOU, but also remember to challenge yourself.

I also like to incorporate Tabatas, which is a type of high-intensity interval workout, but you do one exercise for 20 seconds on, 10 seconds rest for a total of 8 rounds (which is 4 minutes).  Here's a Tabata workout that I did recently:

Switching up your cardio routines to include intervals or exercises that don't require a machine can make a world of difference for your body and your endurance.  If you're not comfortable making up your own routine or you LOVE the machines, you can still do interval training on any of the cardio equipment in the gym.

So, the next time you go to the gym and ALL the machines are occupied (or temporarily out of order), no sweat...you can still get a workout!

Stay fit!