Cardio workouts are so good for your body — and your mental health! — but not all of us have learned to like running. Cycling is great, but not everybody has a bike or the patience to troubleshoot their sore butt. (We have tips for that, though.) So let’s take a look at some of the other ways to get your cardio, from gym machines to simple workouts you can do at home.
When I can’t get out for a run, my favourite indoor workout is to do a bunch of kettlebell lifts. Swings are an easy way to get your body moving and your heart rate up, and they’re not too hard to learn. For a full-body challenge, get to know the snatch or other lifts like cleans, presses, and jerks. People who compete in kettlebell sport, the style shown in this video, train to be able to do the lifts for 10 minutes straight. That’s a heck of a cardio workout.
A rowing machine, or ergometer, is one of the best yet least-appreciated cardio machines in any gym. Just make sure you learn proper technique so you’re using your muscles most effectively. Push with your legs, then lean back with your torso, and finally pull in with your arms. Reverse that order to prepare for the next stroke.
Another space-efficient indoor workout, all you need is a jump rope and a place where you won’t smack it into anything. When you first start jumping rope, you might have a hard time relaxing into an easy pace, so do it in intervals and rest as needed in between. This 10-minute workout from the Jump Rope Dudes alternates short stints of jumping with other bodyweight exercises.
A ski erg is kind of the same concept as a rowing machine — ropes connected to a flywheel — but it’s mounted on a wall and you pull the handles downward, rather than sitting on it and pulling them toward you. Check out this video for some tips for using it efficiently and effectively.
Dancing is fun, full-body, and can be done anywhere, which explains why it’s been such a popular home workout modality since the days of Jane Fonda and Richard Simmons. Try short dance videos like this one set to Black Pink’s Boombayah for simple moves that you can master a little more with every replay.
Another lesser-known cardio machine that you’ll find in some gyms: the Jacob’s ladder. It’s a bodyweight-powered, endless ladder that you can climb. Check out this video for some beginner tips.
If you’ve got a sandbag, you have a cheap and versatile conditioning tool (and you can sneak some strength training in there, too). With a lighter bag, you can clean it, press it, row it, and more. With a heavier one, you can get your heart pumping just by carrying it from one end of your driveway or living room to the other. This video from Alena Alsruhe shows you how to pick up and carry the heavy kind, and be sure to watch to the end to see her do a double bodyweight sandbag carry.
Arc trainers are replacing ellipticals in many gyms, and their makers have plenty of claims about how they’re better than ellipticals and better still than running or cycling. I don’t know that I believe all the hype, but if you’re looking for some variety in your cardio machine, these are definitely worth checking out.
There are tons of bodyweight-only options in Crossfit’s repertoire of WODs, from the named benchmark workouts to the many “workouts of the day” (that’s what WOD stands for) written by coaches. This video includes six that don’t require weights, and here’s a collection of 350 more — hope you like burpees!
Our last cardio option is another lesser-known gym machine: the VersaClimber. It’s like a treadmill for climbing, with handles and footholds that slide up and down. Here’s a video on how to use it, so you can give it a try the next time you see one in the gym.