Summer is OVER, people! At the risk of being a total downer/drama queen straight out of the gates, as of this week, it is officially fall. Don't shoot the messenger! Though I hope and pray that we don't have a repeat of last years life sucking winter conditions, (and that you continue reading this article, despite the harsh opener). I'm also prepared for the worst. My winter boots have been cleaned. I've pulled my box of ugly Christmas sweaters out of storage and even dusted off my crock-pot. If Mother Nature is going to be a Royal B#!*$ again this year, I'm ready for her! Another way I'm gearing up for her potential mood swings -- I've slowly started moving my cardio workouts indoors. While I covet my outdoor runs, I've realized I'm much more allergic to the cold than I am the treadmill.
So, in order to make my time on the stationary cardio equipment a little less dull, boring, and monotonous, I've come up with a few tricks to make the time go faster and get more bang for my (torturous) buck.
Worth the Weight
Have you ever tried holding two-pound weights with your arms extended straight out at shoulder height for 30 seconds? Doesn't sound like much, but give it a try...it gets really hard, really fast! Now try doing that while walking on the treadmill or elliptical (forget those elliptical handles, they're actually useless). Grab two or three-pound dumbbells, hold one in each hand and switch between one minute of running and one minute at a slightly slower pace doing various upper body exercises. As for what arm moves to choose from, the sky is the limit. It doesn't have to be fancy -- try bicep curls, tricep extensions, shoulder press, straight punches, lateral raises, extended arm circles...literally doing anything with those weights for a minute at a time will do the trick. One of my favourite moves for busting that arm-flap is the "speed bag": raise both hands to forehead height and circle them around each other (switch directions after 30 seconds.) When you run out of ideas just go back to the beginning and do 'em all again. Say goodbye agonizing time, and hello Aniston arms!
Beat the System
One of my personal secret weapons when it comes to making cardio more bearable is syncing the pace of my playlist to the pace of my running. Sounds a bit odd, but its incredible what treating a jog like a dance can do! Trust, I've paced half marathons this way and it really makes the time go by incredibly fast. All you need to do is figure out your sweet spot in terms of BPMs (beats per minute) and download an entire playlist of tracks with the same tempo. I used to think I was the only one who did this, until I typed it into the old Google machine and realized there are a LOT of resources to help you figure this out. Check out this website for a little assistance.
When in doubt, turn it into a game. Surprise yourself every minute with a new pace. Whether on the bike, elliptical, treadmill or rower, adjust your intensity (either in speed, incline or resistance) every 60 seconds and keep yourself (and your metabolism) guessing. It will keep your mind off the time and focused on what number you're going to punch in next. Walk for a minute, jog for a minute, hike up an incline for a minute so on and so forth. Congrats, you just did the hardest, most effective type of cardio workout (HIIT: High Intensity Interval Training) without even knowing it.
I have to give credit to the source of my inspiration for this last piece of advice. Have you ever seen videos of treadmill dancers? Well if you haven't, check out this amazing man here and this fantastic woman, having the time of her life, here.
I know it seems weird to take your cue from people who have been put in the "ultimate gym fails" category but I highly disagree with that label. This is actually a very effective calorie burning technique. Now I'm not suggesting you take it to this level of extreme treadmill trickery, but simply changing the direction of motion has big caloric payoff. Turn down the speed just little, turn to face one side and do side shuffles.
This technique works more muscles than just straight up running, (hello, inner thighs!!) and is much more exciting. Another unorthodox, yet effective direction to try, backwards! That's right, research shows you only need to go 80 per cent of your forward running speed to get the same cardio and caloric benefits. So try doing interval circuits including all 4 directions -- 30 side shuffles to the left, 30 seconds jogging forward, 30 side shuffles to the right and 30 paces jogging backwards. Concentrating on counting (and not falling) will make the time fly by while giving you an incredible sweat. Word to the wise: start slow...we wouldn't want to end up on one of these compilations!
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