If cardio is already a part of your workout regimen, good for you! This type of aerobic exercise helps circulate blood throughout your body, boosts your cardiovascular health, lowers your blood pressure, helps you sleep better, reduces pain, and helps manage your weight, per the American Heart Association (AHA).
Any kind of activity that elevates your heart and maintains that elevation for extended periods of time counts as “cardio,” and there are plenty of machines designed to do just that, including treadmills, ellipticals, rowers, stair climbers and spin bikes. “Cardio machines can be as basic as a bike with one weighted wheel driven by pedals or as high-tech as the new internet-enabled bikes that allow you to join a live class 24 hours a day,” says Marvin Nixon, a health coach and personal trainer. “When it comes to what machine is best, the answer is the best machine is the one that you will use to move for more than 20 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise most days.”
While there are so many ways to get a cardio workout in, cardio machines, in particular, can be quite useful. Not only are they convenient, seeing as you can raise your heart rate while staying indoors, but they also challenge you in many ways. Cardio machines are also convenient, notes Stephanie Mansour, a Chicago-based weight loss coach and corporate wellness trainer, and convenience is a big part of staying active when things get extra busy.
The only drawback of using a cardio machine is that they can sometimes get boring. “Being in the same location for an extended period of time can make working out hard,” says Mansour. “Even changing the incline or tracking your calories sometimes doesn’t cut it.” That’s why, as a personal trainer, she suggests distracting and entertaining yourself so that you don’t lose motivation while working out.
Here, fitness pros share creative ways to keep yourself entertained and focused while using a cardio machine.
Crank up the music
If you don’t already listen to music when you workout, it’s time to create a playlist, ASAP, as listening to tunes is one of the best ways to get your heart-pumping and score yourself a great workout. In fact, one recent study published in the journal Psychology of Sport & Exercise found that listening to upbeat, motivational music while exercising significantly elevated heart rate and energy levels during a workout. Stephanie George, certified yoga instructor and personal trainer, suggests switching up your playlist every now and then so that you’re not always exercising to the same music. Doing so, she notes, can push you a little bit further and offers you a seasonal selection.
Watch a TV show
If it doesn’t make you dizzy, consider watching your favorite show or movie while you exercise. Doing so, will help the time fly by and provides you with a little mental break from your day-to-day. “If you’re binge watching a show, give yourself a certain amount of episodes to workout while on the cardio machine,” says Mansour. “If you only allow yourself to watch this show while working out, you’ll feel more motivated to workout and feel distracted while doing so.”
Tune into a podcast
There are hundreds of thousands of podcasts available to be listened to at any given time, covering nearly every topic imaginable. And all you need to tune in is an account with a streaming platform such as Spotify, iTunes or Audible and some headphones (or speakers). As a weight loss coach, Mansour recommends choosing a podcast that you’re interested in beforehand so that you have the motivation to start working out.
Listen to an audio book
If you’re an avid reader, or looking to read some books in the new year, you might consider your cardio-machine time to be optimal for completing a few chapters. However, reading an actual book while working out may make you dizzy. “Audio books are great because you don’t have to physically hold a book in your hands, which would be hard to do while on a cardio machine,” says Mansour. “Instead, you’ll still get the experience of reading while squeezing in a workout.”
Call a friend
Talking while exercising can actually enhance your workout, since it keeps you distracted from fatigue and energy loss. It also keeps you in check if you’re trying not to do too vigorous a workout, because you know you’re performing at moderate intensity if you can carry out a conversation while exercising on a cardio machine. So pick up the phone and chat with that friend you’ve been meaning to catch up with! There’s no time like the present to do so.
Truly stumped on ways to keep yourself entertained while exercising on a cardio machine? Simply consider it an opportunity to get some brainstorming in. “Not all cardio has to be high intensity so if I am walking on the treadmill that’s where I will do my thinking,” says Jason Kart, P.T., D.P.T., owner of Core Physical Therapy—The Loop in Chicago. “Typically I’ll use my tablet and do some mind mapping or brainstorming while walking—I’ve had some of my best ideas walking on the treadmill!”