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A Fun Twist to Cardio Intervals

Updated on July 8, 2011

As many cardio and fitness fanatics may know, interval training gives a spice to your workout and keeps your body from plateauing or accommodating. Treadmill, elliptical, stationary bike and other cardio equipment users like to use the preset programs available, but your body can become use to these as well. Changing up your cardio keeps your body guessing and increases the challenge on your cardiovascular system. But switching from the treadmill to the elliptical to the bike and then repeating can become boring! Here is a fun way to still continue your interval cardio training, and can even be used OFF the cardio equipment! And no need for a personal trainer, more expensive equipment, and say goodbye to watching that pesky clock to time your intervals!!


This simple but fun and interesting way of challenging yourself with interval cardio training will have your cardiovascular system and body not knowing what hit it! Many of us already do this without thinking about it, but if you actually start to pay attention to your music and change up your playlists on that'll have all kinds of unique interval options and you will feel more motivated each time.

Before you try this out, you need to understand the "Rate of Perceived Exertion" chart. There are several to look at with different forms of explanations, but I prefer the one found at the back of every Shape magazine:

1 - 2
Very easy; you can converse with no effort
Easy; you can converse with almost no effort
Moderately easy; you can converse comfortably with little effort
Moderate; conversation requires some effort
Moderately hard; conversation requires quite a bit of effort
Difficult; conversation requires a lot of effort
Very difficult; conversation requires maximum effort
9 - 10
Peak effort; no-talking zone

How to Interval Train with Music

Know how you have those specific songs that get your motivation and heart going, and all of a sudden find yourself working harder without thinking about it? Those are the songs we're talking about! However, start thinking about it. During the verses and/or "slower" parts of the song, stay in a more comfortable RPE zone (this will change with each song depending on the tempo). When the song picks-up, especially during the choruses, pick up your pace or increase your resistance to push yourself into two or more higher RPE levels! Listening to songs that honestly make you want to challenge yourself and inspire you is the best way to keep you honest and not "cheat" yourself.

Picking Songs

When selecting songs to add to your cardio workout playlist; think about the beginning, middle, and end of your session.

Beginning should be somewhat of a "warm-up period," and you should select a song or two that has a slower tempo or rhythm. A song that motivates you, but is not quite the blood pumping tune you need for later in the session. You want to be in the RPE stages of about 1 - 3 during this or these songs.

The middle is the fun part to design! These songs can range in tempos that are fun and put you in an RPE range between 4 - 6 to songs that take you to the absolute max in the RPE zones of 7 - 10. And don't be afraid to mix them up a little: It doesn't have to be a gradual progression into your maximum effort. Choose as many songs as you like for the middle depending on your usual cardio session length!

In the end or "cool down period", you should be jamming to a song or songs that once again are between RPE levels 1 - 3.

From pop to rap to country to rock...any music genre can be applied to this! It is whatever motivates YOU!


Changing It Up

What is also great about this way to interval train is that you can change songs in and out so it doesn't get monotinous, and at the same time, it throws your body out of the "usual" routine. Keeps your body guessing, and will increase your caloric burn and cardiovascular endurance.

You can have several playlists ready: If you're in a "happy" mood one day, you can listen to a particular playlist, but if you're in one of those "mad at the world" the playlist that cooresponds with that feeling.

And this interval training option can be adpated to ANY cardio workout, except maybe swimming for obvious reasons.

Songs that Motivate Me

Just to give an example of different tempos and rhythms, I have listed songs that motivate me into certain RPE levels:

RPE 1 - 3

"Lose Yourself" by Eminem, "I Like It, I Love It" by Tim McGraw, "Just Dance" by Lady Gaga, "Sail" by AWOLNATION,

RPE 4 - 6

"Blow" by Ke$ha, "E.T. (Remix)" by Katy Perry featuring Kanye West, "La Grange" by ZZTop, "Honky Tonk Stomp" by Brooks and Dunn, "Country Song" by Seether, "Remember the Name" by Fort Minor

RPE 7 - 10

"Diamond Eyes" by Shinedown, "My Body" by Young the Giant, "Get Out of Your Mind" by Lil' Jon featuring LMAFO, "Given Up" by Linkin Park,"Bulls on Parade" by Rage Against the Machine

These are just suggestions. Some of these songs might be in different RPE category for you because of how it motivates you. Listen to YOUR heart and what gets it pumping!

My favorite song to get me to the "No-Talking Zone": ....what's your's?


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    • Sean Evans profile image

      Sean Evans 

      7 years ago from GTA

      I've done so many interval runs, this will definitely help me next time so I'm not as bored.


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