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Cardio challenges - with ratio balancing for different cardio types.

Updated on January 17, 2018

Its pretty obvious that a 5k cycle isn't as hard as a 5k run - so when you want to compare these two things what do you do?

You might take some standard triathlon distances as a marker - for example 20km cycle is comparable to 5km run. But what about a cross trainer, or a rower?

I needed a system whereby I multiply each cardio type by a factor to convert it to the equivalent distance on one type of exercise. For me, the one type was cycling.

So for example if you challenge yourself to 'cycle' from Lands End to John O'Groats (a typical long distance event in the UK going from southern most point to northern most point) you can have some participants completing much slower cardio, for example running, but whose effort counts just as much.

My System

I tried to find some sort of established system for this on the Internet, but couldn't find any. So I devised a system based on the average calories burnt per kilometre on each type of exercise in order to establish the amount of 'effort' that goes into a kilometre of that exercise.

The premise is that if it takes say, 100 calories to cycle 8km, and 100 calories to run 2km. Then 2km run should 'equal' 8km bike. If cycling is the marker, the factor to multiply any running distance by would be 4:

2km x 4 = 8km.

*NB runnings factor by my calculations is 3.75 so we're close with this analogy!

I've converted running, rowing, cross training (elliptical), swim and stepper below to tie to cycling as the marker. Please see below for the figures. Multiply the distance on any of these exercise types to get the equivalent cycle kilometers.

NB if your exercise is in miles, convert by the same factor to get the equivalent cycle miles.

approx calories per kilometer
multiply by factor
Cycle (marker)
Cross trainer (elliptical)
100 steps = 1km
*My calculations for calories per kilometre have been sourced from various parts of the web. I'm aware that calories based on distance varies wildly depending on effort, weight, altitude and lots of different factors. I seek only to give a guideline

To figure your own conversion, find out how many calories are burnt per kilometre. Once you have this number, divide it by the marker (in our case this is 16.8). This will give you the factor to multiply all distances of that exercise by.

If you want me to add more exercise types please let me know in comments - it'll help if you can tell me how many calories are burned per kilometre of the new exercise.

If you would like to use a different marker, for example running, please let me know in comments - I'll convert the figures for you in a separate table if I have enough interest!

Some Challenge Ideas

So now that we can challenge ourselves its time to think of some challenges to set!

Time challenge: Exercise for a certain amount of time and write down how far you went during that. The main challenge is to complete the time set (no matter what effort is put in), but you can convert all the exercises to see how far you went during it. Next time you complete the challenge see if you can beat the distance in the same time.

Example individual challenge: Cardio for 1hr per day, 5 days in a row. Add up distance then repeat the same challenge later in the year with the aim to beat that distance.

Example group challenge: Set up three machines and challenge your group to keep at least two of those machines in constant action from 9-5. Keep adding and converting your distances then see how far your group went!

Distance challenge: See below for some examples of famous distances to reach. Work as an individual or a group over a set period of time to reach the distance.

Lands End to John O'Groats by road: 874miles / 1,407km: This is typically cycled in a week. It is the Southernmost point of the UK to the Northernmost point of the UK.

English Channel: 20miles / 32km: This is typically swam with support in one day. Swimmers usually cover themselves with grease to stop hypothermia!

The West Highland Way 94miles / 151km: Typically hiked over a week, this trek covers mountains (or monroes) between Milngavie (just North of Glasgow) to Fort William.

Great Wall of China: 5069miles / 8157km: An ancient wall built to protect the people of China. It has been said that it is visible from outer space (true, but only from a low orbit) and that it is a wonder of the world.

What distances are famous around you? Leave comments and I will add them.


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