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How to Make your Cardio More Bearable

Updated on April 20, 2015

1. Set a Goal

Before you start your workout, set a goal, and promise yourself you are absolutely going to reach that goal. You’re not going to get off the boring machine until you have hit that time, calorie, or distance goal. As a runner, my original tendency was to set distance goals, but that made me crazy. Choose whatever feels easiest to you—going for thirty minutes, burning 250 calories, or running two miles. I prefer to watch my calories because then I feel like I’m in control of how long or how fast I have to go. As long as I burn those calories, I can get off the hated machine.

There are fun apps and programs that can motivate you to meet your goals as well. I like tracking my workouts so I can compare them day-to-day and remember how hard I have worked. Here are a couple of my favorite apps for this kind of thing:


2. Prep your Pastime

There are a few ways you can go about this: if you have all the time in the world, you can get a long, easy workout in and partner your workout with a productive or extra-enjoyable pastime. If you’re not wanting to be in the gym all night, go with option two and choose a pastime that won’t slow you down.

Option 1: Slow and Steady

Sometimes I like to get on the stationary bike and go for an hour or even two. If you have this kind of time and a machine that allows you to do other distracting things at the same time, this makes a workout enjoyable and doubly productive. You can bring your homework—books to read are especially perfect as you work out. Studying and reading are great ways to make the time fly; you may even see taking breaks between studying to do your cardio a little harder as a nice break! I also like to go nice and slow and really get into an app or game. You can make Pinterest plans, upload photos, respond to e-mails, etc. if you have time to burn those calories.

Option 2: Get it Done

If you’re hoping to get your cardio done in under an hour or to burn a ton of calories in about an hour, you’ll want a less distracting pastime. My favorites are music and TV shows. Hulu Plus is a great way to get your favorite episodes on your smartphone or tablet. A TV show takes up a half hour or even an hour—the more you love your show selection, the more bearable your workout will become! As for music, make sure you have a few Pandora or Spotify stations that you trust will pump you up, or make a playlist before or at the beginning of your workout. If your music makes you feel like a beast, you’ll believe it as you get that cardio done. Some people like audio books as well—for me, they’re too distracting to remember to work hard.

Whichever pastime you choose, it is essential to keep yourself distracted. You might even look forward to your cardio time as a block of time that you can get things done or take a break from all of the stress in your life.


3. Interval Goals

This tip has made a world of difference in my patience for cardio. If you tend to watch your calories, distance, or time like I do, you’ll get more out of your workout and be less likely to lose your mind if you constantly have a goal to work on. Once again, choose an indicator—calories, time, or distance—and every time you hit one of your mini-goals, change up the workout. That may mean turning up the resistance, going faster, getting a sip of water, playing around with your music, turning down the resistance, or going slower. Here’s an example:

My Elliptical Workout

Calories 1-10: Level 1 resistance

Calories 10-20: Level 2 resistance

Calories 20-30: Level 3 resistance

Calories 30-40: Level 4 resistance

Calories 40-50: Level 5 resistance and a big drink from water bottle

Calories 50-60: Level 6 resistance

Calories 60-70: Level 7 resistance

Calories 70-80: Level 8 resistance and a big drink from water bottle

Calories 80-90: Level 9 resistance and switch from pumping arms to holding onto handles

Calories 90-100: Level 10 resistance and a big drink from water bottle

Calories 100-110: Level 9 resistance

Calories 110-120: Level 8 resistance and a big drink from water bottle

Calories 120-130: Level 7 resistance and switch from holding onto handles back to pumping arms

Calories 130-140: Level 6 resistance

Calories 140-150: Level 5 resistance and a big drink from water bottle

Calories 150-160: Level 4 resistance

Calories 160-170: Level 3 resistance

Calories 170-180: Level 2 resistance

Calories 180-190: Level 1 resistance

Calories 190-200: Very slow/cool down

Sorry for the lengthy explanation; you get my point. You see how many times I get to do something during my workout. This keeps boredom at bay and makes you feel like you’re getting closer to your goal all the time even when you’re still very far from it. If you want to take a break every 10 minutes, or once you’re halfway through your workout at 150 calories, for example, that’s a good motivator, too.


Stay Engaged!

The message here is that it’s essential to remain interested in what you’re doing as you pump out that cardio. Set small goals and big goals and have distractions so that the workout feels like it flies by.


What is your favorite cardio pastime?

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