Hate Running? Here Are Some Cardio Alternatives 


By Samantha McChesney, O2X Instructor

If you’re anything like me, then cardio feels like your worst enemy and lifting feels like your best friend. You may also feel like 20 reps of squats is the most cardio you’ll ever do. When most people think of cardio, they picture hopping on a treadmill and going for hours. Does this sound familiar?

Whatever your current relationship with cardio might be – love it or hate it –  cardio workouts certainly have a purpose.

Good cardiovascular health is imperative to a strong mind and body. It decreases your risk for cardiovascular diseases (which are the top killer of first responders), sends a rush of endorphins through your body for a mental health boost, increases your immune system for a natural barrier to sickness, and makes you have a strong heart. 

These are all reasons that I fight past my strong dislike for cardio workouts and my weakness in cardiovascular endurance. I have made sure I am implementing work that will enhance my cardiovascular system, but without it being boring! 

Here are some examples of cardio workouts that are way more fun than endless treadmill hours:

Cardio Alternatives to Running:

  1. Rucking – There’s nothing better than getting outside and exploring. While you’re at it, you might as well throw on a ruck/backpack with some weight in it, and go exploring! Fresh air, some good scenery, and a hidden dose of cardio is the way to go. Bring a friend and the time passes quickly! Start with a small weight, and increase over time.
  2. Stairs – This is a fun way to make cardio a challenge, and for even more enjoyment you can grab a friend to join you. Race up the stairs, and see who can get the most flights in X amount of time, or go for 110 flights to honor our firefighters from 911. This can be done on a stairmaster, on bleachers, in stairwells, or just the stairs at home!
  3. HIIT training – Don’t have time for a long workout? Get an effective HIIT session done in about 20 minutes! Remember, this means High Intensity Interval Training, so you’ve got to put in the extra exertion to complete the exercises with high intensity, or all out effort. Intensity can be increased through load (the weight carried), increase work time, decrease rest time, distance, power, compound movements, etc. Push hard for the workout and focus on recovery for the rest period. You can do HIIT workouts indoors, outdoors, with equipment, or with no equipment, making it a solid option for everyone. 

Give this HIIT workout a try:

For this workout, you’ll complete :30 seconds of work, followed by :30 seconds of rest. Do four rounds of the following: 

Goblet squats
Suitcase carry
Kettlebell swings
Inverted rows

Tried it? Let us know how you did!

Cardio is hardio, but let’s make it something we enjoy doing to get better! Challenge a friend, a coworker, a family member, and get out there!

About the Specialist: Samantha McChesney is an O2X Instructor who provides injury prevention, strength, and conditioning to tactical, college, high school, and youth athletes. She is a personal trainer, group exercise instructor, and coach in Massachusetts. Samantha founded and owns a fitness studio and an all-star cheerleading facility, both of which are geared toward veterans, first responders, and their families. In the military community, Samantha is a Chapter Captain for Team RWB and is actively involved in physical improvement for service members of all ages and stages of their careers. Samantha is passionate about learning and has earned a Bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science, a Master’s degree in Rehabilitation Science, is currently in a Master’s of Public Administration program, and an EMT.