Cardio tips and tricks

Since my long run didn’t end up happening yesterday morning, I was determined to get in some mileage and hit up the dreadmill for a pm run sesh. Even though I do enjoy cardio alone -it’s a great time to zone out and blast my favorite music- I love taking and teaching classes even more. Since there are some days where a daytime workout doesn’t fit in my schedule, I’ll go for a pm weights or cardio sesh.


While it can be harder to find the energy at night, the hardest part is putting on my gym clothes. Once I’m there, I can (usually) do it.

Make cardio fly by

Here are some of my favorite tips for making a solo cardio sesh fly by:

-Have a plan. It’s so easy, and kinda boring, to plop a magazine on the machine and pray for it to be over. Have a little notecard, a pin from your phone, or an idea of what you want to do.

-Play a game. If you haven’t set up a solid plan for cardio, make a game out of it. Try to go as fast as you can for 30 seconds. Recover for about a minute, then repeat, trying to meet or BEAT your last speed drill. Another one of my favorites is musical cardio. Do what the music tells you to do! If it’s a fast-paced chorus, sprint each time you hear it. If the vocalist keeps saying the same word or phrase in the song, add in resistance or speed each time you hear that word or phrase.

My current fave: “This girl is on fire” <– every time I hear Alicia sing those words, I crank the resistance, which leads to this.

67056 548889451812327 1232612800 n

-Try to use the machine in a different way. Add in some strength to your treadmill routine (LOVE these treadmill strength moves), pedal backwards on the elliptical, or (if you’re coordinated and experienced enough to try it) skip every other step on the StairMaster.

-Take it outside. I find it so rejuvenating to run outside, or do strength/cardio drills on an outdoor track. If you have a safe route or outdoor space you love, take it outside with your awesome playlist.


-Speaking of playlists, try to avoid solo cardio workouts with stale tunes. Update your playlist every week or so, making sure to add in your current power song. Mine right now is definitely the new Fallout Boy- I can’t get enough.

-Use a bodyweight circuit. Just because you’re doing cardio doesn’t mean you have to be stuck on a machine. Try alternating jump roping with your favorite (that’s a subjective term haha) bodyweight exercises to get your heart rate up. Jump squats, high knees, butt kicks, step ups, and burpees work very nicely πŸ˜‰

Jump 2

-An obvious, yet important to note, way to make cardio go by faster is to make it a shorter, more effective session. Go for some HIIT intervals and you’ll be in and out of there in less than 30 minutes!

Do you prefer solo cardio, or would you rather take a group class? Any favorite tips or tricks to make cardio go by quickly?

Some more of my favorite cardio posts:

How much cardio do you need?

Get more bang from your cardio buck

Hope you’re having a great day!



Post Navigation:


  1. Lindsay on April 8, 2013 at 4:42 pm

    Def listening to that new Fallout Boy song reading this lol!

  2. Rose on April 8, 2013 at 4:49 pm

    I looooooove HIIT on the treadmill (or as you call it: dreadmill, lol).
    I usually put the incline on 10% and the speed on 6.2 mph.
    Then I do 30 seconds ON, and 30 seconds OFF (with my feet spread on the sides of the treadmill).
    When I get really into it, I turn up the speed or the incline every minute.
    A iPod of power music is recquired!

  3. Emma S. on April 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    Any tips or tricks to give yourself that last push to the gym? Once I’m there, I’m good to go but really struggling at the moment!! Even new music isn’t working at the moment! x

  4. Kristi on April 8, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I definitely prefer solo cardio sessions. For me, cardio is a chance to zone out and be alone with my thoughts. There are definitely days I’m just not feeling it though, and for those days, Keeping Up with the Kardashians on E! helps. πŸ™‚

  5. Sarah @ Yogi in Action on April 8, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    I WAY prefer group classes- especially yoga and anything dancing. Way more fun and the time just flies by. Plus, I find in a group setting I get more of a push to work harder than if I’m just trying to motivate myself.

  6. Emily on April 8, 2013 at 5:59 pm

    I like watching Bravo or E! when on cardio machines and making up stupid games with myself, like sprint for 10 seconds when someone says “OMG!” or switching directions when there’s a fight. It’s like a drinking game for the elliptical.

    • Emily on April 8, 2013 at 5:59 pm

      Not recommended for watching Jersey Shore reruns, or you’ll never get a break.

      • Emily on April 8, 2013 at 9:27 pm


      • Fitnessista on April 8, 2013 at 10:06 pm

        haha i love it

  7. Karissa on April 8, 2013 at 6:08 pm

    I think I like classes more than anything else- I like knowing somebody else is sweating it out with me! (Ha ha another reason I love Insanity- I get so into it thanks to Shaun T I legit feel like he’s with me, yelling at me to do 2 more pushups!) I used to LOVE machines like the elliptical but I think I may have overused in the past- now, not such a fan.

  8. Heather @ Fit Mama Real Food on April 8, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Great tips! HIIT is def my fav. Less time but more bang for your buck!

  9. Ashley @ Life and Fitness on April 8, 2013 at 6:32 pm

    I like hitting weights alone to just zone out. I prefer some good tunes or a friend on a machine next to me. It’s a good way to catch up and time just flies by when you’re recapping the weekend.

  10. Miranda @ Miranda Runs on April 8, 2013 at 6:50 pm

    I love this! I definitely love doing cardio outside. I love watching the world fly by as I run! Running with music is best for zoning out, but it’s nice running without music and hearing nature’s sounds too. πŸ™‚

  11. Kaila @healthyhelperblog! on April 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Great tips! Cardio inside is killer….outside I could run forever! So these will definitely be helpful when I am forced into the gym because of weather!

  12. Becca on April 8, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    I like to run alone or with my dog, but sometimes having a group around really helps if your motivation is dragging. This has especially been the case for me when my running team has gone to the mountains around here– it’s hard to run alone (if one runs at a different pace than the others or has to stop for a bathroom break, etc) in those situations because, while the setting is beautiful, the runs are quite difficult due to all the climbing!

  13. Lisa @ Lisa the Vegetarian on April 8, 2013 at 7:07 pm

    I’m a big fan of solo cardio, though it does get boring fast. These are great tips! At some point, I might try working out in a group class setting, but for the time being, it’s solo all the way.

  14. Kim on April 8, 2013 at 7:43 pm

    Solo cardio is pretty much how I do all of mine. It is rare for me to dread cardio (usually when I do it means I should just take a break).
    As usual – great tips!!

  15. Tara on April 8, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    I also have a hard time going to the gym, but once I’m there it’s gametime. Hm, a tip I have is whenever I’m with a gym buddy, we will ‘compete’ and do the same intervals at the same time (safely). It adds extra adrenaline for me!

  16. Allison @ Train Eat Repeat on April 8, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    I like having the time alone to think and refresh my brain, whether I am running or biking. A partner is nice too sometimes though! I normally go solo though, just works better schedule wise.

  17. CourtStar @ StarSystemz on April 8, 2013 at 8:50 pm

    I am always switching out songs on my playlist to keep it fresh plus I LOVE SPIN CLASS, I swear the Spin Classes at my GYM rock! They even bring in a DJ sometimes and today they had a drummer who drummed to the music it was AMAZING! If I can’t make it to the gym I go outdoors or do a TABATA in my house and really push myself each time and make goals for more reps so that keeps me going! Music is #1 though, without an awesome playlist I am not one to stay motivated. Great post Gina πŸ™‚ Love + Shine CourtStar

  18. Alyssa on April 8, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    Do you usually run with a side ponytail? I would find that so irritating! Whipping in my face all the time. Kudos to you if you can run looking so cute!

    • Fitnessista on April 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      haha no, i pulled it to the side for the pic- i run with it in a low ponytail usually

  19. McKel | Nutrition Stripped on April 8, 2013 at 9:29 pm

    Great advice and great post. I personally like doing cardio solo listening to music and jumping around, trying to keep it interesting! Thanks for sharing πŸ™‚

  20. Jeanette on April 8, 2013 at 9:39 pm

    So true that sometimes the hardest part is talking yourself into getting the gym clothes on! πŸ™‚ Once I’m in the frame of mind to work out, I give it 110% percent. I find that outdoor cardio is best for me (running on the beach, etc.) and 30-minute training sessions with weights work great for me too. Working with my personal trainer has really helped motivate me – and we make the time go quickly by chatting! πŸ™‚

  21. Emily Whiting on April 8, 2013 at 10:31 pm

    I love the “My Quads Are On Fire!” That’s how I was feeling yesterday after lifting heavy on my legs and finishing the workout with stairmaster HIIT. I think steady cardio is pretty easy to just zone out and get through, but HIIT and weights take so much more thought. I agree with you that having a plan written down is key!

    Thanks for the ideas!

  22. Kim on April 8, 2013 at 10:42 pm

    Great post! New fan from Skinny Kimmie. πŸ™‚

  23. Lucie on April 9, 2013 at 2:40 am

    If running, I ALWAYS go outdoor. The treadmill depresses me somehow. I hardly ever do Cardio in the gym, Sometimes I do a JumpRope/Cycling Routine at home (5 min Jump Rope, 10 min cycling, SWITCh etc.) If I run outdoor, I run steady or I do an Interval-Run-Strength-Routine (40sec sprint, 30 sec low pace x3, then 2 strength exercises same timing x3, Run again, Strength again, etc.) It FLIES by and it’s so varied, I love it.

  24. Gina @ LifetotheFdegree on April 9, 2013 at 4:36 am

    I love having a variety of workouts during my week. I go on long runs with friends once a week, take a spin class or two, but also crave workouts all by myself where I can blast my music and zone out. I think I appreciate each type of workout more, because I have a balance.

  25. Peter @ MadForFit on April 9, 2013 at 5:25 am

    Some good tips there.

    Having a set weekly routine for your workout (no matter whether it’s cardio or strength trainiing) I find is the most important aspect.

    Failing that, ‘kidology’ is also a good method – i.e. “I’ll just got to the gym and do 15 mins on the treadmill or no more than 2 weight lifting exercises”. Once you’re there you almost always do more!

    Or, just say “I’m just going to put my workout gear on, and see how I feel”. It seldom fails!


  26. char eats greens on April 9, 2013 at 8:04 am

    I love cardio because I love running, but I STILL need to get some long runs in that I’ve been putting off because I don’t want to go on the ‘mill, but the weather isn’t nice enough outside yet!! I’m in a conundrum!!!

  27. Katie Fox on April 9, 2013 at 8:31 am

    Do you make your playlist in iTunes? Do you just recycle old songs or purchase new ones every time you make a new playlist? Thanks!

  28. joelle @ on a pink typewriter on April 9, 2013 at 9:06 am

    That Alicia Keys pic is hilar! Great tips. πŸ™‚

  29. sti @ little windmill yoga on April 9, 2013 at 9:11 am

    It’s too bad my neighborhood is so hilly…you look so pretty gina!

  30. Heidi on April 9, 2013 at 9:38 am

    I love doing intervals on the treadmill as well…they help the time to go by much quicker! In a perfect world, I would always be able to run outside!

  31. dotsie on April 9, 2013 at 9:48 am

    How do you manage to get gym pics without other people hovering around?! πŸ˜€

  32. Kristen on April 9, 2013 at 10:00 am

    Something about that pic makes you look extremely young…like a pre-teen. Maybe it’s the side ponytail.

    I’ve recently toned down the cardio. It started feeling very forced and I was kinda dreading it even though I switched it up. I felt like I “had” to do it. I decided if I’m feeling that way, maybe it’s time to step away for a little while. For now, my cardio consists of nice brisk walks with my son in the jogging stroller and I’m perfectly happy with that πŸ™‚

  33. Erin @ Girl Gone Veggie on April 9, 2013 at 10:13 am

    My Zumba instructor uses Girl On Fire as our cool down song. I LOVE it!

  34. Monique @ on April 9, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    burpees are ALWAYS a good idea;) I am definitely more of a class person, but sometimes it’s nice to just get on a machine and zone out… I only do this when my body is tired and has had tough workouts earlier in the week. If i am looking for a tough, fast workout, I usually do Plyo moves and HIIT.

  35. Chelsea @ One Healthy Munchkin on April 9, 2013 at 6:35 pm

    Good music is definitely key! I haven’t updated my playlist in months though – I keep on putting it on the back burner. πŸ˜›

    I also love it when a good movie or tv show is on at the gym while I’m doing cardio. It seriously makes it fly by!

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.