In recouping from my shoulder injury, I’ve been limited to low impact cardio. This includes exercises like walking, using the elliptical machine, or the stationary bike. These are all low impact, as they don’t put as much stress on the joints as running or plyometric exercises that I would normally do for cardio. However, the reason it’s called “cardio” is because it’s exercise to strength and build endurance in your cardiovascular system. That means getting your heart beating faster and your blood pumping.
To do get that “cardio” part of the exercise in, you have to increase the intensity of the work. The best way to do this on a machine is to increase the resistance level in the case of a bike or elliptical, or increase the incline on the treadmill. You can also incorporate High Intensity Intervals Training (HIIT) by increasing the resistance to the max for 20 seconds, and then lowering it for 10 seconds, alternating back and forth between high and low resistance.
Here are a couple of tips on how you can make your low impact cardio higher intensity:
- Treadmill Walking – Set your speed for your walking pace, usually between 2.5 – 3 miles per hour. Start at a 1% incline, and increase the incline for each minute that passes until you reach the max incline. Then decrease the incline for each minute that passes. Think of it as going over the mountain. For example, the treadmill at my local gym goes to a max incline of 15%. Following this workout puts me right at 30 minutes of activity. NOTE: Do NOT hold onto the guard rails of the treadmill as you walk. Holding onto the guard rails decreases your calorie expenditure by about 20-25%, as well as other negative impact on your fitness. The only reason you should need to hold onto the guard rail is if you’re about to fall.
- Do a Tabata Interval on the Bike – Tabata Intervals are a favorite of mine, and work really well on a stationary bike. After a 5 minute warm up, you do the 8 rounds of intervals of 20 seconds of hard work with increased resistance, and 10 seconds of recovery with a lower resistance. You can also keep a medium resistance, and pedal fast for 20 seconds, and slower for 10 seconds. I like to do this at the end of my work out, perhaps after already cycling for 20 minutes or so.
- Try a Triathlon… – On the machines that is! Switch machines every 10 minutes, and use the first machine as your warm up, work at a higher intensity on the second machine, and then a moderate to low intensity on the last machine.