best running alternatives

How To Do Cardio Without Running: The 2 Best Non-Running Cardio Workouts

July 29, 2019

Do you want to do cardio but you hate running?

We hear you.

Running on a treadmill is monotonous and time-consuming. Especially steady-state cardio on a treadmill…

Now, running outside we are all for.

Running on the road, grass or sand is much tougher than a typical commercial gym treadmill, as these treadmill belts help your legs turnover, making it easier to run faster…

Moreover, running outside allows you to enjoy nature, explore your town or city…it can take you places you’ve never been.

how to do cardio without running

Sounds pretty good in theory, right?

Maybe, maybe not.

In any case, there are a few reasons why running outside isn’t an option:

  • The weather
  • It’s too time-consuming (you need to run at least 40 minutes to have a good cardio session, and your pace needs to be considerably exhausting)
  • For some, it’s too boring to make it a habit.
  • Other personal reasons, such as injuries or joint issues, too out of shape, kids are at home, etc.
  • You simply want to try something different.

So, while running outdoors is a good option for some, it’s definitely not the end all be all.

There are other, more efficient, ways to work on your cardiovascular health…and as we all know, cardio is a vital aspect to truly being in shape.

Benefits of cardio:

  • Getting toned, tight, fit
  • Prevention of illnesses like diabetes, strokes, cancer, and, of course, heart disease…

cardiovascular workout

Ok, so we probably don’t need to go too in-depth on the benefits, this is basic knowledge. Yet, many of us still don’t make the time simply because running is “out of the question”.

Thankfully, we have other options... 

Now, moving on to the point of this post - non-running cardio. What are our options?

The 2 Best Ways to Do Cardio Without Running (these can be done ANYWHERE - i.e. at home)

Note: The following 2 may seem similar, but the protocols of the workouts are different, which we will explain. 

Oh ya, and there are actually ADDITIONAL BENEFITS that comes with these 2 running alternatives. Some really crucial benefits at that…Win-Win anyone?


HIIT, which stands for High Intensity Interval Training, is as the name suggests, high intensity and done in intervals.

HIIT workouts are an incredible way to improve cardiovascular health in the shortest amount of time.

Essentially, the goal with HIIT is to perform an exercise to about 80-85% of your perceived exertion (max heart rate) for 10-60 seconds and then rest (or actively rest, i.e. walking, jogging) until your heart rate drops back down to about 65%, at which time you perform the exercises again to get your heart rate up past 80%. You continue this work-to-rest ratio for the entire workout.

Although the concept for an HIIT workout is straight forward, it can take time to get to know your body to understand your exertion levels. On the other hand, if you want to get very technical, you can always monitor your heart rate using a smartwatch or the like.

Your body will become more conditioned over time, so you will want to make progressions by decreasing rest time or increasing work time. But in any case, the rule with HIIT is to always get to that 80-85% level, rest to 65%, and repeat for the entire workout.

Note: Some people will need to do less work to get their heart rate up to 85% max effort. For some people that could mean simply power walking. Others need to do more work, such as intense sprints. So, an HIIT workout should be created based on a specific individual. 

How long are HIIT workouts? 

Typical HIIT workouts are 10-20 minutes long. However, they can be as short as 5 mins.

Exercises and Equipment:

HIIT workouts are typically done with single modality bodyweight activities, such as sprinting, rowing, biking, swimming, burpees, tuck jumps, high knees, mountain climbers, hitting the bag, etc.

18 Best Beginner HIIT Exercises

However, HIIT workouts can also incorporate equipment, such as battle ropes, kettlebells, steel maces, jump ropes, etc. Unconventional tools are best for HIIT in our opinion.

15 Minute Steel Mace Cardio AMRAP Workout

In any case, most HIIT workouts focus on one compound exercise for the length of the workout.

non running cardio

How many times a week should I do HIIT?

You can do HIIT workouts about every other day. The main point to consider is that you have given your body enough rest time between workouts. HIIT workouts tax your nervous system, so it is essential that you allow time to recover before doing another HIIT workout. Most people who do LIIT weight training will mix in about 2 to 3 HIIT workouts a week.

HIIT Workout Formats:

  • TABATA: This format involves shorter work time and shorter rest time. Most TABATA workouts have a ratio of 20 seconds work and 10 seconds recovery and they last around 5-10 minutes. That said, you can play around with the ratio, such as 10 seconds work followed by 10 seconds rest, or 30 seconds work followed by 15 seconds rest or 40-20, etc. To progress over time, you can slightly adjust your interval timer up or down. An example of a TABATA could be burpees for 20 seconds, then rest 10, and repeat for a total of 5 minutes.
  • EMOM (Every Minute On the Minute): For this, you will be performing a set number of reps or time every minute on the minute for a specific amount of time, typically 10-20 minutes. An example could be 10 reps tuck jumps every minute on the minute for 10 minutes, which would be a total of 100 tuck jumps. Another could be sprinting for 10 seconds every minute on the minute and walking or resting for that 50 seconds before the next minute starts.
  • BURSTS: For this, you will be moving fast then slow for a total of 10-20 minutes. The easiest way to do this is to sprint to 80-85% max heart rate, then walk or jog until around 65% max heart rate, then repeat for the duration of the workout.
  • PYRAMIDS: A pyramid style drill involves multiple interval durations all in one set. So you increase the work intervals to a high point (i.e. the top of the pyramid), then decrease it back down to the starting point, rest until your heart rate is down below 65% and repeat another set or two. Usually, these workouts last for 10-20 minutes. Your pyramid could look like this - 20 seconds work, 20 seconds recovery, 30 seconds work, 20 seconds recovery, 40 seconds work, 20 seconds recovery, 30 seconds work, 20 seconds recovery, 20 seconds work, 20 seconds recovery, REST. Then repeat with a new exercise.

Related: Reverse Pyramid Training Guide

cardio alternatives to running

Benefits of HIIT:

    • Cardio Vascular Health.
    • EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which is basically afterburn, meaning you will burn calories and increase your metabolism for up to 48 hours. Can’t get that effect with steady state running cardio, that’s for sure.
    • Burns a lot of calories/fat in a short period of time.
    • Improves oxygen consumption.
    • Gain muscle or the very least preserve the muscle. As we all know, too much steady-state running cardio will decrease muscle mass.
    • Reduces heart rate, blood pressure and blood sugar.

    2. Metabolic Workouts

    Metabolic workouts are classified as “cardio with weights or your bodyweight”.

    Many people call metabolic workouts “circuit training on steroids”.

    Metabolic workouts are high intensity and for pretty much the entire workout you are sustaining maximum effort. Metabolic workouts are not for the faint-hearted.

    The big difference between HIIT and Metabolic Workouts is the rest time. Metabolic workouts keep rest time very low. It’s not going based on your heart rate as much as it is simply trying to keep the rest time as little as possible (of course, without sacrificing form and range of motion).  

    How long are HIIT workouts? 

    Most metabolic workouts last from 20-30 minutes, but they can be as little as 10 minutes. 

    Exercises and Equipment:

    Most metabolic workouts involve the use of weights, however, the weight of the training tool is normally pretty light, say 3-15lbs. 

    Metabolic workouts have a lot of versatility. They can involve weighted circuits, bodyweight exercises, a single modality activity, plyometrics, or a combination of all of these. 

    In any case, the workouts involve compound, multi-joint exercises, as they burn the most calories. 

    Our favorite equipment for Metabolic Workouts are kettlebells and steel maces as the format can be very versatile, full of many exercises that move through multiple ranges of motion (which is great). Plus, these training tools are fun, and the weight is usually the perfect amount. That said, you can also get a great metabolic workout in with a barbell if you have one at home or if you are at the gym. 

    list of cardio exercises at home

    How many times a week should I do HIIT? 

    Similar to HIIT, you will want to give yourself time to recover. 3-4 metabolic workouts a week is perfect. The best part is, you can consider these your weight/strength training and cardio all in one. So if you focus on just metabolic training, you can do 3-4 workouts a week, with rest in-between days and that’s all you need to get into great shape. Alternatively, you can add in 1-3 metabolic workouts to your current weekly training program. Again, just make sure not to overtrain. Metabolic workouts are very taxing.

    Metabolic Workout Formats:

    • CIRCUIT: Choose 5-6 different exercises, perform the first for 30-40 seconds, rest 20-30 seconds, then move onto the next exercise, and so on and so forth. Do this for a set amount of rounds. For this, you want to focus on slow, controlled, maximum tension during your working time. It’s not about speed as you are doing repetitions for a set time. You can create multiple circuits like this so your workout goes for 20-30 minutes…you can also mix in some of the below workout formats.
    • AMRAP: This means as many rounds as possible or as many reps as possible. This is a circuit-style format where you choose a few exercises and set a time (say 15-20 minutes) and try to do as many reps or rounds as possible in that amount of time. You can also choose one exercise and set a time and try to do as many reps as possible in that amount of time. An example could be steel mace tire slams for 30 seconds on, 20 seconds rest, for as many rounds as possible.
    • CHALLENGE: Choose one or more exercises and set a very high number of reps you want to complete during the workout. There is no fixed time for this but the goal is to finish in the least amount of time. i.e. 1,000 tire slam challenge.
    • LADDER: This can involve two or more exercises. For example, you could choose 5 exercises. You will do each exercise one after the other for 10 reps each (only rest when needed), then the next round do 9 reps, then 8 reps and so on until you are down to 1 rep for the last round. The goal is to complete the workout in as little amount of time as possible, but with good reps. Another example is an ascending/descending ladder, where you choose two exercises, say burpees and push ups, and then you perform 1 push up, 10 burpees, 2 push ups, 9 burpees, 3 push ups, 7 burpees, and so on until you are at 10 push ups and 1 burpee. For this, you want to complete the workout as quickly as you can, without sacrificing form of course.
    • COMPLEX: This is a sequence of exercises or series. Essentially you combine multiple exercises into one big movement (like a yoga sequence but with weights), and you perform this sequence non-stop for a set period of time. Usually, 5-10 minutes. Kettlebells and steel maces are great training tools for this. 

    Although metabolic workouts are really tough, they can be a lot of fun as you can combine 2 or more of the above formats into one 20-30 minute workout.

    cardio alternatives

    Benefits of Metabolic Workouts:

    • Burns a lot of calories (and fat!).
    • EPOC (Excess post-exercise oxygen consumption), which is basically afterburn, meaning you will burn calories and increase your metabolism for up to 48 hours. 
    • Building muscle.
    • Muscular endurance
    • Improves hormonal levels (boosts testosterone while also lowering cortisol levels.
    • Cardiovascular health and capacity.

    low impact cardio workout at home

    To Sum It Up

    HIIT and Metabolic Workouts are the two best ways to improve cardiovascular health without running. They greatly improve cardiovascular capacity while also benefiting you in other areas of fitness.

    Let us reiterate the key difference between HIIT and Metabolic Workouts...

    HIIT vs Metabolic Workouts:

    • HIIT is typically done with only bodyweight exercises.
    • Metabolic Workouts typically involve lightweight training/resistance tools.
    • HIIT is based on your heart rate.
    • Metabolic Workouts aim to minimize rest as much as physically possible.

    Both workouts will be high intensity and many of the additional benefits are the same. If you are looking for hypertrophy, metabolic workouts will have a greater ability to achieve that. 

    So, not only do these two cardio workouts provide the most benefits, they can be done from the comfort of your home, garage, or backyard. They can also be done at the end of your workout at your gym just as you would a treadmill cardio session.

    If you are doing HIIT or Metabolic Workouts after LIIT weight training, then keep it quick, around 5-15 minutes should be good. If you are doing it as your sole workout for the day, aim for 20-30 mins for optimal results. 


    You will need some equipment for metabolic workouts. We highly recommend getting one or some of the following. These are perfect training tools as they are space savers, they are effective, and they are not costly. 

    Best Training Tools: 

    Assuming you don’t know much about steel maces, you can read about the benefits of using steel maces here. Steel Maces are easily one of the best full-body conditioning tools ever made.

    One of our favorite exercises for a metabolic workout is steel mace tire slams. They are fun yet killer, but most importantly, they will get you into incredible shape.

    how to do cardio at home

    You can also read about the benefits of resistance bands to see if bands may be a better option for you. They are very low-impact but still provide great results. 

    Where to Buy Steel Maces and Resistance Bands:

    Get yourself a steel mace.

    Get yourself a set of bands. 

    Here are some more resources for your non-running cardio steel mace workouts:

    We hope you learned something here! If you like this post, please share it with your friends or family who hate running! 

    Always Ready,

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