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Home Cardio Workouts – Mix It Up

home cardio workouts mix it up

You dropped your gym membership in favor of training at home. Your garage is becoming more and more like a true iron gym every day, but you need still need some form of home cardio. Obviously you don’t want to go back to using treadmills like you did in the gym; not that you’d actually want to buy a treadmill anyway.

Or maybe you’re still a due-paying member at the box gym, and you’ve reached that point where just even thinking about driving out to the gym to run in place makes you want to cry. Either way, you need some exciting, new cardio options for outside of the gym.

First off, I think that the reason the idea of “doing cardio” is so frustrating for a lot of people is because it actually is boring. People generally find some version of gym or home cardio they can ‘tolerate’ and then only do that one thing. Then inevitably, the time comes that they can’t even stomach the thought of doing that. I believe that you should find a number of fun activities that happen to burn calories, and then do them all. Do one today, a different one tomorrow, and so on. Mix it up!

Home Cardio/ Outside of Gym Cardio – The List

Here are some suggestions of interesting and hopefully not boring ways for you to burn up some calories outside of the gym. Obviously I’m not going to suggest going for a jog or walk around your neighborhood. Those activities are obvious and they are apparently boring to most people, and they are exactly why people invented the treadmill in the first place. So hopefully I will be giving you some ideas that haven’t occurred to you lately; or at all.


home cardio workouts using crossfit

Okay, so you’ve heard of this one like a thousand times, and seen it on ESPN, but have you tried it? If your home gym already has a barbell and a pull-up bar, but you haven’t tried Crossfit yet, maybe you should give it a shot. Crossfit is a big mess of aerobics, gymnastics, and weightlifting mixed together and done within time constraints. In other words, it is definitely a cardio workout.

Keep in mind, it doesn’t have to replace your usual weightlifting workout routine (and probably shouldn’t), but it could be an interesting way to mix things up. Crossfit will definitely kick your ass, especially if you’re not accustomed to it. So give a couple of their WODs (workouts of the day) a try and see how out of breath you are.

Alternatively, since the focus is cardio, another idea would be to take some of the more aerobic exercises from Crossfit and create your own custom home cardio WOD. For instance, you could box jump for x minutes, then jump rope for y number of reps, then air squat for z minutes, catch your breath then repeat. It’s still kind of Crossfit, but without the weights. You could use burpees, lunges, and crunches (etc) to mix things up. No matter how you decide to do it, track your progress and aim higher with each session.

Bouldering / Rock Climbing

Indoor rock climbing for cardio

Climbing is a fantastic way to burn calories. Since being in nature tends to make cardio more tolerable, ideally you’ll want to try to climb outdoors. So if you have friends with climbing gear, ask to be included next time they go. If not; or if the weather isn’t great in your region, then go to an indoor rock gym.

Indoor gyms are still exciting, and you don’t need to know as much technical stuff about climbing to participate. You don’t normally need a membership in order to climb; you can pay for the day or by the hour, and they’ll provide you with the harness, shoes, some basic safety instructions, and then send you off to climb.

I climb once a week almost entirely for the cardio workout I get. I find it to be exhausting. When I do go climb, I first climb the rated paths for a couple hours. After that, I go over to the newbie area where I start my cardio. There, I climb both up, and then back down again until I’ve done 100 meters in each direction. No belaying down; just up and down, up and down. How’s that for innovative cardio. Much more fun than running in place.

An added bonus for those who find they enjoy climbing (or bouldering) is that they’ll start to see their pull-ups and chin-ups improve because of it. Climbing is great for the lats, delts and fore arms.

Boxing / Punching Bag

punch a bag for home cardio

A punching bag can be an exhilarating way to burn off a ton of calories. This is a great option for those who are determined to work out entirely at home. A punching bag can be had for under $100 and is easily hung in any room (especially a garage that has the rafters already exposed). What’s also great is that it doesn’t have to be hung up when you’re not using it, so you aren’t giving up any floor space in your workout room to have it.

I would suggest learning the basics of throwing a punch before you go all crazy on it. You should probably invest in gloves or wraps as well. As with so many exercises, if done improperly, you can hurt yourself (more specifically, your hands). I dare say the hands are pretty high on the list of body parts you’ll want forever, so be careful. Oh, and don’t forget you can kick the thing too.

I’m no expert on boxing myself. Try this video on YouTube to learn some punches. Move like a butterfly…


home cardio workout - gangnam style

Dance the calories away! I’m not talking about those dance videos you can buy from the late night infomercials or the weight loss section of Target (though you could certainly try those if you wanted). I mean really dancing. Get in front of a mirror and dance away. You’re alone, don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself. Or, take a class and learn some moves. It can be upbeat pop dancing, line dancing, foxtrot, or waltzes; it doesn’t matter.  You’re going to get your heart rate up either way which means you’re going to trim down.

Want a true ‘home cardio workout’? Try Dance Dance Revolution (DDR) on your game console. Better yet, find it in an arcade somewhere and play/dance for real. Don’t forget quarters.


Get the best cardio workouts by swimming

Swimming is so amazing for your entire body that I couldn’t pass up on this suggestion. And no, you don’t have to swim laps in a lap pool for it to be a good workout. Try and remember the last time you went to the lake or spent all day at the pool. You were ready for a long nap by the time you got home from that. Swimming is exhausting!

There are so many ways to make swimming a great cardio workout. Try running through the water as fast as you can, or just wade in the water for a while. Better yet, play water polo or water volleyball. Did you know there is such a thing as a water dumbbell?Swimming is hard work. It’s also low impact exercise which is great for the joints. Certainly can’t say the same thing for treadmills or jogging on asphalt.

Here is the real motivation to go swimming: Look at the bodies on professional swimmers and divers. Insane, right?


hiking for exercise

Yes, hiking! Climbing hills and traversing rocky, uneven areas for a few hours on the weekend is a fun way to burn some calories. It’s social (since you shouldn’t really wander too far into the wilderness alone) and no matter what part of the country you live in, there are beautiful places to spend the day. It may not feel like cardio at first, but you’ll have a different opinion about that by the end of the hike. Don’t forget to bring water and some bird food (I mean trail mix).

Play a Sport

cardio workouts with sports

You don’t hear much about tennis pros or basketball players going for hour long jogs every morning. Playing sports is probably the most fun way people get their cardio. If you’re not currently involved in any sports, consider getting involved. Even if you aren’t into team sports, try sports like tennis, squash or racquetball that only require you and a few buds to play.

If you think about it, while a game is on, you never stop moving. Your mind is alert, your body is active, your coordination is going to improve…it’s just great for you. Remember, time flies when you’re having fun. So if you’re going to put cardio into your schedule, you might as well make it as painless and as exciting as possible.


rowing for your cardio workout

Rowing is awesome. Granted, true outdoor rowing is not something everyone has access to. There isn’t always a large body of water around you for you to go throw a shell into. However, rowing indoors is a very viable option. Matter of fact, many a great garage gym folk prefer rowing over any other type of cardio not only because it can be done in the home economically, but because it’s just great low-impact, full body cardio.

Rowing works the entire body, and serves as both cardio and a supplement to your weight training. It also works your muscles and joints through a larger range of motion than nearly all other aerobic activities. Rowing is good for people of all ages, and great for those with past shoulder or knee injuries. Plus, rowing is pretty fun for a stationary-type workout.

So if you can’t get out on the lake, look into an indoor rower. I get into more detail about rowing and also discuss the best rower on the market in a post here.


Cardio consistency needs to be a lifestyle change if you intend to keep the weight off for good. 3-months of being committed to doing cardio followed by 3-months of doing very little to none at all is a frustrating cycle to fall in to.  I believe the key to being consistent is making it fun and exciting, and having a variety of activities you enjoy. Mix up your indoor and home cardio workouts with plenty of outdoor activities. If you keep it fresh, you won’t get bored with it.

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