I am looking for cardio alternatives to running, which I find incredibly boring so it's difficult to keep a routine up. I would like something that is a bit shorter and more intensive. I have tried burpees, which are great but I want 1 or 2 more alternatives to switch it up a bit. I am fairly active in general, weight training and rock climbing 4-5 times a week.

Goals I want to achieve from cardio are:

1) Improved stamina on long hikes when I go rock climbing and carrying gear

2) Burn a bit of fat which is beginning to accumulate in my belly area (I am 27, 185cm and 160 lbs, so I'm fairly lanky)

Any suggestions which can accomplish the above but is less monotonous than running?

4 Answers 4


You'll get some better search responses with the word "Conditioning", which is really what you are after. High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) such as Tabata style training (20s full speed, 10s relative rest) is the best way to optimize conditioning work. Obviously there are a few other ways to do conditioning as well.

  • Prowler let's you adjust the effort by adding or removing weight to the sled
  • Barbell Complexes such as the Evil 8 are fun, and surprisingly challenging even without much weight on the bar.
  • Sledgehammer conditioning lets you hit stuff, but if you have a hard time finding used truck tires, you can always use a ballistic block.
  • Tire flipping is a Strongman activity, and also a good alternative conditioning tool. If you can find a good tire to flip, you can also use it for sledgehammer work.
  • Rope conditioning used by MMA practitioners.
  • Jump ropes are an old stand by used by boxers to help both conditioning and coordination.

That will at least give you a few ideas to get started. The goal of conditioning is to get you to be able to put out work for the period of time you need it. When you look at a basketball game, or even more obviously an American football game, the athletes have periods of relative rest punctuated by brief periods of all out work. Your conditioning should be good enough to let you go as intense as you need to for as long as your sport requires it. The type of conditioning required by an MMA fighter will be different from a boxer, and both will be different from a swimmer.


A team sport, like ultimate (especially because of your height), or soccer would be great for cardio.

  • Doesn't soccer involve running too?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 3, 2012 at 13:15
  • 1
    @IvoFlipse There is a huge difference between running for the sake of running and running in a football game, imho.
    – posdef
    Aug 5, 2012 at 7:28
  • 3
    Then it would be useful if the answer pointed that out. But it would be even more useful if it explained why team sports are so effective. Likely because of things like peer pressure (in a motivational way) and having social contact
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 5, 2012 at 7:39
  • @IvoFlipse good point :)
    – posdef
    Aug 6, 2012 at 13:24

I agree with Sancho on team sports, but also I'd add racket sports, especially squash. After an initial period of getting used to the sport (assuming you have never played before) you'll be giving yourself a great workout when facing a somewhat even opponent.

Otherwise I find jump rope much more challenging and fun than jogging. You can do high intensity intervals or just keep a steady tempo. I find it particularly fun varying my jumps, it almost turns into a somewhat silly dance :)

Here's what I normally try to do when jumping rope:

  1. 100 regular jumps on a more or less steady tempo
  2. alternate between one leg jumps (3-5 on one foot, 3-5 on the other) which will ultimately push your tempo up
  3. once you feel like you are really up to the game throw in some criss-cross
  4. if that's not pushing your heart rate enough add some double or triple jumps

Once you get your coordination in place you can vary these (and other variations) into a routine which you can go at 10-15 min, even for more if you can manage. One last note stretch your calves before and after jump rope training otherwise you might have pretty nasty cramps :)


An alternative to running, burpees for cardio is swimming. I find it easier to vary than running. Search for questions tagged w swimming (see Swimming) and you find excellent resources for how to get started.

Regarding variation, swimming can be varied through speed, distance, technical exercises, swim styles. For example, a varied work-out for me (as a beginner) would be:

  1. Warm-up 100m
  2. 10 sets of {50m , 50m swimm}, where exercises can be found on sites such as Smooth swimming, Total Immersion etc.
  3. 400m "fartlek" (e.g. swim as fast as possible, swim slow- breathe right, swim slow -breathe left)
  4. 100m breast stroke for relaxing
  • 1
    But isn't swimming in the end also very repetitive and perhaps too boring for him?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Aug 5, 2012 at 7:40
  • Good point! Updated my answer to show variation
    – FredrikD
    Aug 5, 2012 at 16:19

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