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April 17, 2012 at 8:59 AMComments: 2 Faves: 0

Cardio: 3 Low/No Cost Alternatives to The Treadmill

By Cornelius Bounds, CPT More Blogs by This Author

Lately it appears that many people have lost motivation when it comes to the cardio machines. Many times, I have noticed people reading or watching television while "working" on the treadmill or other elliptical trainers. In my mind, I see something missing - a huge separation between the mind and body! How could they possibly be getting the most out of a work out when their mind is so clearly elsewhere?!

Is it boredom?

Is it just not wanting to be at the gym?

I'm not trying to be negative. My purpose here is just to motivate you all to challenge yourself, exert a little more energy and increase your intensity!

If you're getting bored of the same old workout on the treadmill or eliptical - or never had access to them in the first place - I'm here to let you know there ARE other options. Here are  just 3 of the great low to no-cost cardio alternatives out there!

#1. The Kettlebell

  • Workout: Squats, Lunges, Pushups, Military press... the list goes on and on!
  • Muscles Engaged: Glutes (maximus, medius & minimus), Hamstrings, Hips, Quads, Pecs, Back and Upper Deltoids, Lower Back, Inner and Outer Thigh, Arms (biceps and triceps)
  • Benefits: Low cost. Many Options. Great Overall Fitness Tool. The kettle bell helps increase lean muscle mass, correct posture and imbalances and reduce lower back pain.

One of my favorite sayings? "Keep it simple!"

While it can be fun, you don't need a spotter, a bench rack, squat rack or cable machines to get a great workout!

Most fitness enthusiasts focus on what I call "mirror muscles" (the abs, pecs, triceps and quads) swelling them to infinity, neglecting the posterior chain (the calves, lats, gluts and hams) and creating an imbalance in their body composition. With the almost endless variety of movements it can work with, mimicking almost every movement needed for competitive and non-competitive sports, kettlebell training is a great way to achieve an OVERALL body workout without the heavy weights!

The inexpensive kettlebell gives you an intense workout in a short amount of time replacing large, expensive workout equipment. Whether you want to look like Lou Ferrigno, Terry Crews, Michael Phelps, Brad Pitt, Beyonce or J-Lo, the kettlebell is for you!

Whoa!!! I'm getting excited just talking about it!

#2. Swimming/Hydro Training

  • Workout: swimming - pure and simple!
  • Muscles Engaged: Arms (extensors, flexors, brachioradialis, brachialis, biceps, brachii, corocobrachialis) Shoulders (deltoids, rotator cuff, infraspinatus, supraspinatus, teres min & major), Core (trapizius, rhomboids, latissimis dorsi, abdominal and oblique muscles) and Legs (gluteus major, min, and medius)
  • Benefits: A low stress workout. Safe and beneficial for those with joint problems. Beneficial for those with asthma. Perfect for rehabilitation after injury. Decreases symptoms of anxiety and fibromyalgia. Interior benefits. Aerobic and anaerobic benefits. Cardiovascular benefits. Strengthens Lungs. Increases lean muscle tissue. Decreases body fat. Increases metabolism. Increases flexibility. Increases muscle strength and endurance.

The American College of Sports and Medicine recommends resistance training (e.g. weight lifting) twice a week to improve muscular fitness and lean body mass. A great alternative to both the weight lifting AND the treadmill? Hydro training or swimming!

What I love about swimming is the way it tones your upper body, lower body and core using almost all of your major muscle groups simultaneously. Swimming offers many of the same results that you would find in a plethora of gym workouts. It's like lifting weights and running at the same time, but with less overall stress on the body! For women this is a great exercise without worrying about bulking up. For those with arthritis, swimming is a safer exercise for the joints. It's a good exercise for recovery or cool down too!

Have you ever worked out until you've felt the tremble in your arms and legs?

I remember as an athlete playing many sports, after finishing training for muscle endurance, strength and conditioning, my muscles would be bulging, my blood rushing and my body exhausted and I just couldn't wait to  hit the pool!

Today, swimming is my favorite early morning workout. It leaves me feeling refreshed and focused the entire day!

#3. Outdoor Running

  • Workout: Running or running with a weighted jacket for added challenge.
  • Muscles Engaged: Quads, Calves, Abs, Hip Flexors, Hamstrings, Glutes, Stabilization muscles.
  • Benefits: Free. Ability to mix it up. Fresh air. Vitamin D. Strengthen lungs. Cardiovascular benefits.

Ever had that hamster-on-a-wheel feeling while working on the treadmill? Why not take it outdoors?! Get a little tan, absorb some Vitamin D and get fresh air while you get your exercise!

Outdoor running works the whole body, responding to sharp turns impacting your quads and calves, the swing through on uneven surfaces working your abs and hip flexors, running up-hill or down-hill or on rough terrains like trails, rocks and sand blasts your hamstrings, glutes and your stabilization muscles.

Bonus? Outdoor running allows you to mix things up and keep things interesting with a change of scenery or different level or challenge. You don't have to stay in your neighborhood. Try running at different parks, using a different trail or putting on a weight jacket for an added challenge.

When it comes to outdoor running, the sky's (or the road's) the limit!


Vision is key with everything we do in life. Define what your goals are and imagine yourself successful in them! If go into something expecting to fail, you will. You CAN overcome obstacles. Don't let anything stop you. Most times, we are our own worst enemy. It's a beautiful thing to overcome those doubts and self-limiting tendencies and to find the courage to succeed!

"Don't be pushed by your problems, but led by your dreams." -Unknown


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  • Your blogs are very detailed and informative, and I enjoy reading them because they provide a variety of exercises/workouts that can be done to achieve different results. Time seems to be an issue for me, but your 20 min workout blog helps to solve that problem. I plan to try that workout and hopefully add to it as I go along. Keep up the good work!

  • Hello RWilliams glad I could help! I really appreciate your feedback. If you need any help with the workout please reach out to me.

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