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Are You in a Cardio Rut? Break Free!

6 Easy Ways to Bust Boredom
  -- By Jennipher Walters, Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor
Are you bored with your cardio workout? Do you yawn when thinking of getting on the stationary bike again? Are you already dreading the stair stepper workout that you have scheduled for tomorrow morning? If you answered "yes" to any of these questions, then you're quite likely in a rut, and when you're in a rut, it's easy to fall off the fitness wagon because motivation and excitement are G-O-N-E.

So how do you get your aerobic mojo back? You shake things up! You try new activities and refocus your workouts so that they're more exciting and motivating than ever. We all know how important cardiovascular exercise is for health and weight loss (plus it just makes you feel good), so read on for six surefire ways to break out of the cardio rut now and forever!

Change Your Sound of Music
New tunes: Investing in a couple of new CDs or MP3s is an easy way to bust out of your cardio rut and get you happily moving. When you have your headphones on, no one else knows what tunes you're playing (unless you're listening too loudly, in which case turn it down some so that you don't harm your hearing!), so play whatever you want! Guilty pleasure songs (think Britney Spears, Journey or Kenny G) work great here, but, really, go with any songs that get you going and make you feel good. Studies have shown that music is motivating, but if you're bored at the gym, it may be time to shake that playlist up! For ideas, read Coach Nicole's music blogs at dailySpark.com for ideas.

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No tunes: If new music isn't doing it for you, try doing your workout sans tunes. Especially when walking or running outside, listening to your own breathing and the sounds and sights around you can be an incredibly meditative experience that can turn your cardio from boring to darn near spiritual. And if quiet isn't your thing, try downloading a podcast or an audio book. You can get through your to-read list and get in shape. Now that's multitasking.
Change Your Equipment
Try a new piece of equipment: If you and the stair stepper are in a serious relationship, but you're bored out of your gourd, it may be time to see other machines. Date around some. Check out the treadmill, recumbent bike or elliptical you've had your eyes on. All of the different pieces of cardio equipment help train the most important muscle of your body—your heart—but they each do it in a slightly different way. To check them all out yet not get too bored, do 10 minutes on each type of cardio equipment that your health club offers. If you're working out at home, jump off your machine after a few minutes and do some jumping jacks or lunges to mix things up.

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Try a new brand of equipment: You may think that all ellipticals and stationary bikes are the same, but different brands do have different feels and features. If your health club offers varieties of equipment, trade your normal treadmill for another one and discover what new programs and features you've been missing. You just might find a new love (or, even better, a new challenge). <pagebreak>
Change Your Social Nature
Try a class: One sure-fire way to spice up your cardio routine is to check out a group exercise class. Most full-service health clubs have a group exercise room, so grab a schedule at the front desk, find a class that's totally new and different for you and make an appointment with yourself to go. Recruit a friend to go with you and show up with an open mind. You might just make a few new fit friends in the process! (If you've never been to a group exercise class, decode the class schedule with these tips.)

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Try a class at a new gym: If you're a group-exercise aficionado or know the moves of your step class before the instructor calls them out, it's time to switch it up. Find a new class with a different instructor or branch out to classes at other gyms (many gyms will give you a free one-week pass to check out their facility). Or try a group-exercise studio that offers classes that you've never taken. From Pilates to yoga to Zumba to ballet-inspired workouts, the opportunities are endless! And for you guys who might think that group exercise is just for girls, it's isn't! Check out a power yoga or boot camp class and get your stereotypes rocked (in a good way)!
Change Your Location
Go to the gym: If you always hit the great outdoors for your cardio or always walk on the treadmill while catching up on TV, moving your cardio sessions to a facility with other exercisers and a fitness-centered environment may be just what you need to re-spark the love of your workouts. Sure, a health club membership costs money, but if it comes down to not working out or paying a monthly fee, wouldn't you rather cut a few costs in your budget and stay motivated?

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Avoid the gym: If you're a gym rat and pretty sick of the first half of that nickname, maybe it's time for a change of scenery! Move your workout outdoors or create your own home gym. Even a new DVD or two can mix things up!
Change Your Mindset
Focus on a fitness goal or new skill: Mental boredom is a very common cause for being stuck in a cardio rut. If you've been focusing on the minutes, miles or calorie burn of each of your workouts, a good way to switch things up is to switch your thinking. Instead of focusing on these daily quotas, set a longer-term goal such as walking a 5K or completing a sprint triathlon. When you have an end goal to train for, you'll be less bored during your workouts because you can always think about how much you're preparing for your goal! (And, let me tell you, once you reach that goal, you'll feel great!)

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Focus on how you feel: Instead of obsessing about the numbers on the piece of cardio equipment, turn your workouts in serious "me" time. Use the 30 minutes on the elliptical not to think about how bored you are, but to focus on how good exercise makes you feel. Focus on your breathing, feel your legs pushing the pedals down. Be grateful that you have the ability to move, pushing your body to new levels. Even develop your own mantra that you can repeat over and over to help get you going! Nike's "Just do it," always works, but find a phrase that has meaning to you.
Change Your Intensity
Try a longer, less intense workout: If you can usually only set aside 10 to 20 minutes for exercise, make those minutes intense, switch it up by setting aside extra time to make your workout longer and less intense. By doing a longer, less intense workout, you'll give yourself time to really enjoy the activity without rushing or trying to burn as many calories you can in a short amount of time. Pick an activity that you love—dancing, walking, hiking—and enjoy it! Think of it as your active relaxation time.

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Try a shorter, more intense workout: If you're the type of exerciser who would rather walk for an hour than run for 5 minutes, then maybe it's time for you to swap your low-intensity sweat sessions for shorter, more intense workouts. Try an interval workout and watch your rut go bye-bye! This is an especially good trick if you spend most of your mental energy watching the clock wishing your long workout was over. Don't worry: When you work hard enough, one short, intense session can be just as effective as a longer one that's lower in intensity.

Pick one thing to change—or six—and bust out of that rut today!