[Episode 54] How I Learned To Enjoy Cardio Training

by | Mar 12, 2021

In this episode we will be looking at cardio training

From all my years as a coach it is consistently the one form of training that most people dread and I used to be one of those people too.

Now just to be clear, this is not an episode where I try to convince you that you need to change your mind about your opinion of cardio.

I’m actually gonna share with you how I began to approach cardio training and how that changed my mind about it.



Why did I hate cardio so much?

Because I used to think about cardio training as something that felt dreadful.


Man lying on running track saying "Everything hurts. Running is impossible"


It was something that always involved leaving me gasping for breath. My lungs would burn.

And it seemed that it didn’t matter how much of it I tried to do, it never actually got easier or felt more comfortable.

So I just stopped doing it. Simple as that.

Now I’m pretty sure that it is a pretty common experience for so many people.

And cardio is pushed as this thing that we’re supposed to do because it’s soooo good for us and heart health and blah blah blah.

But seriously, up until just a couple years ago I just didn’t do it.

As a trainer I get all of the health implications that come with cardio based activities but it could not be outweighed by the discomfort that it caused me.

As I mentioned it was only a few years ago that I actually began to practice some cardio training intentionally.

I had been avoiding it so long that I sat myself down and began to look at why I was avoiding it.

Because really, was it the discomfort? 

I can tell you that a good kettlebell swing session gets your heart rate up like nothing else and it is a cardio endurance workout

So what was I actually avoiding?

I’m pretty sure that I have in my head that anything to do with a kettlebell is really just excellent fun.x

But when it comes to something like a steady state cardio session (that is to say a cardio session where I maintain an elevated heart rate for an extended period of time) I was just not on board.

Now my avoidance of it is really what prompted me to begin exploring cardio training.

At first I dabbled in a little jogging. I’d go out every other day for a run with my fur pal Floki.

Floki loved this far more than I did.

I found jogging very not fun but I just kept grinding away at it, even though I didn’t really enjoy it. Because I wasn’t gonna let jogging get the better of me.

Needless to say I wasn’t able to sustain the practice.

Which makes sense because it’s hard to continue to do something that we don’t really find enjoyable.

In hindsight, I’ve realised that it’s ok to not like a particular physical activity. But at the time, that reasoning just didn’t cross my mind.

Now I have trained so many folks who have shared a similar experience to mine.

Because jogging or running is an activity that is pushed quite a bit in the fitness industry.

It’s in “motivational” slogans and images of people being active.

A typical motivational quote: "The feeling you get from a good run is far better than the feeling you get from sitting around wishing you were running" by Sarah Condor

But I’m gonna be pretty blunt here and tell you that you don’t have to like jogging or running and you don’t have to do it if you don’t enjoy it.

Now after I moved to Melbourne I began working at a training space that had a few pieces of cardio equipment.

These were rowing machines, airdynes (aka assault bikes) and skiergs (a machine that simulates the strokes of ski poles).

Cardio Training Equipment - Rowing Machine, Skierg and an Airdyne.

And I would pop on these once a week as part of a group training session that the training studio ran and I would obliterate myself on them.

I wanna note that this was also the culture of the space I worked and trained at. It was mostly attended by semi pro athletes, ultra marathon runners and first responders.

And these folks were all super well conditioned. And as a coach there I felt that I had to keep up with them to show that I was a good coach.

(That was a totally toxic and quite damaging mindset for me and one that has taken many years for me to work towards getting myself out of. And it’ s been years since I finished working there)

But this is not uncommon for many people to feel that way.

It can be easy to fall into the trap of holding ourselves to someones else’s expectations and in the end stop doing something because the way that it is being approached just isn’t for us..

It wasn’t until after I left that training space that I began to look at how I could introduce cardio focused sessions into my training in a way that felt good for me.

I began with Kettlebell sessions because it’s what I was very familiar with and I really love Kettlebell training.

Then I bought myself a rowing machine. I’d found rowing was something that I felt ok doing.

So I started rowing. I took it really slow though. I wasn’t trying to set speed or endurance records.

My only goal was to hop on and row for 10 minutes at a super chill pace.

What I realised doing this was that I felt good about finding a comfortable rhythm.

This was a big learning moment for me both as someone who trains and as a trainer.

I realised that a low intensity pace was achievable, enjoyable and over time was actually improving my cardio fitness more than anything else I’d tried previously.

This is probably due to a mixture of factors and I think one of the biggest reasons was that I was consistently including cardio work into my routine.

I actually began to want to train cardio sessions.

They became my go to especially if I was feeling a bit flat and just wanted to move a little.

Now my path has followed some pretty conventional forms of cardio training. This does not mean that this is the only way or even the best way to practice getting your heart rate up.

I think the most important thing that anyone can do when it comes to cardio training is find the things that help them get their heart rate up in a way that is achievable and enjoyable.



What can you do?

If you’ve ever found yourself thinking that you could never possibly enjoy cardio training, I get it.

And it’s very likely that you have your own personal and 100% legitimate reasons for this.

That is totally ok. You don’t have to like all the ways that there are to train.

And you don’t have to do them, especially if you don’t like them.

But if you’ve thought that maybe there you feel like you want to do something, I’d strongly encourage you to try out as many things as you can.

There are the obvious activities of:

  • jogging/running,
  • cycling,
  • swimming,
  • cardio machines,
  • gym classes,
  • yoga/pilates and
  • team sports.



And then there are the not so conventional like:

  • dance,
  • hiking,
  • actual rowing,
  • canoeing/kayaking,
  • power walking,
  • Zuu workouts,
  • climbing,
  • even sex makes a great cardio session!


Zay Canters climbing on a rock outdoors



How can you do it?

But whatever you try out, I can’t emphasise enough to start slow.

Don’t go in with an expectation to hammer things out.

Give yourself time to adjust.

Allow yourself to rest when you need.

You don’t need to do this every day, in fact I would advise against it for the first 4 weeks at least. You can start just one day a week.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of going too hard too fast.

Just allow yourself to take each day as it comes without an expectation to tick that training box.

Because at the end of the day, ticking that box doesn’t necessarily equal success.



What if you can’t do this right now, for whatever reason?

Now if you’re someone that just really isn’t keen on being overly active, I want you to know, friend, that this is totally valid.

You don’t have to be active.

And you don’t have to train at all.

Do what feels right for you and not what others may be expecting.

You are free to live your life any way that you like and feel good about that.

No one has the right to shame you because you don’t don’t practice the same lifestyle as them.



Final Thoughts

We’ve touched on a lot today.

I shared my own experiences around cardio training with you and the challenges of training and working within a toxic training culture.

We had a bit of a look at some conventional and unconventional practices that you may or may not like to try out. These options were certainly not exhaustive.

There are so many ways that you could try moving that helps you get your heart rate up a little if you feel that you want.

And we took a moment to remember that you don’t have to train at all if you don’t want to. You are not obligated to be an active person

You can be any type of person living any type of lifestyle that you like and it does not change the value of you at all.

Feel good about whatever it is that you want to do friend.

It’s really the most important thing that you can do.

Bowie Stover Thinking Pose

Bowie Stover

Pronouns: they/them

My passion to help others through developing an active and healthy lifestyle, along with my desire to contribute as much as I can back to our queer community, has led me to co-found Non Gendered Fitness. To be a small part of your day that makes a HUGE impact on your life would be one of the most gratifying and rewarding experiences that I could hope to have.

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Non Binary Fitness Coach Bowie Stover kneeling with two kettlebells

Bowie Stover
Kettlebell and Movement Coach

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