4 Alternate Cardiovascular Exercises When You’re Incapable Of Running

In April 2016 I was in a serious car accident that gave me what is known as a lisfranc dislocation, in which the metatarsals are dislocated from their accompanying connective tissues. For many months I was incapable of walking or doing any of the exercise that I typically enjoy doing.

Since then I have regained almost all of my capabilities. I am capable of lifting weights and doing calisthenics and martial arts (with a few minor modifications, such as kicking with the ball of the foot or instep being right out). However, running is still not something I can do, and will likely not be able to do for at least another year, if at all.

While some may not find this as disappointing as me, something we can all agree on is the vital importance of cardiovascular training. Being able to elevate your heart rate and develop endurance is one of the best things you can do for general health and well-being.

So knowing that, I realized that I had to find various ways of elevating my heart rate now that just going out and hoofing it wasn’t really an option. And with all that introduction out of the way, here are the five cardiovascular exercises that I have been utilizing since I have regained some degree of physical capability.

1. Stationary Cardio

You’re probably familiar with things like the stationary bike and the elliptical. I want to make something very clear here: I hate stationary cardio. The idea of working hard and not accomplishing anything—not even forward movement—is something I find utterly detestable. In short, I have no desire to be akin to a hamster running on his little wheel in his cage.

That being said, I have been forced to adapt and in some ways I see advantages to them. Namely that these machines have quantifiable metrics of time, rate of movement, and heart rate on them that running outside does not. In a pinch, these can work for cardio purposes.

2. Swimming

Probably my favorite non-running form of cardio, swimming is in some ways superior to its terrestrial counterpart. It’s much lower impact on the joints and bones, and it trains essentially all of the muscles of both the upper and lower body.

Plus, you can do swimming of any intensity (while you can theoretically do interval training on a machine, the pounding and rumbling of your body weight on the machine might alarm your fellow gymgoers). You can also do interval training with different strokes or alternate from long distance endurance training to high intensity/low intensity interval training.

The only problem with swimming is that swimming in a pool might have the same issue that running on a cardio machine might have—it’s kind of boring visually, to swim back and forth in the lanes of the pool.

Of course if you have miles of open sea/river lanes to swim in, by all means swim in there instead. But it’s not very common where I live. So, to the issue of boredom, I say “Deal with it”.

3. Shadowboxing

Just as Jack Dempsey says in Championship Fighting, boxing (or any martial art, really) is at its core a very disjointed and awkward sort of movement, certainly different from the rhythmic repetitions of other forms of cardio. Because of this, throwing punches and kicks will get your heart pounding and breathing more labored in short order.

More of a sprint than a distance run, my method of doing this is to throw combinations of punches kicks, and other strikes on the bag or in the air, as hard and fast as I can for a minute or so. Then stop, take a break for 10-20 seconds, and repeat. With just 10-20 minutes of this you will have an outstanding cardio workout.

4. Circuit Training

Circuit training is an example of how resistance training can be utilized for cardiovascular purposes. This is simply where many sets and repetitions of resistance exercise are followed one after the other, with as little rest period between them as possible.

While this can provide a decent cardio and strength workout, it does not provide the maximal workout for either attribute, because maximal strength lifting requires a longer rest period to allow cellular respiration to work and regain cellular energy. As such it would not be my first choice, but it is a nice variation

By giving you information like this, I am attempting to teach you that even if you are handicapped in some fashion, you can still get just as good a cardio workout as an able bodied person. If you are at all capable of movement, there’s no excuse for poor cardio.

Read More: 5 Reasons Men Should Limit Their Cardio

90 thoughts on “4 Alternate Cardiovascular Exercises When You’re Incapable Of Running”

  1. Sucks about your injury dude. Glad you kept the redpill mentality and found ways to overcome your disability instead of just quitting.

    1. Those are both great, but… If you have an injury that prevents you from running, it’s highly unlikely you’ll be able to do either of those since they are both high impact.

        1. I suppose it would depend on the type of injury. I wrenched my knee pretty badly about 20 years ago downhill skiing. There was no running, jumping rope or even squats for a long time. But eventually through range of motion exercises and stretching it healed without surgery. What happened to you?

    2. Jump rope is simply great – especially with a decent one (I use a Buddy Lee Aero Speed).
      Biggest problem is that it’s called ‘skipping’ here in the UK, which doesn’t have the same kind of manly feel to it. I’ve adopted the American ‘Jump Rope’ to avoid the ‘little girls in pigtails’ association to ‘skipping’…

        1. Actually it tends to make Brits snigger….
          here ‘fanny’ is slang for the vagina, source of much cross-atlantic confusion!

        2. so “a pat on the fanny” would be clear molestation! and a ‘fanny-pack’ would most likely elicit the image of a tampon or something like that!

        3. I’m crying here! ROFLMAO!
          So if you ever hear an Englishman say he went down on a girl and licked her fanny, don’t judge him too harshly!

        4. Pretty suggestive song for 1946 don’t you think? (even in the American context)

        5. Oldies are goldies!
          Not the first time an old song has been suggestive…
          Of course it goes in cycles – at various points in history literature and songs have been openly bawdy! Late Roman Republic before Octavian’s prudish crackdown was pure filth!

        6. Agreed, I would suppose if your grandparents told you all the nasty stuff they did, you would cringe.

        7. LOL, my favourite Grandad was *proper Irish* and was pretty forthcoming about the nasty stuff he did! Especially after a few glasses of whisky!

  2. Man maker challenge. 100 reps/95 lbs. Divide the reps however you want. It’s a lot of fun (not really).

    1. Not for me (age and shoulder issues), but God bless those who can do this. Wow.

  3. I’m a big fan of swimming – it’s absolutely fantastic for cardio as well as rehab. I’ve healed a few minor Rotator Cuff injuries over the years. I’ve even healed a couple of partially torn Cruciate Ligaments on my dogs over the years by incorporating “hydro therapy” instead of paying a $2,000 vet bill for the same thing. Can’t say enough good things about swimming!

    1. The trouble with swimming is that you stink afterwards. I like swimming in tropical seas though.

  4. Can’t do long distance swimming around here because there’s alligators and cotton mouths in there… I guess that could make you swim faster though.
    Seriously though, I injured my back in 2014, pretty much stayed flat on my back from late June until October, I can’t think of anything worse than not being able to go. I don’t think I’m ever going to have the strength and endurance I had before.

    1. Get an inversion table. If it’s sciatica or bulging disc related. Consider an inversion table.

      1. Had to go under the ole knife, it was the second time. I bounced back quick after the first time but, I was a lot younger then and was still up and around until the day of surgery. The second time around though I couldn’t do anything but try to lay still.
        It had been steadily getting worse for three or four months before hand but, over about three days time I went from getting by to not hardly being able to move.

        1. I see. Then I’m not sure if an inversion table would be the way to go. But you never know. Maybe look into it. I know what the chiropractors are gonna tell ya. “Sign up for our premium membership and let’s set up auto withdrawal from your checking.”

        2. I went to them off and on for close to twenty years before I had enough and went looking for a surgeon lol. I went off and on in the years between surgeries too, it never really helped much. This stuff has been bothering me for almost 40 years now, just grit my teeth and keep moving.

        3. In 1981 at 13 years old got thrown off a home made mechanical bull lol, how’s that for bad luck? That bull has been riding me ever since. If I’ve had day without pain since I don’t remember it, but I’m tougher than old shoe leather and would still be a handful if somebody decided I needed an ass kicking lol

        4. You’re almost twenty years late Bob. It was bad enough both times that I was begging for relief, I didn’t care what they had to do.

        5. A homemade mechanical…. Never mind.
          Yeah that is terrible luck. We do crazy things as kids.

        6. Sometimes I wonder how I’m not more messed up than I am, I had s few accidents in my younger days that should have killed me but always came out good.
          I fell out of the loft in an old barn onto a pile of junk when I was about 9-10, landed on a big wide board that was on top of the pile flat on my back. I immediately jumped up to see where I was bleeding, didn’t have a single scratch, it didn’t even knock the breath out of me. When I think about it now, that was amazing lol.

      1. I understand swim faster but, have no idea why you would want to slow down?

        1. Joke about gators making you swim faster and then much slower, the implication being eaten by said gator

    2. Just work to the endurance level you may have. Nobody can stay an athlete all life long. If you are just as fit as much as our working grandparents in their 50s, you are more endurant than most of today’s youth.
      Everybody can do circuit training.

      1. Yes I’m up and going 6 days a week most of the year, I have a relatively active job that keeps me loose.

  5. Injuries can be really demotivating and crash your momentum.
    Good for you for overcoming.

  6. Glad you found some acceptable alternatives. Sure, the indoor equipment makes you feel like a hamster on a wheel, but keeping your physique is motivation enough.

    1. Lol that indoor equipment was motivation for me to get outside as quickly as possible. Absolutely horrible.

    2. I use the “stare master” (so called because from the top of it you can stare at all the hot chicks in the gym) daily and find that dollars to doughnuts just getting on the stair climber, picking calorie burning intervals and selecting the highest intensity and then blasting your music and just getting it down with (fasted, first thing in the AM) is as good as it gets — for me at least YMMV

  7. Maybe you can do cross-country skiing in the winter? It’s literally the best exercise on earth, according to physiologists.

    1. Cross country skiing is a serious fucking work out. Of course, you need access to a place to do it and the hyper expensive equipment but if you have all of that there really are very few things you can do to simulate the immense effort that the body is required to do in CC Skiing.

      1. It ain’t that expensive. You pick up a couple pair of skis and poles, drive 10 miles to snow and follow some trail, or make your own trail. I tell you, if you ever want to feel solitude, do an overnight backpack trip on XC skis in a wilderness and camp the night. It is surreal.

        1. I haven’t done it overnight but I have done CC Skiing in Colorado when on vacation there and did think it was pretty awesome. I don’t have a place to go 10 miles from me. I would need to make a pretty long trip. My feeling was that even used skiing equipment was expensive (at least compared to stuff like jump ropes and kettle bells)

        2. You can spend as much as you want of course, but you can get a decent pair for a couple hundred. (I always watched the thrift stores, never paid more than $50) Compare that to rock climbing gear or worse, motorsports, and it is a fairly cheap hobby if you have nearby snow.

        3. I guess the number one thing is to have the snow near by. Those prices don’t seem too bad at all (and yes, I have heard rock climbing gear is super expensive but the kneeman is a pussy about certain things and climbing the side of a mountain is absolutely one of them).

        4. I have only recently gotten into it, been mostly doing sport climbing (already bolted routes, or top roping from an accessible anchor). As I get more confident, I would like to get into more adventurous stuff, but as for now, I would rather not accidentally do something stupid.

  8. Although I use them when injured or on stormy days, I find elipticals + stairmasters tolerable only when there’s an accompanying input of news or information in the room (via TV or otherwise). Being alone with that gear is monotonous, boring, and bad mojo. Rarely have I seen a minute go by so slowly.
    Otherwise I’m looking first for the long-distance run, outside, in almost any weather. Then some weights/circuit, followed by a 10-minute homemade mix of track- and yoga-style stretches/cool-down techniques.

    1. Honestly I think that almost any cardio you can do is better than running. I’m not sure why people do so much of it.

      1. Worst kind of exercise, IMO, ever!
        Jim Fixx… massive heart attack at 52…. ’nuff said…

  9. Also, cycling, packwalking, sledge dragging and farmer’s walks. I can’t run either due to injury but frankly, running is overrated at best and harmful at worst.

    1. Cycling. I road the bicycle a lot for many years after some strange knee injury made impossible for my to run for any length of time. Loved being on the bicycle. Still do. Never had any knee problems doing it.

      1. Yeah also had a mystery knee injury that was eased by cycling. Some of the world’s foremost experts were completely baffled by my injury.

  10. Never really a fan of running – shadow boxing and bag work? Oh yes! A few minutes seriously working the bags and you know you are working your cardiovascular system!

    1. I was never a runner either. At best it is a very inefficient method of burning calories and at worst it is going to stunt or even degrade muscle growth all while putting unnecessary stress on the lower back and the knees and the shins and the feet.
      Dollar for dollar the best cardio in the world is jumping rope. For 20 bucks you can get a good weighted speedrope . You don’t need very much space. If you wake up and put that rope to use for 45 mintues every day of the week you will see changes fast. As for the stationary bike that Larsen mentions, it can be good but, like the elliptical, I think most people wind up cheating themselves. A real bike outdoors > a stationary bike and for the express purpose of cardio a stair climber set on intense intervals is probably better than both of them.
      Swimming is, of course, a wonderful exercise but the danger exists in cheating there too. I for one will never get good swim workouts because as soon as I hit the water I am in relax float around mode. Unless there is a shark near me I am not swimming hard enough to make it count as cardio. Also, where a jump rope is easy to obtain, inexpensive and doesn’t require a lot of space a swimming pool is not those things.
      Bag work (both heavy and speed) also excellent if you are really focused on getting a work out and not just playing around. Circuit training is probably the best all around cardio work out listed here. Doing a 10 workout tabata set 3 times is going to really strain you.
      Another great (and super fun) cardio workout I did once was the 10,000 kettle bell swing challenge. 10k swings over 4 weeks. Knee man did it with a 35 pounder and started seeing shreds come in very quickly (I did do this along with my normal weight routine and proper diet and supplementation)

      1. Absolutely didn’t even get into mentioning that, but so true! If you want a sure way of boosting cortisol and destroying your ‘gainz’ it’s running! and I just can’t take the damage to the joints (and this coming from a lifter and full contact sparring guy!)…
        Completely agree on the jump rope (refuse to call it ‘skipping’ like most do in the UK)… tells you all you need to know how much old school boxers relied on jumping rope to achieve their remarkable conditioning…
        I keep a few cardio machines in my home gym, including stationary bike, but only use them when I’m lazy or recuperating from injury.
        Tabata style training is exactly what I had in mind about bag work… got into the habit when I was going for my first Dan grade in a full-contact style I do.
        Thanks for the link… I’ve never really got into kettle bell stuff, though of course have read many times of the benefits and keep meaning to get into it… maybe this time!

        1. Yeah the cortisol in a long distance runners body is through the roof. Kettle bells are great cardio. I think the problem is that people are trying to make them into the be all and end all of things (as people do with all workout fads) rather than using them for what they are best at….cardio and ab work out. That 10k swing challenge if you keep proper notes and time yourself and try to out do yourself is not just fun but will burn more calories than you can freaking imagine all while engaging fast twitch muscles. Also, on my list of fast ass ways to build your oblique’s are Turkish getups with kettle bell.
          I don’t have the room for home gym and actually like the environment of being in the gym (I always have, I feel very much at home in the gym) but fortunately can get from my front door to my gym in under 10 minutes on foot and I actually pass 3 other gyms on the way.

        2. I actively try to avoid cortisol 😉
          You’re convincing on the kettle bell be all and end all thing – I think that’s why I get switched off! I’m reading and it sounds great, then I think “hang on! I’d just use x for that, surely kettle bells aren’t better for everything!”
          interesting tip for obliques… will look at that too!
          Home gym a mixed blessing… I’ve got some great kit (*love* my power cage!), but sometimes miss the atmosphere of the gym I gave up a couple of years back – was a proper bodybuilders gym and some serious fucking beasts lumbering about!

        3. btw “skipping rope” man, what is with you guys over there making everything sound so freaking gay lol. I guess it could be worse. We call the bag around the waist a “fanny pack” which probably sounds really bad to you. Meanwhile, I am generally a fan of the queen’s English. I always have been ever since I heard an Englishman pronounce the word “filet” as in a “filet of fish”…..that’s right, pronounce the “t” because fuck the French! They can’t be trusted.

        4. You got it! Anything to annoy the French!!
          Fuck that ‘skipping rope’ thing pisses me off! I’m on a one-man campaign to get ‘Jump Rope’ adopted her because, well you know… testosterone! ‘skipping’ and ‘skipping rope’ just has too many little-girls-with-pig-tails connotations – and not in a good way!

        5. I was at one of those but have since switched to the fancy pants gym with hot women and very clean facilities and high end products. I am a spoiled brat. That said, the equipment and the space is all top notch and I do like it. Any gym that has 5 deadlift platforms, 10 power racks and only 1 smith machine is ok in the kneemans book. Also, they have in house hot yoga which I like doing time to time because a) Hot yoga is a great way to stretch out lifters muscles b) it is always good to work on flexibility…something most lifters, myself included, often take for granted and c) I don’t workout 7 days a week not to stand in a hot room with 30 bendy checks wearing nothing but a speedo

        6. We had a few women at ours, but they were *built* so not too much of a distraction (plus I’d imagine they’d have sizeable dicks after all the anavar!)… nasty!
          Stretching definitely improves lifting, and the ‘look’ of the physique IMO… do plenty of it with my martial arts…

        7. ok, ok… so there are plenty of English traditions that are indisputably gay!
          Just don’t post any pictures of Morris Dancers, ok?

        8. Still, the absolute refusal to cow tow to French pronunciation is an under appreciate quality of you brits.

        9. Oh I think our finest!
          Voltaire sneered that English is “merely French, pronounced badly”, but I think we have taken pronouncing it badly to a fine art!

      2. I’m Getting ready to do the 10,000 swing challenge with my wife. what do you bench press? asking to gauge if I should use a 35lb for myself or use the 53lb they suggest in the challenge page. good stuff.

        1. My workouts revolve around massive volume and not attempting to get the weights up. So I will crank out 225×20 rather than try and overload my weight. That said, bench is my weakest of the major compound lifts and probably if I went for a 1 RM it would be around 350 give or take. That said, the weight isn’t the issue with the 10k swing challenge. You will quickly find it is the endurance. My heart rate was off the fucking chart the first few days and I was getting my ass knocked out but I pushed 100% and found it getting easier and easier as the weeks went on. I have to say, of all the dumb little challenge things I’ve done the 10k swing challenge was the most fun and had amazing and quick results.

      3. Definitely going to look into these excersices. I used to run and skateboard a lot back in high school and it’s been gradually catching up to me since then. Just thinking about running nowawadays is enough to cause pain in my knees.
        Edit: Have you ever used a rowing machine? I’ve heard you can get a pretty good workout on those.

  11. I enjoy hiking. There is this hill not far from my house that I will go up every other day or so.

    1. If one is lucky enough to live close to a beach, walking barefoot for a few miles on the sand on a nice day at a leisurely pace is actually a fantastic thing to do. Arnold’s primary cardio workout was running on the beach. Of course, he did 6 hours or more a day lifting AND ran on the beach

      1. True, it is amazing how much more effort you put into traveling on sand than regular ground. Just a few miles and your leg muscles start hurting compared to if you are walking on concrete/asphalt all day.

      2. Not to mention an entire days construction work with Franco for his day-job…

  12. Rower can induce extreme cardiovascular pain. Get your heart elevated very fast and high quickly. However the Crossfag people usually loiter around them so be prepared for battle.

    1. Lol… I know what you mean about cross-flitters.
      Feeling peckish… what’s for lunch or dinner?

  13. Yeah, I run occasionally. I use a Zamst ZK7 knee brace. They aren’t cheap, about 100 apiece, but they are the best ones I’ve used yet. Used to be fairly fast, did a 2 miler in 12 and some change in basic, now I mostly walk and do swimming for cardio due to some skeletal injuries.

  14. Swimming is probably better than running. Take a look at most swimmers and then take a look at most long distance runners. Most swimmers have amazing muscular bodies, while most long distance runners look like they were starving in Ethiopia.
    Shadowboxing is another great alternative to running as it helps build muscle. But another alternative to running long distance is short distance sprinting.

  15. Saw the photo of the Airdyne, lot of people think its a throwback kind of thing but its pretty good, better than an Elliptical which are more expensive. Airbikes are pretty cheap. Another good machine is the Rower, also Climbers, Spin cycles are great too. All great indoor machines, great when you don’t have much space and live in areas with bad weather or urban areas.
    I disagree about stationary cardio not achieving nothing, it helps you lose weight and helps you improve your cardio health. Was able to improve my running speed on a stationary spin bike. Only bad thing about air bikes are they are noisy.

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