The Benefits of Cardiovascular Exercise - Beyond Running

I’m a runner. I love to run. I don’t listen to music and I prefer to run solo. It is my down time, my UP time, my ME time. I love the way I feel every time my foot strikes the ground. Even on the tough runs; it still means I am moving forward. And, after all, running is one of the most accessible forms of cardiovascular exercise.


But then, my hip began to hurt and I had to breakup with running. I did all the things I was supposed to do, including physical therapy. But after that, it was my foot. I felt defeated. I felt lost. Where was the endorphin rush I always found on my runs; how could I find that again? Where was the option to purge all of the feelings I wanted to dump? Where was the connection to myself I always found while running?

Both the Center for Disease Control and the American College of Sports Medicine recommend performing a minimum of 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio activity on most, if not all, days of the week in order to achieve health benefits. While running may be a simple way of finding these benefits, it isn’t ideal for everyone.

What do you do when you can’t just lace up and run out the door due to injury? What do you do when running isn’t available for other reasons? What if you just don’t WANT to run because you don't like it?

During my healing and soul searching, I discovered running was NOT the only cardio option. That probably doesn’t surprise many of you, but, it was tough for me as a runner in my "past life" pre-injury.

Throughout my non-weight bearing stages of healing, I rediscovered my love for swimming. I felt so strong moving through the water. It was empowering. My arms were giving me the gift my legs could not.

And then, I began walking. Walking my dog. Walking with my kids. Sniffing flowers, enjoying saying hello to my neighbors. And I intentionally began walking faster. And faster and faster. And I felt the rush, and the peace. I could use the hills in my neighborhood, and walk quickly enough, to increase my heart-rate in a way that was clearly meeting my needs, both mental and physical. Pushing a BOB stroller gives you more of a bonus. [shop here]

Walking, at a pace that allows the heart rate to increase, is a fantastic cardiovascular exercise with less risk of injury than running. You can increase your speed periodically – creating an interval workout by walking faster between mailboxes or light posts, then slowing down. Intervals are an amazingly effective way to boost your fitness.

If the weather is keeping you from outside cardio options, there are still many ways to incorporate an endorphin rush and the benefits from cardiovascular exercise indoors like this fast-paced high-intensity Tabata workout.

Treadmills, stationary bicycles, ellipticals, or studio group classes all great options for that 30 minutes of activity. Find one of our Body Back programs near you by clicking here.

When something is taken away from you that you love, you have to take a step-back and find other ways to find joy without it. Like my injury stealing running from me for a bit - it's been one of the biggest lightbulb moments of my life.

I’m running again now. Not as far. Not as fast. But I still love it. I also love walking. And hiking. And swimming. And having dance parties with my family. And riding bikes with my older kids. We get to go further than we would on a walk or run and see more. And we talk. Talking is a huge plus for any parent/child relationship. I treasure each moment.

I still love to run. It feels amazing. But so is realizing you don’t need to run to get your cardio in, or find that endorphin rush and energy release. Explore your options. Find what works for YOU, Mama!

Move your body in a way that works for your body and your lifestyle. Feel good. Be happy.