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How to Not Get Bored on the Elliptical

You guys made me smile with all your early bedtimes. I love that I’m not the only one who doesn’t do well staying up late. 🙂

Some people love the elliptical, some people hate it. I have a love-hate relationship with it. But with cold, dark days and the need for cross-training (I get injured if I run everyday), I often turn to the elliptical for a little cardio boost that isn’t too demanding on my body, like RPM can be. But it can get tedious.

I don’t get too bored on the treadmill – it’s easier for my mind to stay entertained with thoughts of work, writing, projects. Or, on good days, my mind will just clear completely while I run. But that mind freedom doesn’t happen on the elliptical. So here are some things I’ve found that help keep me entertained. This morning, I used tip #1 (with Self magazine).

5 Tips to Avoid Elliptical Boredom

1. Have a “treat” magazine that you read only on cardio machines.
I love Shape, Self and Marie Claire. When I get them in the mail, I set them in my gym bag and then bust them out when I’m on the elliptical. They make the time fly by. I know, I’m lucky I don’t get nauseous reading on the elliptical. But the elliptical machine I use is more forward & back motion, and not so much up & down. And I tend to save this tactic for easy days.

2. Switch cardio machines every 15 minutes.
Not only does this prevent boredom, but it works a variety of muscles. I like 15 minutes on the elliptical + 15 minutes on the stair climber and if I’m extra motivated, 15 minutes on the treadmill for a 45 minute cardio session.

3. Intervals
I select the interval program on the machine and go to town. On the intense interval, I really pick up the speed to spike my heart rate and then catch my breath when the machine eases up. (Disclosure: I really have to push it to get breathless on the elliptical, but pushing a higher resistance with a higher speed gets me there.) If the machine doesn’t have an interval setting, I use the manual setting and just switch back and forth on speed and/or resistance, anywhere fro 60-90 seconds intensity with 30-60 seconds recovery.  (You can read about my treadmill running intervals here.)

4. HuluPlus
HuluPlus allows you to stream TV shows on your computer, phone or TV (for a low monthly fee). I use the app my iPhone and catch up on Gossip Girl and Revenge while working out. Or, I’ll plan my workouts around the time that shows are on regular TV and use the TVs built onto the machines to get my Nate Archibald fix.

5. Podcasts
I like listening to NPR’s Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. A friend recently introduced me to Jillian Michael’s podcast that I plan to add to the mix. And sometimes, I’ll download a book to my iPod and listen to that while I work out.

Other notes:

On the elliptical, I do have to be conscious to make sure I’m working hard enough. It can be easy to slack off and not get my heart rate up enough. That’s when I’ll do intervals or the machine switch-up because I can more easily push myself. On days that I’m recovering from a tough workout, the magazine, Hulu or podcast options keep me entertained while I just loosen my muscles up and break a little sweat.

Do you get bored on the elliptical? Do you avoid it all together? How do you stay entertained on the elliptical?

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19 Comments

  • Reply
    Blog is the New Black
    at

    See, I LOVE the elliptical, HATE the treadmill. I can work out forever on that but I’m with ya, must stay conscious of keeping my heart rate up. I just change the inclines/resistance every min, pedal backward, etc. I do LOVE to catch up on magazines on the elliptical!

  • Reply
    [email protected]
    at

    I definitely think that the elliptical has a place. If that’s your only mode of exercise then no, you probably won’t see results. But if you’re integrating it into your program then it’s a great low impact workout!

  • Reply
    Jeremy M. Price
    at

    Great list of tips. I currently use #3 and find intervals really help. I will certainly start listening to podcast. I’m a big fan of “Wait Wait” and picture myself having a good time on the elliptical listening to that and Car Talk.

  • Reply
    Ashley @ My Food 'N' Fitness Diaries
    at

    i usually do the elliptical once a week to give myself a little bit of an easier cardio workout that’s not so high impact. i do make sure to have a magazine to read or a tv show to watch though because i get bored pretty easily on it too.

  • Reply
    Lindsey
    at

    I use to avoid it thinking it was too easy…but boys was I wrong! As long as you try it is hard for sure and a awesome workout. I always enjoy reading celebrity gossip magazines on the elliptical, it makes me look forward to it.

  • Reply
    Heather (Heather's Dish)
    at

    you know, i almost wish that i had an elliptical i could get bored on (i know, that sounds bizarre!) but gyms are too pricey and the weather’s usually too nice here to not be outside. i love reading on them though…and huluplus is a GREAT tip!

  • Reply
    Jamie @ Don't Forget the Cinnamon
    at

    I have a REALLY hard time with the elliptical–both with keeping myself on it and keeping myself working hard enough! I usually opt for the bike as a form of low impact cardio and reserve the elliptical for the day after my leg workout when the thought of peddling the bicycle is just too too much for my sore buns!

  • Reply
    janetha
    at

    i was on the elliptical for NINETY FIVE MINUTES yesterday. longest cardio session of my life, waiting for marshall to finish lifting. ughughugh. i had a TV, my iPad, and my iPhone to keep me entertained.

  • Reply
    Sophie @ Love Live & Learn
    at

    You all seem to find the elliptical easy, maybe the one in my gym is harder work or maybe I’m just particularly weak 😛 but I find it a really hardcore workout! I guess maybe I’ve got the resistance up a bit high? I find cycling much easier and have to really push myself on the bike.

    These are some good tips though, I’m going to take my magazine to the gym with me later :-). I always switch machines about every 15-20 minutes to stop any boredom and I often take my kindle with me!

  • Reply
    Caroline
    at

    This is great! I always get bored on the elliptical (except when Ellen is on, of course) and even worse on the treadmill! For sure trying some of these tips out my next workout! Hope you’re having a great week! 🙂

  • Reply
    Amber @ Busy, Bold, Blessed
    at

    I used to love the elliptical but now that I’ve been running outside I really can’t stand not going anywhere haha. But if a TV show that I like is on at the gym that can make the time go quick. I love watching the Biggest Loser while I’m working out, so inspiring.

  • Reply
    Laura @ LauraLivesLife
    at

    I HATE the elliptical – I blame my most recent running injury, where I literally did the same one every day because it was the only one that didn’t aggravate my injury! I do it once a week now, for cross-traing, and dread it. I love the idea of switching up machines – that is a great idea!

  • Reply
    jeana
    at

    I listen to the Jilliam Michaels podcast, her and Janice crack me up…Thanks for the tips. I’ll use them for my treadmill runs, not the magazine though, that would be dangerous for me 🙂

  • Reply
    Alyssa @ Fit and Fun in Third
    at

    I do the same thing with my magazines. My Thursday afternoon US Weekly subscription goes straight into my gym bag to help with elliptical boredom! 🙂

  • Reply
    Mary Legare Whaley
    at

    Ellipticals bore me. Have you tried the Cybex Arc Trainer? It’s more fun than an elliptical. And it feels like running without the impact. I like to bust out an upbeat playlist to fight boredom. You can do an interval workout with that. Fast during the chorus, recovery during verses. I like to keep the tv on too, so I have something to look at. I often choose something that doesn’t require my brain on the tv in front of me (like Man v. Food/Top Chef/Real Housewives/local or national news).

  • Reply
    Grace
    at

    I actually love the elliptical it is the treadmill that kills me. I can full on read a book while on the elliptical and that is the best distraction for me!

  • Reply
    Jordan @ food, sweat, and beers
    at

    Podcasts! Yes, that’s brilliant!

  • Reply
    John Robbie
    at

    I love ellipticals! It’s a much smoother exercise experience compared to a tread mill. I’m with your hubby–I hate reading instructions! Keep it simple, or I may talk myself out of a work out…lol

  • Reply
    Jackie Henry
    at

    Huh, I never thought to read all those magazines I havent touched! Awesome idea! My kindle is a bit small, so flipping the pages in it can get annoying 🙂 thanks for the tip!

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