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Cardio Alternatives

Stew Smith, CSCS

This week, I had a question that comes from a frustrated exerciser who likes to swim and either cannot make the pool times or the pool is closed at the times he can reserve time in his schedule. Cross-training with other cardio options is always healthy. Runners get injured three times as much as people who cross-train with swimming, biking and other cardio options besides running.

Stew, I like to swim for a portion of my cardio exercise but cannot get to the pool or the pool is closed for maintenance and I like to keep up with the workouts in your books. I know it would be best to get into the water whenever possible, but are there any alternative workouts that you would recommend? Thank you.

Here is what I do when my pool is shut down as well as to save my legs from the constant pounding of a long slow run:

If you want, add more running, but make it different:

1 – I add in sprint workouts, intervals, agility drills and running leg / PT

Sprints – warm up for at least 5:00 and stretch well before going full speed. Hamstrings are the first to go if not properly warmed up / stretched:

20m – 1/2 pace x 2

20m – full sprint x 3

40m – 3/4 pace x 2

40m – full sprint x 3

60m – full sprint x 5

80m – full sprint x 3

100m-full sprint x 3

(rest = walk back to starting line)


4 Mile Track Work

Jog – 1 mile in your goal mile pace

Three sets of:

Sprint-1/4 mile / rest 1:30

Jog – 1/4 mile in goal mile pace

Six sets of:

Sprint-1/8 mile rest 45 seconds

Jog – 1/8 mile 1:00 in goal mile pace

Running and Leg PT:

Repeat 3-5 times

run 5:00 at goal mile pace

squats – 1:00

lunges – 1:00

heel raises – 1:00

stretch 1:00

For a variety of running workouts and agility drills like the Illinois Agility Test and Shuttle Runs in a six week plan, check out

2 – Other non-impact aerobics – rowing, elliptical glider, biking, stationary bike…

Getting out in the fresh air on a bike and cycling can be a great workout for folks, but personally, I find that it is safer and just as entertaining to get on a LifeCycle type stationary bike in front of a television. A few of my favorite stationary bike routines are the LifeCycle Pyramid and the Bike / Leg PT Workout:

Bike pyramid:

Lifecycle: Manual mode – Start on Level 2 and increase resistance by 2 levels each minute until failure – then repeat in reverse order – should take 20-23 minutes. I also do this type of workout on the Elliptical Glider as well. Keep the RPMs at 80-100 and you will have a puddle under you when finished (sweat).

Bike / Leg PT:

Repeat 5 times

Bike 5:00

Squats – 1:00

Lunges – 15/leg

Abs of choice – 50

Each minute on bike should progress in intensity (rpms or resistance levels)

Every now and then I like to see what I can row 2000m in using an Ergometer.

The indoor rower comes in several varieties and there are even world online competitions that are pretty run to get into if you are one who likes to compete at ANY level. Rowing is one of the hardest cardio exercises there is and you can build toned legs, arms, back and abs just by rowing.

If you like variation in your cardio workouts, any or all of these workout ideas should help you until you get access to the pool again. Who knows you may also enjoy one of the new routines and add that to you workout for a while. Remember – fitness is not a destination but a journey. You have to go site-seeing every now and then.

If you have any questions about fitness or the author’s fitness books and ebooks, please feel free to email him at

Want to improve your workouts? Visit Stew Smith’s PoliceLink Fitness Store for customized, downloadable ebooks written specifically for law enforcers.

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