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Swimming Options - non impact

stew smith

Every week, several people email me about cardiovascular options other than running. Running is a great cardio option however, if your knees are injured, you are overweight, or just need a break from running for a while, here are some non-impact cardio options that I prefer to do:

Swimming Options

Water is a domain that very forgiving to the joints of the body. If you are able to swim and not fearful of the water the workouts below are a great way to build up your heart and lungs as well as burn calories. There are quick and easy workouts as well as very advanced workouts that I do not recommend doing alone or without a lifeguard. If you are a beginner, do what you can and it maybe necessary to learn a few techniques to swim more efficiently. I learned by watching swims teams practice, but there are many videos and swim instructors out there to help you.

One of my favorite bike workouts is the stationary bike pyramid. You can actually do this on an elliptical machine as well. I call this workout the Bike Pyramid:

Start - Level 1 on manual mode for 1 minute and keep the RPMs at 80-100. Each minute that passes, increase the resistance by 1 level. Continue this process until you are having difficulty breathing and/or peddling. When you get really good at this you can take the bike to level 20. THEN, repeat the cycle in reverse order. So you have a warmup - max out - cool down all rolled into one nice package. This workout will take 39-40 minutes if you are that advanced. But, if you can only get up to level 10 and back to level 1, your time investment is only 19 minutes. I do the same on an elliptical machine but find that increasing by 2 or 3 levels each minute makes it more challenging.

Of course, getting outside on a real bike can be another way to get cardiovascular workouts. Make sure you have a safe place to ride like bike trails versus sharing the road with vehicles. Save that for the more advanced riders.


If you have never ridden a rowing machine - also known as an ergometer, let me tell you - it is tough and a great full body workout. I always wondered why so many guys who rowed for their sport went onto SEAL training and did very well. It is one tough cardio-vascular exercise. My swim buddy Alden Mills was team captain of the Navy Heavyweight Crew Team and at 230 lbs could crank out 30 pullups. That is what rowing can do for you. But if you are seeking just a great non-impact cardio exercise, rowing maybe right for you. The good thing is that the machines like Concept 2 or Vasatrainer have programs on the machine that challenge you and keep your interest.

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