6 Alternatives to Traditional Running and Cardio Equipment Workouts

How to Breathe New Life Into Your Cardio Workout

Despite the reality that treadmills, ellipticals, and stationary bikes are fundamentally boring, cardio equipment does have its place. Sometimes the weather won't permit an outdoor workout, and high-intensity interval training, group fitness classes, and plyometric routines aren't suitable for everyone. And frankly, sometimes it's just easier to hop on a piece of equipment and go, biding your time until your requisite 30 minutes of cardio expires. Sure, it may not be as fun as a day spent kayaking through a national park, but it can be effective.

That said, even standard cardio workouts could use a shakeup every now and then, which is why it's prudent to find alternatives to the standard stationary bike or treadmill. Whether you discover a new piece of equipment that offers an unusual sweat-inducing workout or you seek out a new workout designed around a traditional piece of equipment, here are just a few ways traditional cardio workouts are becoming more exciting.


Group Fitness Classes on Cardio Equipment

AMT Team Fit Class

If you're a member of a gym, you might be familiar with Precor's AMT Trainers—tall pieces of running equipment that definitely aren't treadmills, but aren't quite ellipticals, either. While the AMT is a great piece of equipment, it's an unusual-looking machine, and its appearance alone can prevent gym-goers from giving it a try.

Enter: AMT Team Fit classes. This group exercise class is led by a personal trainer and is held completely on the cardio room floor. The class includes a breadth of training techniques including interval training, strength, and balance exercises. The goal is to help participants get the most out of their cardio while enjoying the motivational and educational benefits of exercising in a group. 

And the AMT Team Fit class isn't the only cardio-based class of its kind. OrangeTheory offers boutique group fitness classes that incorporate treadmills and rowing machines into each routine, while the Mile High Run Club offers group fitness classes held completely on a treadmill. Check with your local gym or studio to see if there are similar classes offered in your area. 


Alternatives to the Standard Road Bike

You don't have to settle for an indoor workout or a standard road bike when it comes to working your heart and lungs. Go ahead and rack your two-wheeler, because these other pieces of outdoor cardio equipment are ready to take over. Whether you're a fan of the elliptical, stair stepper, or treadmill, there's an alternative practically guaranteed to be right for you.

  • ElliptiGO: If you're looking for an outdoor elliptical trainer that enables you to closely mimic running form, the ElliptiGO is a great option. The inventors originally developed the machine as a way for seasoned runners to continue outdoor training while battling injuries; however, they quickly discovered it's also a great tool for long-distance runners to enjoy low-impact training.
  • StreetStrider: The StreetStrider is a bit more expensive than the other items on this list, and it probably comes in second place for the "goofy-looking" prize, but it has some cool features that can't be ignored. First, unlike the ElliptiGO or Stridecore, the StreetStrider has push-pull handlebars that engage the upper body. This makes for a great full-body workout that most closely mimics the gym-based elliptical trainers that feature moving arms. Second, the StreetStrider has an optional indoor accessory package that makes it possible to set the StreetStrider up inside as an indoor elliptical machine. This type of flexibility is perfect for individuals who want to maintain their workout at home during inclement weather.
  • Stridecore: Much like the StreetStrider and ElliptiGO, the Stridecore is essentially an outdoor elliptical trainer. Unlike the StreetStrider and ElliptiGO, the Stridecore looks much more like a traditional bike, making it a little more street-friendly if you don't want to stand out. Also, the Stridecore enables the user to adjust their stride length and handlebar height. This is especially nice if you want to adjust the focus of your workout or if multiple users of varying heights will be using the Stridecore.
  • GlideCycle: Topping the list of "goofy-looking," the GlideCycle certainly stands out, and not just because of its odd appearance. Unlike the other outdoor ellipticals on this list, where users place their feet onto pedals and follow a predetermined elliptical track with each stride, the GlideCycle uses "body unweighted running." In other words, the user sits on a seat suspended between two wheels, then literally runs, powering the GlideCycle with each foot strike, but without the impact of traditional running. The benefit is a completely natural stride length, and the ability to experience stride changes as terrain changes. The drawback is that the GlideCycle is downright crazy looking, so you might be too embarrassed to actually use it outside.

A Running Workout Without Impact

Zero Runner

If you're an avid runner, particularly if you're a runner who trains for half marathons, marathons, or ultramarathons, you know that pavement pounding (or treadmill pounding) can do a number on your joints. The Octane Zero Runner is the first running machine that enables a completely natural running motion without the impact of a treadmill platform. And no, this isn't just another elliptical—its unique "joint" structure enables you to maintain a completely natural running stride that's not limited by a predetermined track or ellipses. 


A New Twist on Jumping Rope

As the least expensive piece of cardio equipment on this list, the CrossRope jump rope system is also one of the most effective tools for fitting in cardio. Unlike a standard jump rope, the CrossRope features interchangeable weighted ropes that enable you to increase or decrease the difficulty of your workout as you go. 

And if you're not up for planning and executing your own jump rope workout, no problem. Equinox fitness offers a jump rope group fitness class called The Cut. Find a club near you and get ready to break a sweat. 


Train Laterally on a Slideboard

Slideboard exercises. Laura Williams

Almost all cardio workouts involve forward-backward motion that takes place in the sagittal plane. Think about it—when you run, bike, swim, or row, most of your repetitive movements involve swinging your arms or legs forward and backward without much lateral, or side-to-side, action. Too much of this repetitive motion without any work to counteract or strengthen secondary muscle groups responsible for lateral movement, like your hip abductors and adductors, can eventually lead to muscle imbalances and overuse injuries.

One piece of equipment that focuses on a lateral move is the slideboard. You can hop on this relatively inexpensive piece of home fitness equipment and practice "skating" from side to side, cross-training your body for all the forward-backward exercise you do most days. 


Group Cycling, at Home

If you're a diehard group cycling fan, but you find it hard to hit the studio, the Peloton bike may be exactly what you've been waiting for. While the bike itself doesn't break many boundaries, its technology does. You can use the Peloton bike to log into live or on-demand cycling classes, all while enjoying the workout from your own home.​

2 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Lohman EB, Sackiriyas K, Swen RW. A comparison of the spatiotemporal parameters, kinematics, and biomechanics between shod, unshod, and minimally supported running as compared to walking. Phys Ther Sport. 2011;12(4):151-163. doi:10.1016/j.ptsp.2011.09.004

  2. Myers C. Muscular Imbalances Increase Your Clients’ Risk for Injury. American Council on Exercise. 2013.

By Laura Williams, MSEd, ASCM-CEP
Laura Williams is a fitness expert and advocate with certifications from the American Council on Exercise and the American College of Sports Medicine.