Exercising Doesn’t Have to Mean Bench Press & Cardio: Alternative Activities for Strength, Less Fat and Better Health

Have you ever considered that maybe the reason you have a hard time sticking to your fitness goals is that you just don’t enjoy doing those activities?
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What is this?

Okay, the holidays are long gone as well as your New Year’s resolutions, spring is in full swing and summer is staring at us directly in the eye – or stomach. The gym has lost its appeal along with the image of ourselves.

It’s time to recommit.

Before you go pack your gym bag, renew your gym membership and start dreading arm curls and stationary bikes, let’s rethink this whole thing.

Has the thought ever crossed your mind that maybe you really don’t enjoy the traditional mode of exercise? Maybe squats and bench pressing have lost their appeal or your goals have changed?

This time let’s do it a little differently. No, I don’t mean doing higher reps on the squat or more weight on the bench press. Let’s change the whole plan and inject some fun into our fitness lives to strengthen not only our bodies but also our commitment and motivation for a lasting relationship with a new and improved program.

It’s time to ditch the one-size-fits-all mentality and find something that fits YOU. Something you can commit to more often than once a month.

Our journey into fitness doesn’t have to be the proverbial broken record of predictability: Go to gym, lift weights and walk/run on treadmill, repeat.

It’s time to explore some new avenues for a better body, new and interesting ways to boost our motivation as well as our metabolisms, and finally find the right fit for our individual goals.

Below is a short list of unique moves, classes and new ways to look at old favorites for more motivation, dedication and of course results!

A man jumping over a wall

Join a Class

One of the most effective and most popular ways to shake the boredom is to join a club or a specific group fitness class at a local gym. Most health clubs offer a diverse variety of classes for all levels of difficulty. These could include the tried and true such as group strength training or cardio kickboxing to the unique such as suspension training and kettlebell classes.

If you want to go way outside of the box, try a brand new class such as swordfighting (with dull wooden swords). These sword classes such as Forza (Italian for strength) and samurai will give you a whole new perspective about fitness.  This takes the concept of fitness and adds a complex element of skill and coordination to give anyone at any level a challenging and effective workout.

These combined with other forms of cardio such as sprint intervals or hill sprints three times per week will give you the ultimate workout.

Don’t be afraid to try something new even if you have never heard of it before. The mere challenge of something new will force your body to work harder all the while having fun!

Interjecting a class or two three times per week will keep your interest level up and challenge you to learn something new, fresh and exciting. Also, you can gauge your efforts against others and have a friendly competition to push harder each time. When you are doing something  grueling with others who are fun to be around, it will motivate you to keep coming back.

People playing tennis

Join a Specific Activity Club

These include a huge trend in the fitness industry which some gyms may offer but more than likely are offered either outdoors or at a specific locale. Many will offer classes and instruction for the beginner so don’t be intimidated. Experience something new and unique not to mention fun.

Try bootcamp classes (which can be held indoors or outdoors), CrossFit gyms, indoor trampoline parks, parkour gyms, obstacle courses, mixed martial arts or a rock climbing gym. These dynamic classes will not only get your blood pumping but will also make you feel stronger and more agile.

A man climbing a rock wall

There are plenty of organized leagues such as tennis, swimming, and basketball that can provide not only a health benefit but also a social sense of community and accountability.

Participating in one or two of these classes twice per week combined with some bodyweight moves such as push-ups, sit-ups, and dips three times per week will give you an intense, diverse full body workout. They also provide real-world movements that easily translate into your daily life.  Plus, it sure beats running on the treadmill every day.

Independent Fitness

Maybe joining a club or gym isn’t your style. Maybe you need something a bit more practical and independent-minded. There are plenty of options when it comes to formulating your own plan of action without stepping foot into a traditional gym.

If you live near water, stand up paddleboarding (SUP) is a growing activity that not only requires strength and endurance but also an incredible amount of balance and coordination. SUP combined with stadium running or sprinting would round out a great workout three times per week.

Swimming is a full-body workout that will challenge both your cardiovascular system and build appreciable muscle. If you are just starting, do a lap, any style, for the first week. Then increase to two laps without stopping and so forth, resting only one minute at first between bouts. Afterwards, start learning new strokes to ante up the difficulty.

Be a kid (or if you have kids) and take advantage of the local park/playground. Climb the ladders and monkey bars, perform chin-ups and dips, drop down and do push-ups and take off and sprint around the grounds. Set up a routine of three to five moves and sprint a distance in between each round for three to five rounds. Time yourself and try to shave seconds off each workout. Let the challenge be fun.

Make biking interesting by riding up local hills, sprinting, stand-up pedaling and using natural objects to slalom in and out of.

Running can be just as diverse by picking different points of reference such as telephone poles to sprint to, zigzagging around parking meters and sprinting up hills for more intensity.

Climb the ladders and monkey bars text quote

Biking and running combined with some playground moves or any combinations of push-ups, sit-ups, crunches, chin-ups, dips, or burpees at least three times per week is sure to not only melt off the fat and build strength but keep you motivated and committed.

Fitness doesn’t have to be all about biceps and shredded, washboard abs. It can (and should) be about getting in great shape, being functional, and staying consistent. There are so many options to choose from with even more being offered each day that you would have to be hard-pressed to end up bored and burnt out. Besides, if you find something you truly enjoy, it won’t feel like exercise, you will stick with it and your body will reap all the rewards.

Even if you do enjoy training traditionally with weights, I urge you to give a few of these activities a try. Not only will you be exposed to something new and train a different way than you are used to, you will build a new sense of commitment and consistency that will translate to more well-rounded health and wellness.

Brad Borland

Brad is the founder of BradBorland.com. He is a consultant, writer, fitness specialist, husband and father. He earned his Master's degree in Kinesiology, is a member of the Air National Guard and is a cancer survivor.