Walking Guide

Creative Cardio Workout: The Machine Mixer


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  66 comments   :  67,930 Views

We all have our own cardio personalities. Some swear by sweating in the great outdoors. Others prefer the air conditioning. You might prefer exercising solo, while your best friend lives for the contagious energy in a Spinning class.

Whether you're a diehard gym-goer, or (like me) only set foot in the gym when the weather hits unbearable extremes, we all have a few things in common:
We want our workouts to be more fun than boring. We want to get the best possible results for our efforts. And we want to feel like the time is speeding by—not dragging.
Well, good news! This simple workout technique will help you reach all three goals above, whether you love cardio machines or only use them as a last resort.
I call it the Machine Mixer! And it's really quite simple (and even fun!). Here's how to do it:
  1. Decide on your total exercise time. This works best with longer cardio sessions lasting at least 20-30 total minutes or more.
  2. Pick 2, 3, 4 or more cardio machines at the gym. The more, the better. Think: treadmill, elliptical, stepper, rower, stationary bike, etc.
  3. Split up your total cardio time equally among all machines. So if you choose 4 and work out for 20 minutes, you spend 5 minutes on each.  If you're really feeling crazy, you can spread your time among machines unequally, such as 10 minutes on the treadmill, 6 minutes on the bike and 4 minutes on the rower.
  4. Exercise on each machine for that individual duration.  As soon as you hit that small goal, hop on over to the next machine.
For best results, alternate among slow/easy, moderate and high intensity each time you switch machines, aiming to work out in each of those zones at least once. Try to vary it up at random. For example, go easy on the treadmill at a slow pace and comfortable incline. Punch up the intensity on the bike trying a high-intensity sprint. Then go moderately (somewhere in between) when you jump on the elliptical to finish it up.

Next time you're at the gym, change up all of the variables again--at random.
According to research conducted by exercise physiologist Len Kravitz, Ph.D., of the University of New Mexico at Albuquerque, this "Multi-Mode Cardio Play," which is varied at random, uses a variety of times/distances, and involves a mix of modes (machines), is one of the highest calorie-burning cardio workouts a person can do.
In my experience, it also prevents boredom, helps the time fly by and works your body in new ways every time you work out, which helps you get fitter and prevent plateaus. When I do cardio at the gym, this is my go-to workout for all of the reasons above. And unlike those three or four programs available on your trusty treadmill, this mode never gets boring or monotonous. It's different every time!
Have you tried a Machine Mixer at the gym? If not, will you try it now? Create a Machine Mixer workout you want to try and share it with us below!

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   How to Keep Your Child Safe in Cyberspace


  • 66
    By golly - gonna do that today. it sounds like fun - 10/2/2017   6:33:57 AM
  • 65
    Great idea....will do it on Monday!! - 9/2/2017   5:47:18 PM
  • 64
    Great ideas for beating the tedium that is cardio! - 8/5/2017   8:58:21 AM
  • 63
    This is such a great idea! I'm trying to motivate myself back into working out and for physical reasons, the stationary bike is my primary method of cardio right now, but it's SO boring! This sounds like a great way to get my body back in the groove! - 1/11/2016   12:36:36 PM
  • 62
    I used to do this every Saturday. I called it my mini triathlon - running, biking, and elliptical (instead of swimming). It was my favorite activity of the week. - 12/28/2015   6:26:21 PM
  • 61
    This sounds like it could help me get more cardio in and shake things up. I'm trying to increase intensity for walking. I was always concerned with not getting in enough by doing that so I put in no less than 10 mins on any machine. However, starting tomorrow I will try this.. - 9/10/2015   3:10:51 PM
  • 60
    this is what I am doing now.... and it really helps keep me focused! - 8/12/2015   11:47:17 AM
  • 59
    That's what I do! :) - 6/16/2015   2:06:44 PM
    Thank you for this wonderful post, I am also doing workout on weekends and I am not really organize in-terms of time in every workout. Thank you again I will try this on weekend and put it on my list. - 3/18/2015   10:48:46 PM
  • 57
  • 56
    Ive been doing this and it does help break up the monotony of using one machine for a long period, Row machine to warm up, eliptical then get on the bike , not much of one to use a treadmill. - 12/10/2013   2:00:16 PM
  • 55
    I love this concept! it breaks up the monotony and keeps it fun. - 12/10/2013   10:15:56 AM
  • 54
    I didn't realize what I was doing had a name. I do 60 minutes of cardio, and I would get bored even with music doing it all on the elliptical. Then I decided to machine hop. Now I do 5 minutes walking warm up, 5 minutes stairmaster (very hard for me), 10 minutes on a bike (can be hard on my knees if done longer), 15 minutes on the treadmill, 20 minutes on the elliptical, and 5 minutes walking cool down. Makes an hour exercise session go by so much faster than all on one machine. - 12/9/2013   10:42:25 AM
  • 53
    I do this and throw in was wgt machine reps. I have worked with a trainer that uses this method. One of my favorite types of work out. - 9/16/2012   10:35:30 PM
  • 52
    Now why didn't I think of this? Great idea. I get bored quickly, even while walking tv, on any single machine. This is sure to make the workout go quicker. - 9/14/2012   1:53:21 PM
  • 51
    I do this. It does break up the monotony of 1 cardio machine. And I seldom do the machines in the same order or time lengths. - 9/10/2012   11:05:34 AM
    Thanks for the info. I can't wait to try this. What a great way to help on days when motivation is low. - 8/29/2012   6:37:33 PM
  • 49
    Wow, it would be great if all that equipment was available to jump on and off whenever I was ready! Maybe I'll try this during off-hours. - 8/29/2012   5:30:12 PM
    I've done this! I got tired of grinding away for 30 minutes on the elliptical, so one day I did 10 on the elliptical, 10 on the treadmill, and 10 on the bike. It was a great workout! - 8/28/2012   4:47:16 PM
  • 47
    Good information. Thanx - 8/28/2012   7:19:01 AM
    I've been doing this for 20 years. Who knew it would have to be spelled out for people? 18 minutes on the bike, 12 minutes on the stair master, 30 minutes on the treadmill, 12 more minutes on the stair master, and 18 more on the bike to finish. The times are weird because back then, the Life Cycle machines had programs built in at these increments. - 8/27/2012   1:14:45 PM
  • 45
    One of the very few times I ever mixed it up with cardio machines (back in the days when I used to be a member of a women's only gym for a few years), I was engaged in conversation with another member who was speaking to me and led me around - a couple minutes on exercise bikes next to each other, a couple minutes on stair machines next to each other, a couple minutes doing I forget what. No machine readouts consulted, no goals, no timekeeping, no boredom.

    I was not a class-attendee type of person in those days ... - 8/27/2012   12:21:52 PM
  • 44
    I want to try this. Need suggestions, though. Protocol at our school's cardio room is that you wipe down the machine when you step away. I'm thinking of bringing a pack of Clorox wipes that I can carry with me from machine to machine. It would fit in one of the water bottle holders. Any other ideas? - 8/27/2012   8:50:37 AM
    And here I thought I was just strange, liking to jump from sta. bike to TotalGym to jump rope to walking. - 8/26/2012   9:56:17 AM
    A lot of the time-I will split cardio time between 2 machines-but what really makes
    the time pass is I use my cardio time to pray for people-amazing how fast the time
    passes! - 8/26/2012   8:15:18 AM
  • 41
    Thanks for sharing - 8/26/2012   6:52:03 AM
    cool way to mix it up - 8/26/2012   6:36:43 AM
  • 39
    I do this when I go to the gym. I will do 20 minutes on the treadmill, 15 on the ellitpical and 15 on the bike. But I will switch up the way I do it everytime I go to the gym. - 8/25/2012   10:50:10 PM
  • 38
    I do usually mix it up with the treadmill, elliptical, bike, sometimes stair stepper - 8/25/2012   10:54:02 AM
  • 37
    Due to the heat in AZ taking a hike in the summer is not feasible, but I must resort to the indoor thing. And I usually do 15 min on the bike followed by 15 on the elliptical and finish up with the treadmill for 15 min. It makes the difference when hiking season starts. - 8/25/2012   10:43:13 AM
  • 36
    Sounds like our bodies crave variety in activity, just like they crave variety in foods to get the needed benefits to our health and well-being. Well, I definitely lose interest in programs that keep me doing the same thing. So here goes!! - 8/25/2012   9:30:11 AM
  • 35
    i might try this - 8/25/2012   9:21:02 AM
  • 34
    I read this blog yesterday and had to try it out with my workout that evening. It was a lot of fun. I did a 55 minute body pump class, then ran for 10 minutes, then the elliptical for 9 minutes, then I finished with the bike for 6 minutes. I really built up a sweat during the cardio mixup. It was fun as well to jump off one machine and run to the next. - 8/25/2012   9:15:09 AM
  • 33
    My trainer had me doing that for quite a while and it does relieve the boredom and keeps you going. His only difference was to do odd minutes on each and none the same. - 8/25/2012   9:07:51 AM
  • 32
    I like this idea!! I generally use the treadmill when I go to the gym. As Wellbeing67 said, there are times when this approach won't be practical since the gym is packed and the machines aren't available that way. But for those quiet times, this would be a fun and challenging. I'm definitely going to give this a try! - 8/25/2012   8:35:51 AM
  • 31
    I spend 30 minutes doing cardio on 4 machines, this is how my trainer set it up form me. I start on the hardest of all the machines- the "Glide" I started out at 3 minutes as that is all I could do but up to 7 minutes on this machine now. Then move to a bike and do 10 minutes there, then to a recumbent bike and do 5 minutes on that at a low setting, then go to rowing machine where I am working all the long muscles and especially my back. I also cook down on this machine so I go cardio for 7 minutes and then an addition 10 minutes of slow motion to truly stretch out the muscles and also gradually lower my heart heart. After that, it's one lap around the gym before transitioning to the weight/strengthening training. - 8/25/2012   8:18:56 AM
  • 30
    Thanks for this idea! It sounds like just what I need. - 8/25/2012   7:10:58 AM
  • 29
    I used to do this all the time at the gym. I dropped my membership because I have my bike, weights and tons of exercise dvd's, but I did love the variation! - 8/25/2012   7:09:32 AM
  • 28
    It wasn't until I started doing this that I have begun to lose weight. I put together my own schedule and start with 5 mins elliptical, 15 mins treadmill, 15 mins bike, 10 mins rowing machine then back to the treadmill for 15 mins and finish with 15 mins on the bike. Each of the treadmill and bike sessions also end with a 3 minute cool down. That means I do 87 minutes in total. It has begun to pay off as I was working out for 30 mins on the treadmill and 30 mins on the bike (and hardly losing any weight but getting really bored) before I started doing this. - 8/25/2012   4:41:59 AM
  • 27
    I love to jump rope when I do it indoors, (I do not have a cardio machine). It works for me. - 8/25/2012   4:00:48 AM
    I do this! I do cardio for a total of 30 minutes splitting my time between a bike and elliptical, gradually reducing the bike minutes increasing the time on the elliptical. It is a great way to measure my progress and burn more calories! - 8/25/2012   3:40:20 AM
  • 25
    I have an elliptical and a rowing machine at home. I will definitely give this a try. - 8/24/2012   11:41:38 PM
    Similar to the Curves Circuit - great idea! - 8/24/2012   11:05:03 PM
  • 23
    I have back and knee problems so I dont ever do the same thing for very long. Like I never sit or stand still very long. I started doing a mix it up workout years ago. I never have pain in these areas, at the gym any more. I also sometimes do weight lifting in between machines. - 8/24/2012   9:58:20 PM
    Awesome. - 8/24/2012   9:03:22 PM
  • 21
    After my spin class, I used to go down and use the stairmaster, treadmill, and follow up with the rower.

    I started slow for about 5 min, then I did a pyramid where I went up to a certain step turnover rate for 1 min, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, - followed by a minute rest in between, and ended with 5 min cool down

    Then I went over to the eliptical and did another interval workout by varying the incline and speed - randomly

    I ended with the rower, where I would try to get a certain distance/pull for varying intervals.

    It really made the time go by fast having all of those different mini goals. - 8/24/2012   4:54:07 PM
  • 20
    How would you track this workout? Would you just list each machine separately workout separately? - 8/24/2012   4:28:16 PM
  • 19
    I do 25 minutes on the encumbent bike(course 3 level 3), 25 on the treadmill (speed intervals), 15 minutes on the elliptical(weight loss), and then back to the bike for 25 minutes. I was walking 1 mile every morning (except this last week) and I go to a personal trainer (weights) 3 days a week. And I have a very very long ways to go yet. - 8/24/2012   1:36:25 PM
    I have done this before but I think I will start again to spice things up!
    - 8/24/2012   12:59:20 PM
  • 17
    Oh, yes, I have certainly done this for YEARS, since I am a Libra and I get very bored doing something for 30 minutes straight, so I do the Tmill, then the bike, etc. so I change it around. MUCH more fun for me. - 8/24/2012   12:31:19 PM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›

Walking Guide