High Intensity, Low Impact cardio at home

  • I'm having a problem with cardio exercises. I need to do no-machine workouts most of the time since the local gyms don't open before I need to be at work, and I don't have room in my tiny apartment for any machines, not even a folding treadmill or rower (never mind that I don't have the budget for one right now). Unfortunately, the obvious no-machine exercises - jogging, jumping rope, jumping jacks - are too high-impact for my flat feet; my knees, feet and/or lower legs give out before I can get my heart rate up, even with support shoes and orthotics. Walking I can't do fast enough to get my heart rate up, unless I do race walking - but then my hips give out.

    So, the question - what have people used to do high intensity, low impact cardio at home?

  • I suggest get an exercise bike. Some of them are pretty compact, plus you can pick one up pretty cheap on eBay. If you already have a road going bike you could get a bike trainer that you put the rear wheel into so it spins freely.

  • I thought about that, but there really is no place I could put one. I probably should have been more explicit about my space restrictions.

    My "apartment" is a rented 9'x9' bedroom with only a (mostly square) 5'6"x5'6" space open, and the door opens into that. The rest of the room is occupied by bed, dresser, desk, storage shelves, and a corner closet. I can't just plop something into the open space or I won't be able to set up the weight bench (which leans against the wall by the door when not in use - if I set it up perfectly centered and use the extra space in front of the dresser, I can do dumbbell flyes with a couple inches clearance on either side). The closet has floor shelves in it too, so I can't fit much in there.

    I do have access to a kitchenette/laundry room and bathroom, but the owners of the house use those as well so I can't block up those rooms or the narrow hall space. The only kind of "bike" I could fit would be one of those little mini bikes (basically pedals on a floor stand that you pedal while sitting on a chair), and I don't know if they'd work for cardio.

  • That's a challenge, but there is always a solution. Time to think outside of the box (literally in your case).

    Going by what you are saying you have no space in your place for any cardio exercise equipment, even in the corridors. You're right, the pedals are just a waste of space, of which you have limited. You also can't run or walk fast due to hip/feet/knee/lower leg issues to get your heart rate up.

    Remember you don't need to get your heart rate up to a specific level. I have a heart rate monitor but have ditched it for this 12-week program. My body can tell me if the intensity is too high. I guess that just before your limbs give out you would be at a Level 10.

    Another suggestion is to ask your workplace if you can keep an exercise bike there and use it either before or after work. Some workplaces may even be happy to buy the equipment for you so that all of their staff can use it. Put together a proposal to them indicating the benefits to staff of having one. If they don't buy it, then ask if you can buy one and use it instead. Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

    Another option is to ask a friend if they have space in their garage to store an exercise bike. Then you just have to pop over there and use it. If your friends aren't forthcoming, then ask around your work colleagues.

    Another option is to go to a community hall or church. They will usually have space available to store an exercise bike and I'm sure would be more than happy to assist you when you tell them what it is for.

    Another low impact cardio workout is swimming. Joining a pool is relatively cheap compared to buying any equipment plus there is usually a pool anywhere. Find a stroke that works well for you (I prefer freestyle) and go through the 20min Body-for-Life intensity work out. You can buy pull buoys to place between your legs when swimming to keep your lower body up, as well as swimming flippers to assist your legs. Kickboards are also very useful when you need to strengthen your legs in the pool.

    Lots of options available to you. I hope this has helped. Let me know which one you choose.

  • I'd kinda hoped to find something I could do at the apartment - I live 4-1/2 hours from where I work, so I rent this room to stay in during the week, and go home to my wife and kids on weekends. My schedule is theoretically flexible, but due to outside events and traffic that's limited in practice - an hour delay leaving work can sometimes mean getting home-home two and a half hours or more later. I do my workouts at 4AM instead of in the afternoon so I can maximize work time flexibility and get home sooner.

    If no one has a small- or no-equipment high-intensity low-impact cardio idea, I'll have to pursue the workplace option. There's a gym at work, but I'd rejected using it in my pre-BFL days because of scheduling issues (getting in during the specific allowed workout times for men wasn't practical for various reasons). After reading your post, though, I decided to go check it again, and sometime in the last couple months they ditched the gender/group scheduling and made it co-ed full-time, so it should be a viable option now. I'd lose much more time (never mind money) using any of the other options because of the extra driving.

    The only thing I've found in my own searching that might work is a modified burpee - I'll be trying that tomorrow morning to see if my legs (especially my knees) can hold up. If they don't, and no one has any other ideas (somebody? anybody?), I'll see what kind of re-scheduling I'll need to do to use the gym at work while not cutting too much into weekend family time.

  • Are there stairs at your apartment complex?? Climbing the stairs at any rate will get your heart pumping! Good luck!

  • Well, the modified burpees I tried earlier won't work alone - two minutes is all I can handle. But they did loosen me up enough that I can make it to the end of the stair-stepping without killing my legs.

    I did find a new idea this morning - tweaked my foot yesterday doing my LBWO and it wouldn't hold up for stair-stepping, so after "emergency-brainstorming" for an idea I took a brisk walk wearing a 25-lb backpack. That hit the "9"s, but my shins felt like they were on fire by the end. I'll probably make that my default for now since it's still less pain-and-strain than the other options :-).

    @TassieTim - Thanks for the idea, the workplace idea is looking good. Not immediately - for the next three weeks I estimate (best case) I'd lose at least five hours to traffic because of how I'd have to re-arrange my schedule (my schedule's just wacky right now) - but for the last few weeks of my Challenge things should settle down and it will become a very attractive option. And just in time for the "home stretch"!

    @StudentRN2013 - no stairs (it's not an apartment complex, I just have a mini-apartment - bedroom and small common area - in the garden level of a private home), but there is a pair of steps up to the back patio area, and that's what I use for stair-stepping (kind of like an aerobics step where you can only use one side). The concrete isn't quite even, though, so it pounds the feet more than it should and makes it easy to tweak something if I'm not extra-careful.

  • Running is free, and doesn't take up any space in your apartment.

    "The only person you should try to be better than, is the person you were yesterday!"

  • Running is also high-impact. That's the problem. I'd love to run, but my knees and feet can't hold up under the pounding anymore, even with good support shoes and careful attention to form/biomechanics. The last time I pushed myself to run just five continuous minutes, I could not walk the next morning (I don't just mean it hurt to walk, I literally mean I couldn't walk).

    Once upon a time I could run with good support shoes, but that was about 40-45 pounds ago. I've got a ways to go yet to get back there.

  • I've got my answer - stair-stepping with a weighted backpack. I found it by accident. I was going to try brisk walking with a 20+ pound backpack again, but my knee started hurting before I was a minute out the door, so I came back to try stair-stepping using the back patio step. Well, I forgot to take the backpack off, and found out with the added weight I could slow my movements down and still hit good intensity. Slowing down more than compensated for the weight, moving it from medium-impact to mostly low-impact. No shin splints, no knee pain, no calf cramps, and definitely hit the "10". It's a keeper!