Unless you’re one of those rare people who enjoys running, cardio isn’t included in the list of our favorite things. In fact, it would probably top the list in a poll on which type of conditioning people dread the most. Why does cardio seem like so much more work than, say, weightlifting? One of the likely answers is that cardio can get monotonous, especially if you’re using a stationary machine at the fitness center. It’s also hard. Weight-lifting is hard, too, but it doesn’t make your lungs burn and your heart feel like it’s going to pound out of your chest!

Since we know cardio is a much-needed ingredient for total-body fitness and cardiovascular health, how do we take the “work” out of a cardio workout and have fun with it? Here are three keys that can help.

Music and Rhythm

Music can be a lifesaver when it comes to cardio, especially if you do it alone on a machine in the early morning or late evening hours. There are numerous options to choose from: MP3 players, apps for your smartphone, and personal health trackers. Many apps can even match the music to your cadence. Getting into a rhythm will make the time fly by faster than ever, and who knows – you might even forget you’re doing work and start to enjoy yourself.

Variety is the Spice of Cardio

Doing the same thing for the same amount of time at the same intensity is a recipe for boredom and burnout. If this sounds like your routine, no wonder you don’t enjoy cardio! Even if you have a go-to activity that fits your goals and needs, change how you do it to keep it interesting. Here are a few ideas:

• Circuit training (going from one machine to another at timed intervals)
• HIIT or Tabata-style training (20 seconds on, 10 seconds off, etc.)
• Go faster, farther, at a steeper incline, or with more resistance

Changing your cardio activity between a few key exercises can also relieve boredom, especially if you’re someone who enjoys more dynamic activities. Here are a couple suggestions:

• Heavy bag training (cardio plus strength training for the arms, shoulders, and core)
• Sports-specific drills (that’s right, do what basketball or soccer players do!)

Measurable Progression

Another recipe for boredom and burnout is not seeing the result of your hard work. That’s why it’s important to keep a training log of your cardio fitness gym workouts and take photos of yourself periodically so you can visually and mentally measure your progress. This way, you’ll have record of how much easier a certain intensity or distance has become as your conditioning improves, and you’ll notice even the little changes in your body that might not show up on the scale. Not only will your workouts seem like less of a punishment; you might even anticipate the reward of tracking your progress.

Contests and Competition

Having a buddy you’re competing with at the fitness gym is another way to turn dull cardio sessions into a fun activity seasoned with friendly rivalry. See who can go faster, longer, do more intervals, or burn the highest number of calories. Having a certain goal in your sights to brag about later can make even those solo workouts fly by faster than ever.

These are just a few keys that can help your cardio workouts seem a little less like work and a little more like fun. Try them, and, better yet, use the ideas to come up with your own.