Cardio is the worst. I hated every second of Zumba, HIIT and Spin

Prove Me Wrong is a new summer series in which Guardian Australia colleagues argue over whose tastes on popular culture, food and leisure activities are right … and whose are wrong.

Alyx Gorman: Ellen, you sickeningly fit person, you probably get an “endorphin rush” when you work out. The only rush I experience doing cardio is a rush of childhood trauma, of asthma attacks on icy ovals in the depths of Canberra winter. Or a rush of dizziness followed by actual fainting. Don’t tell me I haven’t “found the right exercise”. I’ve done it all. I’ve Spun and HIIT and Zumba’d and I’ve hated every second of every one. It’s not the exercise. It is exercise. I hate my heart rate going up. I hate my face flushing. I hate sweating. And afterwards I don’t feel high – I feel hungover. But by all means, try and prove me wrong.

Ellen Leabeater: Alyx, do you know what? I grew up not dissimilar to you. I pretty much hated cardio all through primary and high school. I did swimming lessons because my parents forced me to. I ran around Sydney’s western suburbs for school cross country in the baking heat, very displeased my face was red and my hair was ruined for the rest of the day.

Then two things happened when I was around 20. I had a bad breakup, and I signed up for my first triathlon. Training for that race was the only thing that got me out of bed, and I ended up crossing the finishing line with – you’re right – the biggest endorphin rush I’d ever felt. Seven years later, exercise never fails to make me feel better when I’m feeling crap, thanks to all those endorphins.

Now, I don’t expect you to do a triathlon tomorrow. But having spent enough time training three forms of cardio week in week out, I can give you some tips to make it easier and more enjoyable.

First things first: fuel. As a female, you shouldn’t be out exercising on an empty stomach. So make sure you have something in the tank before you head out. The second thing I would keep in mind is where you are in your menstrual cycle (assuming you’re not on any hormonal contraceptive). Cardio is easier in the first stage of your cycle (the follicular phase) versus the second stage (the luteal phase), so if you want your cardio session to suck less, choose your time wisely.

As for the actual activity, Spin, HIIT and Zumba classes are not ideal if you hate having a high heart rate. There is real merit to doing aerobic activity at a lower intensity – both for general fitness and weight loss. Think walking, jogging, hiking, pilates, swimming. That way, your heart rate stays stable, your face won’t flush as much, and – at least during the months of March to October in Sydney – you won’t sweat. You also strike me as someone who does not enjoy someone yelling at you for 50 mins, or the prospect of other eyes on you, so these…