I'll never claim to be one of those who loves it and looks forward to it! To me, cardio is a necessary evil in my pursuit of maintaining a lean body. Usually, I don't particularly look forward to it, but attempt to convince myself that it's not a complete waste of time.
I've noticed that there seem to be many variations of the definition of cardio. Merriam-Webster's dictionary defines "cardiovascular" as "2: used, designed, or performed to cause a temporary increase in heart rate (a cardiovascular workout).
Which basically means: anything that is done to increase your heart rate. It doesn't say anything about exercise equipment (treadmills, elliptical, etc.) or specific activities (running, walking, swimming, etc.). To me, in addition to running and walking, cardio can be hiking, rollerblading, running stairs, doing plyometrics, and aerobics classes, among other things. While some people believe cardio for contest prep MUST be performed on exercise equipment in a controlled manner, I disagree.
The dreaded treadmill
I do agree that using equipment helps you maintain a steady pace or heart rate, but I don't agree that it's essential to use machines to get lean. I've heard of quite a few Figure competitors who do outdoor workouts and include plyos in their training as a replacement for cardio machines. I understand that everyone's body responds differently to different stimuli, but I think it's worth it to experiment with different cardio techniques periodically. Even though one method works for you, why not explore other options for variety? Who knows - maybe you'll discover something that works even better and is more enjoyable for you!
How do you define cardio? What methods work well for you? I'd love to hear your opinions!