How to stay in shape when running is not an option

Jul 17, 2020

Whether because of injury, intolerable weather, or a lack of places to properly run, it is sometimes impossible to run for extended periods of time. With the ongoing pandemic, it has become even more difficult for many people to run outside. If you don’t have access to a treadmill, there are still ways to stay in shape while waiting for an opportunity to run again.

Pool workouts

If you have access to a pool, you can use it to swim, which is a good alternate form of cardio. You can also perform what are called “pool running.” Running in a pool is not only good for people recovering from injuries, it also gives a tough workout that develops overall strength. Robert Gary, an Olympian steeplechase champion, has endorsed the effectiveness of these workouts.

This is an example of a pool running workout, courtesy of

  • Warm-up: 12 to 15 minutes of easy lap swimming
  • Pool Running Workout (wearing flotation vest or belt)
  • 6 sets of 45 seconds hard sprint followed by 15 seconds recovery
  • Transition immediately into 5 sets of 1:30 sprints with 30 seconds recovery
  • 10 sets of 15-second hard sprints holding both hands high out of the water with 15 seconds recovery between each set
  • Repeat entire sequence 2 to 3 times
  • Cooldown: 12 to 15 minutes of easy lap swimming


Both stationary and non-stationary cycling are effective ways to stay in shape when you’re unable to run. If your injuries prevent you from putting too much pressure on your feet, cycling lets you get a leg workout without exacerbating those injuries. This is because cycling is a low impact sport. Stationary cycling can also improve hip flexor strength and hip flexibility.

Besides being an effective form of cardio, routine cycling works out your lower body muscles, such as glutes, quads, and hamstrings, and some core muscles. This is an additional running benefit because these muscles are important when it comes to running.

Source: Victor Xok/Unsplash


While it is not a perfect substitute for running, it is low impact, replicates running to some degree, and can be used if there aren’t any better options. It provides a good cardio workout, burns calories, and can improve stamina. The machines can also provide workouts at different intensities, so the way it’s used depends on how you want to train. However, using the elliptical too much can damage your hip flexors.

Alternate forms of cardio

If you don’t have access to a pool or machines that can simulate running, there are still ways to get cardio workouts indoors.

Circuit training

Circuit training is a workout that can be done without any machines. It consists of various workouts for several aspects of the body. A person cycles through the exercises in each aspect several times without much rest. While the exercises are relatively customizable, upper body exercises generally include push ups, dips, or plank walks. Workouts for the core can include crunches, leg lifts, sit ups, or scissor kicks, and lower body exercises include squats, lunges, and glute bridges. For cardio, high knees, bench hops, jump rope, or other exercises that require a lot of movement can be used.

Jump rope

Simply jumping rope for a few minutes can burn a lot of calories and provide an effective cardio workout. They’re best accompanied by light cardio, such as slow jogging. It also helps prevent foot injuries: jumping rope improves foot coordination and strengthens the foot and ankle muscles. The jump rope is portable and can be done in a wide range of settings, so it can easily be incorporated into your training routine as an aerobic exercise.

Source: Element5 Digital/Unsplash

Boxing and wrestling

If you’re tired of getting all your cardio through conventional means, such as running, you can try wrestling, boxing, or kickboxing. These provide intense workouts that burn hundreds of calories and are a good source of cardio. Generally, they can be done without equipment and in the comfort of your own house. If you substitute regular boxing with shadowboxing, which is the practice of fighting against an invisible opponent, there is no equipment required at all.

Source: Bogdan Yukhymchuk/Unsplash

Power yoga

Power yoga is a more athletic, fast paced style of yoga developed in the 1990s. It works out the entire body and serves to improve strength and flexibility. Due to the nature of the yoga, it can burn hundreds of calories in an hour and increase your heart rate the same way other cardio exercises can. Because it’s a form of yoga, it’s low impact and can be a good workout for runners recovering from injury. Power yoga also has the other benefits that come with yoga, such as releasing stress, relaxing the body, and possibly even lowering blood pressure.

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