Imagine this: It's the middle of January. It's a whopping 4 degrees outside (with a real feel of -11). The wind sounds like something you've seen on TV during a tropical storm. Your furnace is having a hard time keeping up. But... you have a run on your training plan and cranking out miles on the treadmill isn't your idea of a solid alternative. Sound familiar? So... where do you go from here?
Let's just say, you have plenty of options. But I'm going to honest with you, you may not like them. However, if you live in the Midwest, you're looking to stay fit, and you need a way to beat the winter blues, we have to step outside of our comfort zones and find new ways to keep our fitness levels where we want them. So here are my tips for alternatives to running when the weather simply won't cooperate during the winter months.
This suggestion will probably get the most pushback, but it's probably the single most important thing you can do during the off season. Runners tend to neglect strength training like it's the plague. The reality is, strength training can keep you injury free and the added strength will carry you farther during your long runs! Strength training can mean a variety of things and doesn't have to involve a bunch of big weights or a scary weight room. It can be as simple as a circuit in your living room with a set of dumbbells and a band. The options are endless and will always be worth it!
GROUP FITNESS CLASSES
Group fitness classes are a great way to knock out 2 birds with 1 stone. Most often, group fitness classes have a cardio and strength component to them. Plenty of runners are concerned with losing their endurance over the winter months if they can't run as much. A group fitness class can be anything from a barbell class to a cardio kickboxing class. Both of these options are amazing alternatives for runners to help maintain endurance, work different muscles, and strengthen everything for a great total body workout. The best part? It's done in a group setting, so bring a friend and make it even more fun!
Alright, I take it back. There might be an even tie between most despised running alternative: strength training or yoga. It's no secret, runners are not flexible people. Yet, if we can't get some flexibility in our muscles to help aid our recovery, how can we expect our bodies to perform the way we expect? The best part about yoga is that it is easily be done in the privacy of your own home. All you have to do is search YouTube for a "Runner's Yoga" session and you'll have plenty of options to choose from. Typically, if you find a Runner's Yoga session on YouTube, the instructor will give you all the best stretches and poses for runners and will likely include modifications if needed.
BASKETBALL OR PICKLEBALL
If you're a member at a gym, chances are you have access to either a basketball court or a pickleball court. A pickup game of basketball can take you back to your childhood and is always a solid workout with a promise of endurance training! Another option, pickleball, is all the rage these days and can be a great opportunity to get out and try something new. Check out the schedule at your local gym and sign up! Stepping outside your comfort zone can be a little intimidating at times but the rewards can be extremely worth it.
SWIMMING OR INDOOR CYCLING
Jumping into a pool as a runner is likely another despised activity on runner's lists, but it is a GREAT form of cross training. Swimming is a total body workout without the impact and it will always give you the endurance training you're looking for. If that's not for you, you can always try indoor cycling. Joining a cycle or spin class will definitely test your strength and endurance. Spin classes can also fall into the Group Fitness category, so get ready to sweat with your friends!