When the going gets tough: Alternatives to running

As the temperatures start to drop for those of us in the Midwest, I find myself getting creative when it comes to filling the activity quota for the week. If you find yourself  recovering from injury, taking some time off between training cycles, or just trying to get out of the freezing wind chills for awhile, there are lots of other non “running” activities to rotate through to keep you healthy and sane during the winter. Here are some of my favorites that I have been working with while recovering from a bone trauma to my foot.


Lap swimming: I was a horrible swimmer as a kid and had never really warmed to the idea that people willingly jump into a freezing pool and count tiles as they struggle to not drown for fun. My last brush with swimming came when I tested the triathlon waters my senior year of college. This consisted of doing exactly the bare minimum not to make a complete fool of myself before actually starting to race once I reached dry land. However, this season I decided to give it one more go to see if it was still as awful as I remember it being. Funny enough, it wasn’t so bad this time around. Perhaps with more patience this time around  I have a better appreciation of all the benefits swimming has to offer, and it’s a great escape from slip sliding along the frozen winter streets (especially if your gym has a sauna/ whirl pool to enjoy afterward). So fear not runners, the pool is no longer your enemy!

For this, I focus most on time spent in the pool. 60-80 mins of good, full body activity makes me feel pretty accomplished despite not lacing up the shoes.

Pool running: This was actually my cross training workout of choice whenever I got a sore tendon or hurt foot in the past. All you need is a deep end (bonus, you don’t have to fight for a lane) and one of those great aqua jogging belts (which are often supplied by pools) and you are good to go. The water gives you resistance training and you can work on form in ways that you can’t when you try to tread water without support. You can even do interval work if you want to keep working on strength and speed.

Fartlek workouts translate great in the pool.  Pick your favorite and run it exactly as you would on land and see how different it feels running in the water.


Spin bike: Every once in awhile, it just isn’t convenient to hunt down a pool or drag out your suit and goggles. To mix up my indoor workouts I hop on the bike for an hour or so, adjusting the resistance depending on if I have an injury that needs less resistance or creating more of a workout if I want to really go hard but use some different muscle groups than if I was running normally outside. I find this particularly helpful when I am about to go crazy stumbling around in the snow and all I want is an hour of really hard work instead of focusing on not tripping and falling.

I usually start out with 15-20 mins of warm up, then for the rest of the hour alternate between normal pace and 5 mins with increased resistance but trying to keep the same rpm. Make sure to spin it out for the last 10-15 mins before hopping off the bike.




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