minutes per mile blog

my 3 favorite running alternatives

It’s been a whole month since I last went for a run! I think this is my longest non-running spree I’ve taken in over TEN years. It feels weird, but luckily I’ve found lots of other ways to stay active without any high impact over the past four weeks. If anyone else is looking for running alternatives this season, here are my top three favorite non-running exercises!

1. Swimming. The last time I swam laps was when I was about 7 years old and on the swim team! I was super nervous to try swimming when I started a few weeks ago but once I tip-toed into the pool I actually did not melt or drown. This (old) article from the New York Times reviews a scientific study of swimming vs. running and finds that “Champion runners can go about three and a half times farther than champion swimmers in the same amount of time. But in that time, the less efficient swimmers burn 25 percent more calories…Swimmers appear to be better conditioned as athletes. Runners’ performances peter out as their distances get longer, while swimmers maintain a much more consistent pace.” Livestrong says “both swimming and running use primarily lower body muscles, but swimming incorporates more from your upper body as well…Running and swimming will both burn more calories than walking or weight lifting when performed for the same duration, but running burns the most.”

What I like the most about swimming: Once I get into the groove of doing laps, I find a similar mental zen to what I do on a run! The repetitive, rhythmic motion is kind of soothing and intense at the same time. And I feel like I get a great workout. ps this is me in the pool! Looking serious in my pink-and-black pregnancy tankini.

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2. Spinning. I’ve dabbled in spin/cycling classes for the past few years and have been going 1-2 times a week lately. It’s a good way to work up a sweat! Livestrong: “Both running and swimming are classified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American College of Sports Medicine as vigorous intensity activities that burn more than seven calories per minute… The number of calories you burn indoor cycling or running depends on your weight, as well as the amount of energy you exert. A 150-pound person burns 544 calories cycling at a racing speed of between 16 and 19 mph. The same person burns 522 calories when running at pace of 6 mph.” Runner’s World says that spinning is a good way to balance out a running routine: “Once you begin to incorporate running back into your regimen, cycling will become a complement to, rather than a staple with, your training… cycling will help balance your musculature and allow you to focus on other areas of fitness. For instance, you could include a long, easy endurance ride, a hilly strength ride to develop power, and a workout dedicated to cadence and turnover, which translates to running turnover and stride rate efficiency.”

What I like the most about spinning: Although you don’t really get to chat during spin class, it still has that social element that I love about running. Being surrounded by people and motivated by an instructor pushes me to spin faster and try harder! Spin class is also good for days when I feel a bit “meh” about exercising in general. Once I get to class, the 45-60 minutes fly by and I don’t have to think about the workout. Just listen to the music and the instructor.

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AMT open motion training. I discovered this elliptical-like machine called the Adaptive Motion Trainer and it’s my favorite. Comparing elliptical-ing to running gets tricky because like any exercise, you can make your workout as hard or as easy as you like depending on speed, resistance, intensity, etc. However, here’s what a few sources have to say. Livestrong: “Many people are drawn to the elliptical because it doesn’t put pressure on the joints… This is attractive to many runners who have worn out their knees… The elliptical does not develop new muscle because it does not require the body to apply pressure while moving but, it does tone existing muscle. Running does develop muscle.” Outside says “Porcari studied the difference between ellipticizing and treadmill running and found that heart rate and oxygen consumption were nearly identical when exercising at a similar rate of perceived exertion. The impact forces on the elliptical, however, were more comparable to walking than to running, making the elliptical a good alternative for cardiovascular conditioning without the pounding.” However, the article also points out that ellipticals will keep your cardiovascular fitness up, but not your musculoskeletal endurance.

Why I like the elliptical/open motion trainer: The open motion trainer **almost** makes me feel like I’m running because it’s a very similar movement. Unlike a traditional elliptical, it seems to have more range of motion and makes me use more of my leg muscles (similar to an actual run!). When I use I tell Anthony that I’m going “fake running” for the day :). Although I definitely couldn’t use this machine every day because it’s sort of boring, I don’t mind hopping on it once or twice a week.

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Mixing up these three exercises — as well as going for lots of walks outside — has made for a pretty good running replacement routine so far. Still on my list to try over the next four weeks (or more): Pool running! Aqua cycling! Pilates! TRX! Rowing! What other suggestions do you have?

One thought on “my 3 favorite running alternatives

  1. I think you’d like pool running. I know many avid runners who pool run to supplement their running. And they seem to maintain fitness while injured by pool running.