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3 alternatives to running when you can't make it outside

Woman doing lunges
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No matter where you live and play, there are undoubtedly going to be days when the weather — snow, rain, wind, heat, humidity, you name it — doesn't cooperate with your running schedule. Still, you want the highs and benefits of a run. That's when you need to come up with alternatives to running.

We all have those days where we're lacking motivation and bad weather is the perfect excuse to cuddle up on the couch and take a rest day. If you're a runner that has a goal you're working toward, whether it be training for a race, running consecutive days in a row, or losing weight, coming up with alternatives to running is a necessity to have in your arsenal.

Here are some reasons why cross-training is great:

  • It gives your body a break and reduces your risk for a running related injury.
  • It improves your muscle strength and endurance to make you a more efficient runner.
  • It provides a mental break from running, which is beneficial even when you don't think you need it.
  • It gives you the chance to try something new.

If you're short on time and even motivation, something as simple as spending five to 10 minutes doing lunges, squats, and core exercises can work great. But if you're looking for more specific workouts that will serve as great alternatives to running, look no further. Here are three to try today.

HIIT workouts

HIIT, short for "high-intensity interval training," is a great way to get similar benefits to running, plus more. HIIT combines high-intensity bursts of exercise, followed by lower-intensity or "rest" interval workouts. It's a great option because it spikes your heart rate and works your cardiovascular system while also allowing for a great strength workout of different muscle groups.

HIIT workouts usually accomplish in 20 minutes the same calorie burn and effort as a 40-minute run, and are usually done only using your own bodyweight. An example of a great HIIT workout includes three sets of:

  • High knees for 60 seconds (rest for 15 seconds)
  • Pushups for 60 seconds (rest for 15 seconds)
  • Bicycle kicks for 60 seconds (rest for 15 seconds)
  • Squats for 60 seconds (rest for 60 seconds, and repeat)
2 woman doing yoga

Ashtanga yoga

When you think yoga, you might think slow, controlled breathing, relaxation, and gentle stretching. Some yoga is this; ashtanga yoga, though, is not. Ashtanga will not only elevate your heart rate and tone your muscles, but also stretch and lengthen them to keep you healthy and limber.

This style of yoga focuses on a sequence of poses, paired with breath, that will work your whole body and likely leave you feeling sore the first few times. Remember to breathe through the poses and meet yourself where you're at. Chances are, as a runner, you are not going to be nearly as flexible as your (online or in-person) yoga teacher, so do not attempt to go further than your body feels comfortable. Like anything, it will take time to improve, so see it as a challenge.


Unlike the two exercise routines mentioned above, this one will require some simple equipment: a kettlebell or two. You can also get by using a dumbbell or medicine ball.

Kettlebell weights are something you can leave tucked away in a room, closet, or garage as they take up minimal space. Also, kettlebell workouts do not take long to do and can be done before work or even on a lunch break.

Getting your heart rate up and maintaining it for extended periods of time is important to running, and any kettlebell workout I've ever done sure got my heart rate up. It works your entire body using strength, balance, and mobility.

Like any training modality, ease your way into these workouts. A simple kettlebell workout for runners (starting with a low weight) includes three sets of:

  • 8 repetitions of reverse lunges
  • 5 reps of single leg deadlifts
  • 5 reps of half-kneeling shoulder presses (each side)
  • 15 kettlebell swings
  • Rest two minutes and repeat

Next time the weather doesn't cooperate with your run, or you're just looking to mix up your routine, try these alternative workouts — they aren't just fun, they could help you become a better runner, too.

Our writer's advice is intended for informational or general educational purposes only. We always encourage you to speak with your physician or healthcare provider before making any adjustments to your running, nutrition, or fitness routines.

Written By
Tim Kelly

Marathon Runner & Coach

Tim Running

Ohio native that loves travel, gardening, and helping people do more with their running than they thought possible. 8+ years as a running coach. 12 years as a runner and cyclist.