(May also be for non-runners who just wants to move more. :)).
We've all experienced discomfort running. There have been days where I have gone out for a run, only to return to my home after a mile or less humbled with a shattered ego due to pain, soreness, achiness, cramping, bad weather; there really is no end to a list of runner's grievances. Really--I should NOT feel bad about one or two lousy runs, and neither should you. We are human, and these things happen. This is why I have compiled a list of ways to "get your workout on" if you cannot, for any reason, run. Some note strategies for mental hurdles and others give specific activity examples. So, here you go!
1. Get creative, and accept it. This is probably the most important point I will make in this blog. As a runner, you need to start allowing yourself to think of other activities as fulfilling cardio. We all know running is terrific, and for us, nothing may bring us as much joy. BUT, if for any reason we are down and out, we need to accept and embrace ANY form of cardio that gets our heart rate up and maintains cardiovascular fitness so that when we get back in the saddle, we feel strong. Having made that point...
2. Cleaning. Sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, scrubbing vigorously, and going up and down the stairs with laundry are all ways I fit my cardio in on days that I cannot run (like days where I think "Okay, I can either wear the same shirt for the fifth week in a row and go on a run, or I can do my laundry"). Is this effective? Absolutely! To make any of these activities more challenging, do a set of push-ups between chores, and turn it into a circuit workout.
3. Common Cardio Drills: think like a bootcamp instructor and do 30 seconds of side shuffles, jumping jacks (or half-jacks with just one side of body than the other for really fragile knees), galloping, etc. Sneak in three 30 seconds of any activity during commercial breaks while watching Real Housewives, and you have yourself a nice, little workout.
3b. You might want to think about introducing some strength training into your fitness regimen, especially if you plan to run again so you can come back like Rocky.
4. Build up those quads, glutes, and hammies! Protect your knees and take a proactive stance towards running again and forever. Do any/all of these moves unweighted for 15-20 times or for 20-30 seconds, and trust me, you will feel the burn. Squats, forward and reverse lunges, and split squats are amazing, and also give you a nice tush.
5. Use your couch. Seriously. Sit on the edge of your couch, stand up, sit down, and before you let your butt touch the couch, stand up again. Repeat.
6a. Again with your couch (or a park bench, or a bed): get yourself in plank position with your hands on the edge of the couch--try to maintain alignment--wrists stay under your shoulders, shoulders do not hike up past your wrists. Neck is long and lean, not crunched. Hips, knees, and ankles are aligned (hips are not swagging or hiking up. You'll have to use your core--I know, I know--to keep those hips aligned and your back from spooning up or down. Squeeze those abs.
6b. From this nice plank, position, you might ask, what can you do for cardio? The following: jumping jacks, legs only (LOVE this one), mountain climbers (lower impact on knees than on the floor, because you are at an incline), toe taps--keep legs straight, point your toe, and tap it on the ground. Switch toes (try this out first and see how many times you can tap on toe, then work up from there).
7. Yes, swimming, biking, elliptical, etc. Swimming is GREAT for runners, in theory, who have access to a pool and who don't mind all the prep and post swim rigamarole (swim cap, shower before pool, shower after pool--this can be daunting if you're a runner who's used to just throwing on sneakers and going). I do love spinning. My only hang-up with the elliptical is that you really have to watch your back on that machine--the momentum can cause people to sway their backs into an unhealthy position for their lumbar spine, and that is no bueno. If you must use the elliptical, I recommend foregoing the handles and just pumping with your hands naturally--don't let those arm handles drive your spine.
Last, but not least...
8. Shakin' it. Looking back to my college days, I sometimes wonder how I stayed in moderately decent shape with my poor diet and only running a tiny bit. Then I remember the hours of cardio I got in from dancing at the Limelight. Oh, right. That was a lot of cardio, at least two hours every Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. Obviously, there is no way you can get me to go out and dance like that again in my old age, but, I do dance if I can't get my run in. I make a point to dance while waiting for the water to warm up in the shower, while waiting for the curling iron to heat up, while picking out clothes--I just throw on some Ludacris and shake it. I probably only spend about ten to fifteen minutes dancing this way, but you know what? I feel amazing afterwards. I feel silly, sure, but in a good way. Most importantly, I feel confident that I could still be a sexy beast on the dance floor at the Limelight if I wanted to. This confidence trumps any feeling of self-pity I had for not going on a run. And that is what you must do, young grasshopper, find an enjoyable activity you can do when you cannot run, one that makes you feel like a rockstar.
Hope this helps!