Running Indoors: Is Running in Place Effective?

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During this COVID-19 pandemic, although in most places people are still allowed to go outside to exercise, some people are either choosing not to or are unable to venture outside. From the person whose spouse is now working 15 hour days to the one with a compromised immune system for whom heading outside could be deadly, there are many who are asking themselves how they can get through the Stay At Home period without losing their base fitness.

So can you run inside without a treadmill? What options do I have?

Running In Place Basics

If you have ever had to wait at a stoplight for the light to tell you it’s okay to walk, you have perhaps run in place. But to do it intentionally? Is it worth your time? How do you actually run in place? You may be surprised there are actually tactics to more effectively run in place.

Running in place effectiveness
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First, find yourself a good surface. Many people like hardwood, as opposed to carpet,  for running in place. If you are fortunate enough to have a home gym with a rubberized floor, that is also an optimal surface for running in place.

On the one hand, it truly is as easy as holding your arms by your sides at 90-degree angles, moving one arm at a time as you move the opposite foot. Bringing your knee up so it is close to your hip height, you quickly hop from one foot to the next as you swing the opposite arm as the leg you are lifting up.

Staring at a fixed point at the wall with your head up will help you maintain good form as you practice this exercise.

Try Paula Bee’s 25 Minute Marathon Workout on YouTube! Paula mixes bodyweight exercises into 25 minutes of run or walk in place intervals.

Running In Place Workout Variations

If you find running in place too challenging, or perhaps even boring, there are some other things you can try. Whether you choose to start with one of these suggestions and work your way up to running in place, or if you decide to rotate these other exercises into a circuit, these are all easy to learn and will give you some much needed time on your feet.

March In Place

There are a couple of things you can do to take running in place down a notch, especially as you work on the skill.

Marching in place
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One recommendation is to march in place.  As easy as it sounds, when marching in place you focus on high knees and arms. Just as in running in place, when you march you are moving each arm opposite of the leg you are moving.

High Knees

Similar to the march, high knees is slightly different in that you bring each knee as high up as you can each time. You can either leave your arms together to make your knees a “goal” to hit, or swing them as in the march or jog in place.

High Knees running in place exercise
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High knees can be made more challenging by doing a high knee jog in place. That is certain to get your heart rate elevated!

Standing Mountain Climber

Standing Mountain Climber exercise
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The standing mountain climber is a variation of high knees. In a mountain climber, you are bringing your knees up quite high, while swinging your opposite arm. As illustrated above, another component is a slight twist to your body while performing this movement.

Run Stairs

If you live in an apartment building with a lot of staircases, you are at an advantage with this workout. But even if you aren’t, stairs are an excellent way to build both leg strength and cardiovascular capacity. You can get a heck of a workout in a short time just going up and downstairs.

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If you’re looking to mix it up a bit, consider doing your staircase in threes. First time up and down you walk, second you are moving at 60-70% perceived effort, the third interval moving as fast as you safely can. Repeat. You may surprise yourself at how you get your heart pumping during this workout!

Drills Count

If you’re stuck at home for the long haul, this might be an excellent time to work on your running form. Some of these drills you need a bit of room like a hallway or recreation room, or perhaps take these outside to the driveway.

Remember: during Covid-19 we are still encouraged to get fresh air if in an area where it is deemed safe to do so!

  • High Knees – Just like it sounds, you are focusing on getting high knees during this drill. Think about your arms while you work this one. Don’t just move your arms, drive them!
  • Butt Kicks – Excellent for engaging your hamstrings, you are literally kicking your own butt. When you do these, plan to make almost no forward motion. It’s like you are practically running in place.
  • Power Skips or Bounding – Remember skipping as a child? This is like that but pretend you’re Tigger off of Winnie the Pooh. With a power skip, you can either skip for height or distance. Both will improve your running in different ways.

You may wish to try these drills with video guidance included!

Carolan Garceau
Carolan Garceau of Waukesha, WI

Carolan Garceau of Waukesha, WI is a data analyst who suddenly finds herself trying to juggle two young children (ages 18 months and 3 years old) while working from home. Her days start at 5:00 a.m. when she first logs onto her laptops and before her children are awake. With her husband still working outside of the home, she navigates caring for the little ones while getting in her eight hours in front of the computer. Making time to workout keeps her sane, even in the midst of the chaos. Keeping perspective, she is running less and using her rowing machine and Beach Body videos more. Granting herself margin and grace keeps this busy mom, wife, employee and athlete feeling balanced. 

Just Maintain

You may feel like you’re regressing as you find yourself either trapped inside or tied to your own property during this time. First, remember that you can maintain your current level of fitness without doing anything at all for seven to fourteen days. Second, your body doesn’t know if you’re running outside, running on a treadmill or doing laps around your couch.

Furthermore, your heart and lungs don’t care if you’re running or doing jumping jacks until your body falls over from exhaustion. While dealing with this pandemic, working from home and/or homeschooling your children, it’s important to grant yourself some margin. In other words, if you are working out because it gives you some inner peace, keep doing it! If you find yourself needing a physical release to rid your body of stress, keep moving!

However, if you’re stressed out, not sleeping and struggling just to keep your head above water, it’s okay to take a few days off. It’s okay to mix up your fitness regime. In fact, we at RunnerClick strongly encourage you to look at the big picture as you navigate how to keep yourself healthy during this pandemic.

Run in place, pull up a YouTube video, do some core work, or even just take a brisk walk. Do what you need to keep yourself physically and emotionally healthy during this time. And remember: even though we are miles apart, we are in this together.