By KYLE ZINKULA
Running has long been considered one of the best ways to get in shape, lose weight, and stay fit. By running, I mean the long distance, time-consuming, lung-burning exercise that many people enjoy. However, running can be painful for many, whether it be on their joints, muscles, breathing, or any other number of areas strained by the activity. In fact, going on a long run has shown to not always be the best way to maintain or work towards a fit figure. Some popular alternatives range from cross-fit, lifting weights, swimming, and outdoor activities.
Cross-fit makes for a great alternative to running since it involves cardiovascular and muscular fitness. A quick Google search defines “cross-fit” as “a high-intensity fitness program incorporating elements from several sports and types of exercise.” This goal is achieved through several exercises that work out the entire body in a circuit and through the completion of a series of activities in a certain order/rotation, multiple times through. Cross-fit gyms are becoming increasingly popular, as the demand for a well-rounded workout grows. I would recommend cross-fit as a great way to find a motivated community that collectively aims to keep their bodies in the best shape possible.
Weightlifting makes for another popular alternative. Weightlifting generally targets building muscle mass, but if such workouts are organized, it can maintain a consistent, lean muscle mass and incorporate cardio, similar to cross-fit. A couple terms to know for weightlifting are “reps,” meaning the number of times you repeat an exercise, and “sets,” meaning the number of times you do a series of reps. For example, one could do five sets of six reps of squats, meaning the individual would squat 30 times total.
The key to organizing successful weightlifting workouts is to remember to work out all muscle groups, to know that higher weights and fewer reps build muscle, and that lower weights and more reps maintain muscle and incorporate cardiovascular fitness. I like to split muscle groups up by legs, core/back, chest, and arms. You do not need to work out every group with every workout, but do make sure to work out each section equally.
A couple other alternatives to running to consider are swimming and outdoor activities. Swimming allows you to work out all parts of your body, makes for an intense cardiovascular workout, and does not stress your joints as you tread lightly in water, rather than pounding down on the road as you would while running. If you are one for the outdoors, hiking, Nordic skiing, cycling, and countless other outdoor activities also make for perfect alternatives. Popular trails in Colorado Springs such as the Incline make for fantastic workout locations.
Every workout type does not work for everyone. If none of these alternatives sound like you, and you would still rather run, follow these tips. First, make sure to vary your running. I recommend a mix of long distance runs such as a 40-minute run, sprint workouts such as eight to 12, 200-meter sprints with a full recovery in between, and middle-distance workouts such as six to eight 800-meter runs, or running for multiple sets of five to eight minutes with a few minutes rest in between. Variation will not only allow you to target more muscles and body parts, but also will make your workouts more interesting.
Secondly, do not forget to stretch before and after a run. Without stretching, your muscles will be tight and in pain for days after. Lastly, for any workout type you do, whether that be running, weightlifting, or any other method, make sure to take rest days. Your body will need time to heal and properly recover for another workout.