Is Running in Place an Effective Workout?

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So you love to run to stay fit and feel good. But what happens when you’re stuck indoors, don’t have access to a treadmill, and have limited space?

Well, you could just not exercise for a bit, but we all know how that feels. After a few days, you’ll be itching to go and driving yourself crazy because you can’t stretch your legs.

When your options are limited, you may start considering strange and unusual exercise opinions. One of which we’re discussing today.

Is running in place an effective workout?

It might sound weird and make you laugh a bit when you picture it, but the truth is, when you’re stuck in a matchbox-sized space, it could be what keeps you sane!

Why Run in Place?

Nobody really runs in place unless they’re warming up for something, and even then, it’s usually for just a few seconds or minutes at the most. But running in place truly can be a decent workout if you’re creative about it.

Good Workout

Surprisingly, you can get a pretty decent workout in if you make a bit of effort to spice up your run-in-place workouts. It takes a bit of creativity, but there are various options available to get a great, sweat-inducing, heart-pumping workout.

Anywhere Goes

As long as you have space to stand, you’ll have space to work out. Whether you’re in someone else’s home, a tent, a courtyard, a hotel room… There’s always just enough room for a running-in-place workout.

Easy to Fit Into a Schedule

Going out for a run takes a while. You have to go wherever you’re going, but then part of your time spent is making your way back home. This can make it difficult to fit your workouts into your schedule, especially if you aren’t sure exactly how far your route is going to be.

When you run in place, though, you don’t really go anywhere. There’s no extra time to account for getting back home. You spend your entire workout in the same place, and if you decide that you want to stop now, there’s no worries about getting back to wherever you need to go.

Where Can You Run in Place?

The options are pretty much endless when it comes to doing a running in place workout. As long as there’s flat ground that offers some traction, you’re in business.

If you’re stuck in the house, you can do a run-in-place workout in pretty much any room with a decently grippy floor. Otherwise, a garage, courtyard, or balcony work well too.

If you want to work up a sweat during your lunch break at work, you can get in a quick workout in a storeroom, or even in a bathroom stall! (although it may not be the best option for a variety of reasons).

And of course, if you’re on vacation, your hotel room should be perfectly okay, or even inside a tent. The options are pretty much endless – as long as there’s good grip for your feet, you’ll be all good.

Benefits of Running in Place?

Running in place has a bunch of benefits that you may never have thought of! Here’s why it’s a great exercise to keep in your arsenal in case you need it.

Start Anytime

There’s no gym fees to be paid, no special equipment to get before you can start, and no prior experience needed. It’s the easiest thing in the world to start! All you need is two working legs and a space you can stand or jump in.

Safe

Inevitably, there are some dangers involved in being out on the road or trail. Vehicles, other runners and cyclists, air pollution, stray dogs, roots waiting to be tripped on…

Running in place gets rid of all of those dangers. You’re in the safety and comfort of your own home, perfectly safe and able to get help quickly if necessary. The safety factor gets a thumbs up!

Easy to Fit Into Your Day

Running in place is the ideal activity if you want to structure 3 or 4 short workouts throughout the day.

10 minutes here, 15 minutes there… All you need to do is get up, and get going! There’s no need to spend time packing a bag, leaving the house, or anything else.

Entertainment

If you’ve got space in front of the TV, you can easily wile away 10, 15, or 20 minutes running in place while watching an episode of something you enjoy.

Otherwise, you can easily put your headphones in and listen to music to psych you up or a podcast if you enjoy learning new stuff.

There’s no need to worry about carrying your phone with you or changing a song or podcast episode halfway through a run.

Builds Lower Leg Strength

The mechanics of running on the road or trail and running in place are slightly different. When you’re out and about, you’re pushing forward to propel yourself along the route.

But when you’re running in place, you’re not moving forward. Instead, you’re pushing yourself upwards, landing more on your toes than on your heel, which is how most people run.

This slight change in mechanics helps to build muscle and strength in the lower legs.

Free!

As we mentioned before, there’s no need for gym fees, running club fees, fancy equipment, or any other cash to go into your exercise. When you run in place, you literally need nothing but your own feet!

Cons of Running in Place

So it’s not all sunshine and roses when it comes to this kind of exercise. But the pros do outweigh the cons! Here’s what isn’t the best about running in place.

Not the Most Exciting

Okay, so for some people running in place can be downright boring. If part of what excites you about running is the scenery, the hustle and bustle on the road, or the natural beauty of the trails, you may find running in place to be a complete bore.

You’re in the same place the whole time. The scenery doesn’t change, you don’t see anyone unless a family member or roommate interrupts you, and there’s not even an elevation or terrain change along the way.

This is the biggest con of running in place. However, you can spice up your exercise a bit by adding some pumping music or putting a TV show on.

No Fresh Air

One of the best feelings of running is the wind in your hair, breathing in fresh air. When you’re running in place, especially if you’re doing it indoors, you don’t have that.

If you’re in the yard, on the balcony, or somewhere similar, you’ll at least be breathing in the fresh air of nature. But you won’t quite get that feeling of motion as you run.

Tips for Running in Place

Planning on incorporating running in place into your workouts? Here are some tips to really make it work for you.

Dress the Part

You can run in place wearing anything. Your jeans, your PJs, your work clothes… But if you really want to get into proper workout mode, take just a few minutes to change into your running clothes.

You may be surprised at how much more motivated you feel when you’re dressed for the occasion! Don’t forget that you’ll still need to wear decent shoes if you want to keep your feet well protected.

Play Loud Music

Nothing can pump you up for exercise quite like your favorite music! Do you have a workout playlist that really gets you feeling energetic? Put it on nice and loud (being respectful of those around you, of course), and get in the mood to work out.

If you live in a shared space or have neighbors who are home when you’re working out, earphones might be best to ensure you don’t disturb anyone.

Use a Step Counter

One of the best ways to measure your progress when running in place is with a step counter. You can get yourself a pedometer, but most smartwatches and fitness trackers come with a step counter built-in.

Move From Room to Room

If you’re indoors, you can jazz up your workout a little by moving from room to room as you go. This can make it a touch more exciting and prevent some of that scenery boredom. It’s also a great way to organize your intervals.

Use a Carpet or Mat

To protect your joints, try to do your running in place on a lightly cushioned surface.

Carpet is great, but if you’re going to be on a harder surface, it may be worthwhile to invest in a rubber mat.

Not only will this help to ease some vibration in your joints as you exercise, but it also offers excellent traction, keeping you safer on your feet.

Consider the Downstairs Neighbors

If someone lives below you, be considerate! You don’t want complaints about your thundering footsteps, so try to either work out when they’re at work, or try somewhere like a balcony.

Otherwise, try to pad the floor quite well with carpet or rubber before exercising, to prevent heavy footfalls.

Add Running Drills

You don’t need to just do one thing the whole time you’re exercising. Here are some fun drills to include in your workouts.

Butt Kicks

It’s not a natural running motion, but butt kicks are fun and burn a bunch of calories. Instead of lifting your feet up in front of your body, kick your feet backwards, touching your butt with your heels.

High Knees

High knees are kind of the opposite of butt kicks. Lifting your knees extra high in front of you, bouncing from one foot to the next. Your thigh should be parallel to the ground at the highest point.

Side Run

If you have a few feet of space, try a side run. Keep facing forward, but run to the side, crossing your feet over each other. Try to stay in a straight line.

Power Skipping

If you can do a regular skip, you can do this. Practice skipping with just your legs first. Once you’ve got that down, you want to lift your opposite arm every time you lift a leg. Try to lift your legs higher than usual for a skip, like high knees.

Jumping Jacks

Also known as star jumps, this is a great exercise for developing better coordination and warming up your muscles.

Add Body Weight Exercises

You can also add some body weight exercises in between your running. Try adding a mixture of these for a great full body workout.

  • Squats
  • Lunges
  • Pushups
  • Burpees
  • Crunches
  • Leg Raises

Workout Suggestions

Workout Idea 1 (Body Weight Exercises in Between)

Choose 2 to 5 different rooms to move between for this workout. Depending on how many rooms you choose, you could work out for between 10 and 20 minutes.

  • Room 1: 1-minute run, 1-minute squats (x2)
  • Room 2: 1-minute run, 1-minute pushups (x2)
  • Room 3: 1-minute run, 1-minute crunches (x2)
  • Room 4: 1-minute run, 1-minute lunges (x2)
  • Room 5: 1-minute run, 1-minute burpees (x2)

Workout Idea 2 (HIIT)

HIIT is excellent for losing weight and will really work up a sweat! Don’t forget to warm up before beginning, and do a minute of easy movement (ie. walking or light skipping) between each round.

  • Warm-Up: 5 minutes dynamic stretching
  • Round 1: 10x butt kicks, 10x jumping jacks, 10x high knees, 10-second sprint
  • Round 2: 20x butt kicks, 20x jumping jacks, 20x high knees, 20-second sprint
  • Round 3: 30x butt kicks, 30x jumping jacks, 30x high knees, 30-second sprint
  • Round 4: 40x butt kicks, 40x jumping jacks, 40x high knees, 40-second sprint
  • Round 5: 50x butt kicks, 50x jumping jacks, 50x high knees, 50-second sprint
  • Cool-Down: 5 minutes dynamic stretching

Workout Idea 3 (Stairs)

If you live in a tight spot but have stairs nearby, this could be a fun and challenging workout for you! Take a 1-minute easy jog-in-place rest between each round.

  • Warm-Up: 5 minutes dynamic stretching
  • Round 1: 30-second stair run
  • Round 2: 30-second stair jumps
  • Round 3: 30-second stair split jumps
  • Round 4: 30-second stair walking (2 to 3 stairs at a time)
  • Repeat: 1 to 3 times, depending on you
  • Cool-Down: 5 minutes dynamic stretching
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AUTHOR

Shanna is a writer who runs... And cycles, jumps rope, and lifts weights. She lives in beautiful South Africa and enjoys sharing her knowledge and experience with other avid athletes.