What to do if you hate running?

Posted on: June 30th 2014

Q. Booty, can I get more awesome without running or jogging (except as warm up)?

– Lyndall

A. Heck yeah, Lyndall! So glad you asked. Lots of skaters have trouble with running. Some of us have cranky old aches and pains, others have body types that don’t feel designed to pound the pavement. Still others JUST. HATE. RUNNING.

Running can be a great workout for a lot of reasons. One of my faves is that it’s pretty low-rent. A pair of shoes and a path are all you need, any place in the world. Plus, it does work your cardio really well… but back to the matter at hand. If jogging is just not for you, what can you do instead?

Cycling –

Hop on a road bike, mountain bike or spin contraption and you can get results that even surpass running for our sport. Because cycling works more of the gluteus maximus and gluteus medius muscles than running, it provides a touch more derby-specific muscle activation (we use glute med especially for the skating motion, and powering into a block).  Running up hills to do interval training or work in an anaerobic zone is great, but doing hills or sprints on a bike will generate more leg power, and is more analogous to the muscle burn you’ll feel in the last jam of the game.

Caution: it’s much easier to get complacent and work out at an easier pace on a stationary bike than it is while running outdoors. If you’re watching So You Think You Can Dance and checking your email while you’re spinning, you might not be working hard enough to match the benefits of a run. Be sure to push yourself aerobically. Use a heart rate monitor if you can to confirm you’re actually turning on the juice!

Rowing –

The indoor rowing machine is otherwise known as the ergometer or “erg” (“erg!” being the sound I’m usually making at the end of a workout…). Providing a much more full-body workout than either cycling or running, rowing machines are another great alternative. Rowing, like skating, demands power. The flywheel of the erg is a perfect mechanism – the machine resists you as hard as you’re willing to pull. Because each stroke demands the use of your hamstrings, glutes, quads, back and abdominal muscles, arms, shoulders and chest, you’ll find this a very demanding workout. And, like running and cycling, it’s very well suited to interval work – you can ratchet up or down the intensity immediately.

Caution: used improperly, the rowing machine can be at best ineffective, and at worst a potential source of injury. Technique is a factor, so ask someone experienced with rowing (this may or may not include the staff at your gym…) to demonstrate the correct form. This video and this one provide a good overview. Always remember that, contrary to what most people assume, the rowing stroke is primarily driven by the legs, not the arms.

More Options –

Rowing and cycling are just a couple of the best options for replacing running in your fitness routine. They use similar muscle groups, work well with interval training, and produce aerobic and anaerobic efficiency. Depending on your ability, training, and location, some other alternatives could be cross country skiing, hiking (with elevation gain), snowshoeing, or swimming!

Thanks for the great question, Lyndall!

If you have more ideas and suggestions for your fellow derby athlete, please add your voice to the comments below! What’s YOUR favourite non-running derby cross-training option?

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