What other activity could be fun to keep in shape for anything besides health for its own sake?
November 2, 2012 8:36 AM   Subscribe

What are some good low time-commitment exercises that are more interesting than simply running?

As people get older, do you think they pick up running as an exercise because of the relatively low time commitment?

I always played sports growing up. I was simultaneously on two different soccer teams for 3 years during high school. In college, I played casual sports, went to the gym and did skateboarding and snowboarding. Soon after college, I coached youth soccer where I had the opportunity to run around to assist with the drills. I also picked up flatland BMX as a hobby.

As I approach 30, my time has become more limited. I have personal projects I work on, I travel a bit more, and my job leaves me a bit more drained at the end of the day. Over time, I've dropped coaching soccer because I can't make it to the practices with my work schedule, I've dropped BMX because of recurring wrist pain, and snowboarding is infrequent due to its seasonality coupled with poor snow falls.

More and more of my friends have become more heavily involved in running. They seek out 5k's and half marathons. They always seem to be training for the next race and consistently invite me to enter as well. But I hate running. Well hate's a bit strong. But the idea of running for its own sake makes me kind of ill. Sure I've done track and cross country, but that was only ever for soccer training. Though I would be quite good, I find running monotonous.

But I can understand the appeal. With age, there seems to be less and less free time. I know part of this is simply a shift in priorities, but who has time for regular practices? Local casual sports teams that might just play on the weekends could be fun, but I think I'd be too competitive to do it casually, and too time constrained to take it as seriously as I'd like. Running is simply, it's quick, and can be done anywhere. But it's so boring!

So I ask, is running an inevitability (or worse yet, yoga)? Should I just suck it up and sign up for a half-marathon because that's what everyone else seems to be excited by? What else could motivate me to keep in shape for anything besides health for its own sake?

No offense to anyone who enjoys running or yoga. They're both great activities with numerous benefits. Just not of much interest to me.
posted by ChipT to Health & Fitness (25 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
posted by latkes at 8:38 AM on November 2, 2012 [7 favorites]

Off the top of my head, some boxing related activities, like a punching bag or jumprope? I'm not sure if those solve the monotony problem, however.

My sister and other friends use a Wii to exercise at times (rather successfully, it seems), but I'm not sure if that's quite what you are looking for, either. It does provide variety.
posted by SpacemanStix at 8:40 AM on November 2, 2012

You can do relatively short bootcamp/crossfit style workouts that will be more varied than only running and build more strength. But if you have a community of runners on hand, it's worth trying just for the time with buddies.
posted by ldthomps at 8:44 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding a bike. When I was riding a lot and needed something for cross training, I took up rowing. When I got my 1M meter t-shirt, I switched to running and would like to work up to a half-marathon.

I get bored easily, too, and can't do any sort of exercise without a goal in mind, even if that goal is a t-shirt or a finishing medal. For cycling, it was to finish a couple of centuries. There's nothing wrong with switching it up to keep it interesting. I'll probably give swimming a go at some point before too much longer.
posted by jquinby at 8:47 AM on November 2, 2012

...and for whatever it matters (and I'm not sure that it does), I'm 42.
posted by jquinby at 8:47 AM on November 2, 2012

A lot of the appeal of CrossFit is that the workouts are quite short but give you a lot for your time and effort, and they're constantly varied, so it's hard to get bored. At the gym where I go, the classes go for an hour, but that includes the warmup and group skills practice before the actual workout, and people are usually out before the hour is even up. But you can do CrossFit style workouts at home or in a regular gym if you want to (but I would say that getting some training on the movements first is really helpful if you want to go that route).
posted by so_gracefully at 8:49 AM on November 2, 2012

A bunch of guys at my office play racquetball after work. It has the team/competition fix that working out lacks, but it's more flexible timewise than a league.
posted by headnsouth at 8:54 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, I don't think that it is a time commitment thing - running enough to do half marathons is not exactly so easy that you can do it in a few minutes a day! But it is certainly more flexible in terms of being something you can do solo anytime you have the time.

You know, not all organized sports have 'practices'. My dad loves sports and he is not much of a runner (he'll run with me if I ask him to but would never do it just for himself). He is 62. Here is what he does:
- Tennis, he is in a number of tennis groups and if he doesn't have time to go in a given week, can ask other members of the group to cover him.
- Racquetball
- Soccer, he has played in an adult league, as far as I know they had no practices, just weekend games against other teams so it was more of a once a week thing.
- He plays basketball in the mornings at the YMCA. They also have an adult league and it's just a pickup thing, you can show up when you want to, no practices or anything.
- In summer he likes windsurfing, kayaking, and he recently took up kiteboarding
- In winter he skis both downhill and cross-country, and snow shoes sometimes. If the snow doesn't come to us, we go to it!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:55 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

The only issue with cycling—and I say this as a committed cyclist myself—is that it's not really low-time-commitment. Realistically, an hour of strenuous riding will only burn maybe 500 calories (number direct from my power meter), whereas running will burn 150 calories per mile (based on this calculation, for 200lbs). At a 9-minute pace, it'll take you 30 minutes to burn those 500 calories: half the time. There's a lot to be said for cycling, particularly w/r/t cardiovascular benefits and low impact on the body (excepting crashing), and cycling is indeed awesome, but bikes are efficient, and that's a double-edged sword.
posted by The Michael The at 8:56 AM on November 2, 2012 [4 favorites]

I am pretty sure there is no exercise modality that yields better results on a minute by minute basis than Tabata training. For a total time investment of about 45 minutes a week you can be remarkably fit. The bad news is, it will likely be the worst 45 minutes of your week. It is crazily intense. It is not boring, but I doubt you will think it is fun.

Three 4 minutes sessions a week will yield you quite noticeable aerobic and anaerobic conditioning results. (the rest of the time is warmup and cooldown). Takes a lot less time than distance running, and offers anaerobic conditioning that most running workouts do not offer. As a side bonus, it is a great program for weight loss. (That being said, almost impossible to outexercise a cr@ppy diet)
posted by jcworth at 9:20 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Seconding Crossfit. Seconding a regular racquetball partner. Also martial arts.

If it's a purely time thing, you might look into skipping rope. There's a ton of variation, it's practical, and you can pack a workout into fifteen minutes.
posted by vecchio at 9:20 AM on November 2, 2012 [2 favorites]

Pickup basketball if you don't have time for a league? You'd have to find the right court/gym so you don't wind up with serious streetballers and get destroyed, but I play on weekends with what might charitably be called "mid-30s professionals" and might be uncharitably called "old dudes." (I'm an old dude)

Do you have a gym by you that does casual classes in whatever? Mine has stuff like dance classes or lifting-focused workouts and you can just wander in if you're so inclined.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 9:35 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Get a bike, ride to work and/or your errands. Then you are getting shit done and getting exercise. I have a busy small business and this is the only way I can get any exercise in on a daily basis, I just ride to my clients and ride to the store.

Everyone I know is giving up running as they get older because it's destroyed their knees. Personally I can ride a bike all day, but running is booooooring.
posted by bradbane at 9:39 AM on November 2, 2012

YAYOG keeps things interesting but effective, and you can do at home with little time commitment.
posted by DoubleLune at 10:00 AM on November 2, 2012

I came In to mention crossfit as well. Woth an additional benefit -If you are looking for something with a community spirit, like the sports teams you mentioned, crossfit fits the bill for this too. Generally, your biggest competition is yourself.

You can also try swimming. For the community aspect (or to learn proper stroke), masters groups are good and generally there's one at every YMCA. If you're traveling to cities, swimming is also fairly easy to do with a Y or LA Fitness membership. Or seek out hotels with big lap pools.
posted by smalls at 10:04 AM on November 2, 2012

What else could motivate me to keep in shape for anything besides health for its own sake?

Audio books and television, if used in combination with a treadmill or stationary bike.
posted by anaelith at 10:31 AM on November 2, 2012

Running intervals will burn more calories and improve your fitness than running at a static pace. You can get it done in 15-25 minutes and the variety in intensity makes it much more interesting.

Also, you should be running so fast for half of it your brain is incapable of thinking itself board.
posted by munchingzombie at 10:40 AM on November 2, 2012

Power lifting. Added bonus==able to move furniture all by myself.
posted by Ideefixe at 10:47 AM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't like the idea of settling for running because that's what everyone else is doing and you consider it an inevitability. I run because I don't like team sports but I have to exercise and running is the easiest thing for me to do. It's a relatively low time commitment, I don't have to go anywhere special to do it, I can do it whenever I want, it doesn't involve a lot of equipment, and it doesn't require floor space in my house. But I wouldn't want *you* to do it just because *I* do it for those reasons.

If I really liked soccer, I know I'd make some time for soccer. Across the board I reject the grown adult's assertion that they don't have time to do the things they enjoy. That's the great thing about being an adult: we can finally do the things we want to do!

All of this comes with the admission that, of course, we have JOBS as adults and yes, there IS limited time, but surely there's something you can do during your downtime that you'd enjoy. I haven't read all the other comments but I'm sure there are many good suggestions.
posted by iguanapolitico at 1:57 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Trail running might be more interesting than regular street running: you have to pay more attention to where your feet are landing.
posted by lakeroon at 2:00 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I find running kind of boring but I recently started doing triathlons because of the variety. And if you stick to Sprint distance, you don't even have to train that long for all the parts. The races are fun if you get bored easily because just when I reach the point when I start thinking "Why am I still doing this?" it is time to switch to the next activity!

Word of caution: don't neglect the running if you do want to try a triathlon. Running even a 5K after getting off a bike when you are under-prepared is. . . unpleasant.
posted by rachums at 2:05 PM on November 2, 2012

I'm in the same boat: always been very active in sports until life, job, and family commitments caught up with me. And, like you, I've always found running for the sake of running monotonous. I don't think you should just suck it up and start doing marathons or yoga simply because that's what your friends are doing. If those activities aren't things you actually enjoy, you'll resent any time you invest in them and probably end up quitting anyway. Ask yourself what activities you actually loved doing or have always wanted to try and then work those into your busy schedule if and when you can. As far as minimal time/maximum results, look into some type of high intensity interval training.

Over the years I've discovered that the thing I dislike most about running is that it's not competitive enough for me, the pace is tedious, and I'm really not fond of jostling around in a herd of people. The reasons I've always enjoyed soccer, baseball, tennis and sports like that is because they're fast-moving (you have to pay attention every second), there's a clear end goal in mind, and I get off on the mental stimulation involved in trying to outwit the other player or teams. Since I tend to carry a lot of pent up tension, I need competitive sports like that in my life to release it. Yoga, biking, and running are useful from a "zen" perspective, but if you actually need your sports to be more fast-paced and challenging, I don't think you'll be completely satisfied with those activities. Basically, I think you should do some type of HIIT for general health and weight maintenance plus whatever pick-up sports you actual enjoy and can work into your busy schedule.
posted by LuckySeven~ at 2:09 PM on November 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Seconding bradbane's point: biking is low time commitment if you're using it to do things you'd do anyway. When I lived in London I was biking 2 hours a day, but it replaced 1¾ hours of commuting by tube, so from that point of view I was getting 2 hours of exercise in 15 minutes. (Not to mention sunlight, a more interesting trip, saving money, ability to break the journey, etc. etc.)
posted by pont at 4:02 PM on November 2, 2012

2nd crossfit or get into the Kettlebell.
posted by ibakecake at 5:03 PM on November 2, 2012

Silly as it may sound, Wii Fit is a pretty good fitness program for people who have low or intermittent availability and a moderate amount of interest in sticking with a maintenance/improvement program. You compete against yourself or, in some areas, the virtual trainer and unlock additional exercises and difficulty levels with progress.
posted by thatdawnperson at 2:44 PM on November 4, 2012

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