Running on a track vs running indoors?
September 27, 2016 8:26 AM   Subscribe

I've started Couch to 5K to get myself in a bit better cardio shape and try to fit into my clothes better. This involves a half hour of exercise, 3 times a week. Unfortunately, due to my schedule, my husband's work schedule and having little kids, I can only get outside and go to a proper track to run MAAAYBE once a week on Saturdays. The other days my solution is to run back and forth in my apartment. Am I kidding myself on these days that I'm actually getting enough exercise to accomplish my goals?

I'm 37 years old, 5'7'' and weigh about 145 lbs, and would prefer to weigh about 130 lbs. I eat a decent, varied diet, but it could be improved. I work a pretty standard 9-5 with a 45-minute commute. This means I get home around 6 pm. The sitter leaves and I immediately am with the kids in the homework/piano practice/making dinner/shoving dinner in their faces/bathtime/bedtime rush until 8:30 pm. Most of the time this is solo, because my husband comes home anytime between 7-9 pm, unpredictably. By then I'm wiped out and have no energy to go out.

On days that he works even later or goes to play soccer, I can't leave the house so I try to do my C25K by running back and forth in our apartment. I can get about 15 steps in a not-entirely-straight stretch, then turn 180 degrees and go back the other direction. Obviously I don't get nearly the workout that I might when exercising nonstop on a track, but am I getting any benefit? I don't have a heart monitor but it's clear my heart rate is not as high as when on the track. Furthermore, could I be actually risking injury with the pivoting and stopping of momentum?
posted by Liesl to Health & Fitness (46 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Can you get up earlier? I run at 5:30am most mornings. Back in the house and in the shower before 7am if need be. What's stopping you from running outdoors? Do you not have a sidewalk or a park?
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:29 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: What's stopping me from running outdoors is that I cannot leave the kids home alone.
posted by Liesl at 8:31 AM on September 27, 2016

Any chance you can do your runs at work? I have a few co-workers who run/walk during lunch time and then eat at their desks.
posted by Etrigan at 8:32 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Furthermore, could I be actually risking injury with the pivoting and stopping of momentum?
Yes. Don't do this.
posted by Kriesa at 8:36 AM on September 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I see joggers with double strollers in my neighborhood, no idea what your kid situation is but people do run with kids outside.

I think if you want to do cardio inside you'd be better off with things like jumping jacks and burpees, something you can hold a rhythm at.
posted by SaltySalticid at 8:36 AM on September 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Best answer: Are you set on running? I am a fan of FitnessBlender routines - they work great when you're stuck indoors. You can find plenty of other workout routines online.
posted by florencetnoa at 8:38 AM on September 27, 2016 [8 favorites]

I think what roomthreeseventeen is getting at is what time does your husband leave in the morning? Is all child care outside of the sitter times on you?

Lunchtime may be a good alternative.

Is there a park where the kids can play while you run laps around the park?
posted by TORunner at 8:39 AM on September 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

I run with a stroller with baby while my older kid rides the bike. Baby could even be in its PJs and fall asleep in the stroller? If not, early morning sounds like your best option. A friend with career & young twins does it this way, she's super fit and does races all the time.
posted by The Toad at 8:40 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I don't have the greatest knees, so I would be quite concerned with all of that pivoting unless you're doing other exercises specifically to strengthen the muscles around your knees and ankles.

Seconding that mornings [or lunchtime, if you have access to a shower at or near work] are a decent suggestion, but also, your husband's soccer. If he gets a weeknight off from work *and* the kids to do soccer, you should get a weeknight where he gets home early enough to be responsible for the kids while you get to exercise, too. If his work makes it really, *truly* impossible, then he ought to take responsibility for the kids on the morning[s] you get to exercise - but it can't be that impossible if he gets a night a week [or more?] for soccer, right?
posted by Pandora Kouti at 8:41 AM on September 27, 2016 [22 favorites]

I agree with others that what you're describing is not much like running, that you're probably not getting the benefits of running, and that you have a relatively high probability of injuring yourself. I assume a treadmill (at home) is also not possible?

If you really can't adjust the schedule (which sounds pretty punishing for you - I hope this is not a long-term thing for your family) I think some other kind of cardio is probably a better option for you than running.
posted by mskyle at 8:43 AM on September 27, 2016 [5 favorites]

The running back and forth in your apartment sounds insane (but what a way to build mental fortitude). It's more cardio than nothing, but as you speculate, I'd be afraid of the contant 180 degree turns. In addition to the turning, there's the constant acceleration and decelleration which will stress your soft tissues (which already are slower to build up than cardio health is).

If you absolutely can't get out at night (and that sounds like you can't), I'd look at doing body weight strength routines for runners (google). In addition to strength, look for balance/technique exercises to do in your apartment. A good example, would be the 100 ups.

Your evening routines sounds beyond hectic; what's your morning routine like? Part of the reason that runners are associated with getting up at stupid o'clock in the morning is that's usually the easiest way to force time into one's schedule. Currently, I get home from work, walk the dog, eat or make/eat dinner, and then am working on reno'ing our kitchen. That's likely my schedule for the next 5 weeks. I make time to run by waking up anywhere between 05:30-06:30 (depending on the rest of the morning schedule) so that I can get a run and shower in. As sleep is an important part of recovery make sure that you adjust your bedtime to be earlier.

Also, keep in mind that likely your 5k won't be on a track; running on the road / sidewalks is as good as a track and doesn't require driving too. Of course, there's lots of (somewhat conflicting) studies, but most recent ones seem to indicate that when running on a softer surface (track/trail vs sidewalk/asphalt (additionall shoe amount of padding)) that the body tends to strike harder on the softer surfaces so statistically injury chance is a wash (despite tonnes of anecdata in all directions).

If you're worried about distance away from the track, there's 1) cellphone gps trackers, and if you don't have a cellphone with gps, there's the 80's-2000's method of pre-measuring some distances/routes via your car's odometer.
posted by nobeagle at 8:43 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: If your goal is generally to get in shape, this is why home workout videos were invented.

Just one example, if you like programs (which I'm guessing is the appeal of C25K), Jessica Smith's Walk Strong series is great. Or she has a ton of free workouts on her You Tube channel.

Or there are literally hundreds of other options.

It won't make you a runner, but you can definitely get fit and lose weight.
posted by Kriesa at 8:45 AM on September 27, 2016 [6 favorites]

Is a treadmill out of the question? Fitness equipment gets a bad rap as expensive dust-collection but if you really are committed it can become part of your routine.

I got a nice used rower for about a third of what is was worth and used it 3-4 times a week for two years before I got sick of it, which was well worth it for me.
posted by kapers at 8:45 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I notice you're in an apartment in NYC-- my downstairs neighbors would hunt me down and kill me if I regularly ran back and forth for half an hour so I hope this isn't occurring during sleeping hours :)
posted by kapers at 8:47 AM on September 27, 2016 [12 favorites]

How about a cheap bike trainer? For me it's not that I can't go running, but my intertia to stay in the house makes the bike trainer easier sometimes.
posted by gregr at 8:48 AM on September 27, 2016

Yep, sorry, my suggestion was to run outside while your husband is still home in the morning.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 8:57 AM on September 27, 2016 [4 favorites]

what I used to do was pay the sitter to stay later, so I could exercise after getting off work. It didn't always work, sometimes I was just too tired, but maybe you are more disciplined than I.
posted by fingersandtoes at 9:06 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Oh, and if your commute is via public transport, is there any possibility of switching part of it to running? It might not add that much time, depending.
posted by mskyle at 9:06 AM on September 27, 2016

I have trouble fitting workouts around my kid too, so I sympathize. The back-and-forth apartment running would be ineffective, bothersome to any downstairs neighbors, and potentially hazardous because it's much more likely for your kids to inadvertently get in your way. There are other options if you're stuck at home and short on time, and they might not be running but they will get you effectively worked out. If you put together a circuit of four bodyweight exercises and repeat for 20 minutes, you're good.

And the imbalance between your schedule and your husband's makes this a lot harder, and it's not fair to you. Can he arrange his work schedule so that he can leave at a set - and sane - hour one or two days a week? It sounds like between full-time work and solo parenting, you're getting very little time for any sort of self-maintenance.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:09 AM on September 27, 2016 [9 favorites]

Is it out of the question to get back at 6ish and take the kids and head for the park a couple of nights a week - they play/bike you run. Dinner is 30 mins later. Everybody gets the benefit of exercise?
posted by koahiatamadl at 9:10 AM on September 27, 2016

I know that this is not exactly what you're asking, but I feel like someone should call the elephant out in the room. There are great suggestions here for things you can do, but it really looks like your husband is not being the partner he could be here. Exercise is so critical for your well being - REAL exercise that is enjoyable for you to do! It sounds like he has more flexibility and free time than you do - to stay late at work or to go to a pickup soccer game. Perhaps he could bring his extra work home with him so that you can run? Or go running with you rather than going to soccer? Or he could buy you a treadmill or a membership to a gym that has childcare with that extra money he's making from his extra time at work. :)

If you don't have that kind of relationship or the circumstances are different than they sound or that is just too big of a hill to climb with him then I totally understand. In those scenarios I would try to get up earlier, or switch to DVDs to exercise (those can be really fun!). But in case you're missing it because it's your life and you're living it, it does sound like your partnership is a little unbalanced here and he could help you out a little more.

Imagine if you were talking about healthy food instead of exercise. "We only ever have enough fresh fruits and vegetables for my husband. If I put ketchup on my mac and cheese will that get me at least some vitamins?"
posted by pazazygeek at 9:13 AM on September 27, 2016 [31 favorites]

Coming at this from another direction - you say your husband goes out to play soccer. How often? Seems like maybe his soccer playing could be balanced with your running.

Can you work out a Friday run with your husband, where he takes the load that night, along with a Sunday run every week? That would get you to two days per week. Running in your apartment is better than nothing, but it's not going to help much in doing a 5K. (On preview, what pazazygeek said.)
posted by cnc at 9:21 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I have similar kid/schedule limitations and have dealt with them by purchasing this very low-end compact eliptical machine from amazon. It's not great for long runs, but good enough for the first few weeks of couch to 5k. I am never motivated enough to get up early and exercise, so the kids usually watch TV or practice piano while I exercise.
posted by poodelina at 9:22 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

+1 to "this is why home workout videos exist."

It doesn't even need to be a complicated program: there are plenty of couch to 5k style buildups (like the 100 squat challenge?) as well as set programs (insanity?) that take your brain out of planning it.

But also yeah: this is a marriage equality thing too.
posted by athirstforsalt at 9:29 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Do you have a baby monitor? Can you at least run sprints down your apartment hallway? Bring the monitor with you into the hall so the kids aren't really "alone" while you do it.
posted by pseudostrabismus at 9:38 AM on September 27, 2016

Running on the spot and rope skipping can both give you as intense a cardio workout as you care to build up to. Doing them in good running shoes will reduce the impact stress suffered by your hips, knees and ankles.

The cardio component of the old-school 5BX program involves alternating between running on the spot and doing jumping jacks. It can work up an arbitrarily large degree of sweat.

Staying in the one spot will let you concentrate on building work intensity, as opposed to slowing down to avoid obstacles.
posted by flabdablet at 9:57 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

There are lots of cardio exercises you can do at home that are not sprinting from point to point inside your apartment. Do some searches on Youtube. There are tons, at every level of fitness and style. I mean, it really only takes one wrong pivot to twist your knee or ankle.

You and hubs should maybe trade off - he gets to play soccer sometimes, you get run while he comes home sometimes, or watches the kids on a weekend day. You both agree that you need to pay the sitter for an extra hour or two a couple times a week so you can have similar schedule flexibility as he does.

Do you actually have time to run / exercise and shower and still get everything done in the evenings? If not, consider hiring a sitter who can also make (or at least start) dinner for you.

Just because you are a lady does not mean that you automatically have to do the entirety of child-care when you're not specifically at work.
posted by ananci at 10:18 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

Jumping Jacks or jump rope are the traditional alternative cardio exercises to perform inside instead of running.
posted by Lame_username at 10:24 AM on September 27, 2016

Best answer: I'm a fan of the free Pop Sugar workouts -- many of them are 10 minutes & therefore very kid-friendly. I also think Keaira LaShae's workouts are SO MUCH FUN but I wouldn't want my kids watching me do them (lots of twerkin'!)
posted by heavenknows at 10:26 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

I'm a lady who doesn't run, not because of kids but because I HATE running, and I am here to advocate weight-lifting - it's kind of fun, it gives you cool guns that you can totally use in real-life situations like lifting your crazy suitcase up stairs when you're on holiday, it improves your core strength if you do a balanced workout, and you can really work up a proper sweat in 15-20 minutes.

Get some weights (google the right weight for you), and then look for "beginner weight-lifting workout" on YouTube. The ones aimed at super-macho men are probably the most fun, if you enjoy someone screaming manically at you not to quit, which I do.
posted by greenish at 10:45 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Getting up to run (or otherwise work out) in the morning might happen a few times, but would more likely result in my giving up, if I'm perfectly honest. But I will try.

I'm not married to running; in fact I dislike it. I chose to do C25K in the hopes that I would learn to like it, because it seems lots of otherwise sane people do, and you don't need a lot of equipment. And everybody knows that the more a medicine tastes bad, the more effective it is, right? The things I do like about C25K are:
  • no more than 30 minutes long
  • directed workout: it tells you what to do and you do it
  • intervals of higher intensity and lower intensity
  • gradually increases in difficulty
Message received that other forms of at-home cardio are preferable to back-and-forth pseudo-running. I've best-answered suggestions for other styles of workout, and if you know of others that you like that fit the points above, I appreciate the suggestions. Is the 30-Day Shred still a thing?

I agree that the balance of parenting is incredibly uneven and that has been a source of frustration for as long as the kids have been present, but it's also unlikely to change. The reality is that my husband's work brings in a significantly larger--and growing--percentage of our income than mine does, and his schedule is far less flexible than mine (6 am conference calls with Shanghai, for example). I can't commit to a fixed weekly class because I can't rely on him being able to come home consistently.
posted by Liesl at 10:52 AM on September 27, 2016 [2 favorites]

There was a small fad when I was a kid of working out on a mini trampoline. We had one, and it was fun to play on and let off a little bit of steam, so your kids might enjoy it too as long as they are old enough to be safe.

Looking around online, it seems that there is a way to get a decent cardio workout on one of those.
posted by vunder at 11:04 AM on September 27, 2016

If you'd rather work out outside the home, what about

A) a babysitter
B) a gym with babysitting
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:05 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Based on your update - an extra 1.5 hrs of sitter a week. 2x 45 mins - you run straight after work but before you leave for home. Don't wait until you get home - something about commuting makes me disengaged enough from work that it is much more difficult to do anything else….so get the run in and then you travel home.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:05 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

If your husband's schedule is really that demanding and inflexible, I hope he is making enough money that you can afford one or two good pieces of fitness equipment.

You can do bodyweight exercises for strength and general conditioning—and if you do a circuit of them fast enough, you can get some cardio benefit too. Check out Mark Lauren's You Are Your Own Gym (or his women-specific version, Body By You), or the bodyweightfitness subReddit, for ideas on exercises and routines.

For home-based cardio, though, I'd suggest a stationary rower (Concept2 is the gold standard), a stationary bike, or a good cross-country ski machine. Or, if you have a bike, get a trainer or rollers with a resistance unit. They're all much lower impact than running, especially short dashes with lots of turns, and you can get a really good workout. Whatever you choose, watch some videos so you can learn proper form.

If space is tight, the Concept2 rowing machine can be disassembled and stored upright when you're not using it.
posted by brianogilvie at 11:18 AM on September 27, 2016

Best answer: The 30-Day Shred is excellent if your main goal is to build a broad base of fitness. It's harder than running for me (there are even some parts of Level 1 that feel like torture, mostly because of my lack of upper-arm strength) but you can modify it by using lighter weights and following the modified versions of the exercises.

On the other hand, I've completed it a couple of times, and by the time I get to the end of the month, I never want to look at it again. So it may not be the best choice if you're looking for something sustainable! I think some of Jillian Michaels' other videos are more sustainable (her Banish Fat Boost Metabolism is a good one for cardio -- it's nearly an hour, but you can cut it down by only doing certain circuits) and if you mix & match with her different videos, you can get enough variety to prevent boredom.

I also like the Blogilates pilates workouts (on Youtube), which again come in a variety of lengths and intensities.
posted by littlegreen at 11:21 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

The things I do like about C25K are:

no more than 30 minutes long
directed workout: it tells you what to do and you do it
intervals of higher intensity and lower intensity
gradually increases in difficulty

5BX/XBX also hits all those marks.
posted by flabdablet at 11:29 AM on September 27, 2016

If you have enough room to run inside, you likely have enough room for a foldable treadmill, which needs only about 3 ft by 6 ft area and when folded is about 3x3 ft.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 11:34 AM on September 27, 2016

If his income is primary and prioritized then maybe looking into reducing you work hours? Not every employment situation is flexible but it may be some to reduce to free up the time your husband is not fairly sharing with you.otherwise, throw money at the problem since he is now earning more. Can the kids all be enrolled in a 45 min/hour class at a rec centre that has a track or a neighbourhood you can run in - if they are too young for independent activities there is often child care available that for an hour or so, but seems like camp to the kids. (My local gym offered childcare as well as part of the monthly fee but it was a woman's-only gym.).
posted by saucysault at 11:35 AM on September 27, 2016

Best answer: Is the 30-Day Shred still a thing?
I really like 30 Day Shred. For more variety, Jillian Michaels also has a 90 day system, Body Revolution, that increases in difficulty more gradually and doesn't have you doing the same workout each day. I modified her recommended schedule to do 5 workouts a week for 4 months; it would be easy to modify it to do 3 workouts a week for 6 months.
posted by Kriesa at 11:42 AM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Hip Hop Abs. Seriously fun, there's no floor work. I know very little about hip hop and I am an uncoordinated mess but it's still the best. The workouts are upbeat without making you hate everyone and as intense as you want to make them (there's one lady going easy and another one who's hard core). A timer runs for each interval so you can track how much time you have left/how far you make it before you're a sweaty heap. Serious cardio and core strengthening! Chris Pratt used it to get into shape for Guardians of the Galaxy, in case that helps :)
posted by mrcrow at 1:42 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

Liesl: "I can't commit to a fixed weekly class because I can't rely on him being able to come home consistently."

If you could have time just highly irregular some gyms/activity centres offer punch cards that can be used for anything they offer. My sister just got one $100 for 100 sessions in the next three months. She's been going every day and has done yoga, kick boxing, (ballet) bar, crossfit, spin etc in the last couple weeks. Many places have childcare options.
posted by Mitheral at 1:55 PM on September 27, 2016

+1 Fitness Blender.

Mix & match workouts for different parts and purposes, play your own music, and very efficient. The search function on their website let's you pick which body part, what kind of workout, equipment and level. And free!
posted by stellathon at 2:20 PM on September 27, 2016

Just one further thing, since most other people have given way too much relationship advice about stuff that's really not part of the question... you've stated that weight loss is a primary goal. Cardio exercise is great and I hope you get a habit for it, but it's a minor part of weight loss, diet is so much more important, and controlling your kilojoule intake in a sustainable way is the route to weight loss.
posted by wilful at 7:32 PM on September 27, 2016 [1 favorite]

I always took my kids along when they were little and I was running. One in a jog stroller, one on a bike. Then later, both on bikes. 3 days a week. To me that setup was way easier (mentally) than running back and forth in an apartment.
posted by Doc_Sock at 12:50 PM on September 28, 2016 [1 favorite]

Is there the possibility of paying a personal trainer for a couple of sessions where they can personalize a few home workouts for you tailored to your needs? Once you get comfortable with those, you can switch out the specific exercises with others on your own so you don't get bored. HIIT, for example, can be performed with any sort of exercise (burpees/ mountain climbers/ weights).
posted by Everydayville at 6:14 PM on September 28, 2016

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