What happens on days that you don’t feel like running or when you might have suffered a minor injury that doesn’t let you? Running fanatics hate missing out even a single day of hitting the track, but with a busted knee or ankle or when you’re just not in the mood, what are your options?

Having an alternative means of getting your cardio in, without your regular run involved, helps to mix things up a bit and also works on your muscles differently, which is always a good thing.

As a runner, there will be days when you just don’t feel like running. On those days it’s good to have a preferred backup by doing some specific cross-training for runners. You don’t have to rush to get a gym membership to increase the variation in your workouts. Having alternative means can also include activities such as swimming or other non-running exercises. It always helps to mix things up a bit as it ensures that your physical development is not lopsided. And as a bonus you reap the different benefits from these exercises, which automatically improve your running either through strengthening or inculcating muscle memory.


If you want to torch calories – and who doesn’t? – try spinning. A 45-50-minute session can help you lose up to 500 calories. It also comes with the guarantee of never being monotonous.

Spinning is similar to stationary cycling but with certain differences—a spin bike has an open flywheel that controls the intensity of the workout and handles that are lower to simulate racing. Both spinning and stationary cycling also differ in terms of the type of workouts they provide. A spinning exercise session is typically held in groups in a fitness studio. The instructor belts out directions amid beats of pulsating music to keep you energised and motivated.

We give you seven reasons to start spinning today:

You’ll sweat loads: With an average of 500 calories burned per session, spinning is one of the best ways to lose weight. It tones up the legs and abdomen and also improves cardiovascular health.

It's a great way to burn calories through sweating
It’s a great way to burn calories through sweating

It’s less risky: There’s less of a chance injuring yourself than jogging or walking. A low-impact workout, spinning is kind to the knees and feet. It is suitable for people with arthritis and useful for certain types of injury rehab.

It can be done all year round: Unlike running or actual cycling, spinning isn’t done outdoors, which means you can do it all year round. You don’t have to switch to an alternative exercise regimen because of the weather.

It’s a super stress-buster: All exercises help relieve stress but spinning has an edge because it is done in groups of anywhere between six to 20 participants, which makes it a more social activity. The instructor takes you on imaginary journeys over hills and valleys and there is great music to help you destress.

It builds mental strength: All workouts help build mental strength but spinning offers a relatively easy way of doing it. Like other exercises, hopping onto the spin bike regularly is the key to benefitting from the activity. There will be good days and bad but consistency is key. The fact that it is a group activity has the additional benefit of motivating participants by fostering mild competition.

Customise your spin workout with intervals and recovery breaks
Customise your spin workout with speed intervals and recovery breaks

It can be customised: Modifications by the instructor can transform spinning into a whole body workout. Spinning affects the legs, abdomen and cardiovascular system, but variations can strengthen the upper body as well. Studios have been known to incorporate variations inspired by basketball dribbling to involve the upper body.

There’s no pressure: Since participants themselves control the amount of resistance the spin bike offers, there’s no excessive pressure. There are no complicated movements to follow and no fear of falling behind as the entire class begins and finishes together.

Elliptical trainer

Hitting the gym anyway? Make sure you are getting time on the elliptical trainer. You may scoff at the idea, but it’s an excellent alternative for those who are recovering from foot injuries or are simply not in the mood to run. It mimics the motion of running without affecting your joints one bit. You also get enhanced coordination between your upper and lower body, which automatically translates to better pace when running.

Pool workouts

Let’s face it: Very few experiences compare to an hour swimming in a pool by yourself – it’s exercise and meditation rolled into one. But just a plain swim might get boring after a point. It’s wise to widen your repertoire with some pool exercises. If you are someone who loves hitting the pool at every opportunity, you may want to look at including these six underwater workouts that will burn your calories and make the most of your swimming time.


Bicycle pedalling

A powerhouse abs workout, this requires you to pedal a bike underwater – you don’t actually require a bike, just the movement of pedalling should offer great results thanks to the natural resistance in the water. This is extra work for your core, shoulders, and legs to keep you from floating away. You can add a bit of variety by facing the pool’s edge and pedalling backwards as well.


Double leg raises

Seems like child’s play but your legs will feel the burn after this one. Lean back on the edge, lower your legs straight down and then raise them up as high as you can. Use the edge as a rest for your elbows for maximum effect. Absolute beginners can sit on the edge of the pool with legs in the water and perform the same movement while seated.


Underwater jacks

Regular jumping jacks but under water. Seems easy? Think again as you have to fight the resistance of the water, and also maintain your balance. Your body will rend to fall forward or back, thanks to the natural buoyancy. Jump with your legs out as you normally would on ground, but don’t let your feet touch the bottom when coming back together – this is the real hard part. Pros can try the suspended jumping jack which involves not letting the feet touch the bottom!


Back kicks

Holding on to the edge of the pool or any surface that offers some resting place, kick your legs behind you in rapid movement. Do one leg after the other or you could try pushing both legs behind and up at the same time – if you manage the latter, you will make quite an impact on your glutes, hammies and more. Remember the goal is to not kick the water from above – Focus on kicking faster, not higher – but keep your legs under water. This discipline is what makes this an effective workout.


Lateral Raises

Hold a pair of light-weight dumbbells and lift them to the top of the water and bring them down in one fluid motion. This provides a good burn in your deltoids. Preserve your form and maintain the whole range of motion within the water to take full advantage of that extra resistance. To make this more intense, try to keep your legs off the pool floor while pulling your arms up.


Pendulum Kicks

Even kids can do this one, as it’s super simple. Swing one leg after the other in a tick-tock manner, while pushing against the water in both directions. If you need more intensity, tie some weights on your feet. This time the goal is to have a good lateral raise for your leg – and not doing the exercise as fast as possible. After a session of this, you will feel a great burn in your outer thigh muscles.

So there you have it. Easy, effective and fat-burning workouts for your pool days. Now you don’t have to dread an hour-long swim due to boredom. Just try any of these or mix them up for some variety. It’s a great way to get someone who hates working out in the gym some crucial weight training.

Ab Gymnastics

Developed by Olympic gymnast Dave Durante, this 10-minute routine dramatically increases core stability and core strength, which are essential in the long run, making you a stronger runner over longer distances. The complete set of 5 routines is designed to target and challenge your entire midline and lower back area i.e hip flexors, abdominals, oblique muscles, back, glutes and hamstrings. This is an amazing medley to keep you charged up on non-running days! Do note that you should be ideally used to basic physical activity before trying your hand at this.

Trampoline workouts

Trampoline workouts are great for plyometric focus
Trampoline workouts are great for plyometric focus

It’s great for weight loss, adds plyometric strength to your lower body and gives your deep core a solid workout! Trampolines are also a lot of fun! It works on your lower body without straining it. A few minutes of trampoline workout each week increase your strength thanks to the inherent plyometric action. Trampoline demands great discipline in form as doing it awkwardly results in injuries so it adds a greater sense of balance in your movements. The jumping has a positive impact on your heart and blood circulation, increasing oxygenation of muscles. This also stimulates your metabolism to make it stronger and more efficient.


This one combines dance, yoga, Tai Chi, and gymnastics, and sounds completely alien. But this is a super effective routine that doesn’t require any equipment – except a simple mat. Designed by celebrity trainer and professional dancer, Lisa Marie Goodwin-Rice, it is especially effective in increasing circulation, opening the chest muscles – i.e giving them a stretch which also improves your lung capacity in return. It also contributes to improving posture, relieving back tension, enhancing functional movement, toning your arms, abs, obliques and back, legs, and glutes in a short amount of time. You can effectively finish a gyrokinesis set in less than 20 minutes.

These are just six cross-training ideas that range from beginner-level to advanced and intense workouts. However, any exercise that’s not running can be considered a cross-training workout. This widely increases the scope and spectrum of routines available to you. Pick and choose as per your body and your comfort level, and mix and match among these to keep things lively and interesting.

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