The proportion of Americans enrolling in road races has been flat or declining for some time. Running enthusiasts don’t like to admit it, but the average person finds it difficult to break into the running game — let alone maintain a consistent running routine over time.
Of course, running isn’t the only way to get a great workout. Whether you’re aiming for a higher-impact discipline that improves cardiovascular health and builds lean muscle or a low-to-moderate-impact experience that you can keep up indefinitely, unique and engaging workout opportunities abound.
Which is best for you? That depends on how you prefer to get your blood pumping, among other factors. Let’s take a look at nine workout options that work for just about anyone.
- Hit the Water on a Paddleboard
Paddleboarding is a fun way to engage your core — like, seriously engage your core. And though it looks intimidating, it’s easy enough to learn. Most beginners are steady and confident enough to board by themselves after an hour or two of instruction.
If you’re serious about making paddleboarding a part of your workout routine, you’ll want to buy your own board rather than rent. Boards aren’t cheap — a good-quality inflatable board will cost you $400 or $500 new. Stick with it and watch the investment manifest in a stronger upper body, better cardio health, and the durably sunny outlook on life that binds water rats together.
- Squeeze in Two 15-Minute Yoga Sessions a Day
You’re probably aware that health experts recommend 30 minutes of exercise per day, five days per week — or 150 minutes of weekly exercise divided up as you see fit.
Not everyone has the luxury of uninterrupted 30-minute blocks of time. If you’re overbooked already, break up your exercise time into smaller chunks. Since it’s easy to do in street (or bedroom) clothes and builds in its own warm-ups, yoga’s a great option for the time-pressed. Just roll out your mat in the living room, fire up a 10- or 15-minute video, and take on the day.
- Take a Brisk Walk on Your Lunch Break
If you’re fortunate enough to get a real lunch break, or you have some flexibility to manage your own workday schedule, make the most of the gap between your morning and afternoon work sessions.
A brisk 20- to 30-minute walk after lunch will make your day better, and it’ll help burn off some of the energy you just consumed, too. Repeated often enough, your daily lunch walk will help set a cardio baseline for you as well. For best results, head to a park or leafy neighborhood near where you work.
- Break Out the Old-School Workout Videos
Jane Fonda was on to something.
Just trust us on this. According to the tastemakers at Vogue, Fonda’s 1982 workout video remains the best example of the genre, 40 years on.
Ignore the ridiculous outfits, the cringe-inducing enthusiasm, the forgettable music — and lose yourself in the simple aerobic pleasures of high-impact, er, dance. It’s not like anyone can see you.
- Use Free Weights While You’re Hanging Out
Here’s another anytime, anywhere workout idea that doesn’t require a gym membership. You’ll want to read up on safe free weight technique and start light — three-pounders are great for beginners. But once you get into the groove, there’s a virtually unlimited combination of routines and exercises you can accomplish with just weights and a bit of clear space in your living room.
- Schedule Walking Meetings at Work
Whether you talk about them at work or not, your colleagues almost certainly hate their workout routines, too — if they work out at all.
What better way to get out of an exercise rut and get work done than to schedule walking meetings, weather permitting? This strategy works best for small teams — you don’t want to be “that group” walking 15 deep on the park path. But it’s highly effective when it comes together.
- Take a Hike (Without Leaving Civilization)
Depending on where you live and your workday schedule, this will most likely remain a weekend workout strategy for you. But it can certainly be an every weekend thing, especially if you’re willing to do the work to find new trails within easy reach of your home base. Bonus points for highly Instagrammable views.
- Schedule Social Workouts
The walking meeting is an example of a broader category of workout — call it the social workout — where exercise is more of a means to an end than the sole objective.
Other types of social workouts don’t involve work (or work colleagues) at all. (Well, they don’t have to, at least.) Think social cycling and hiking clubs, tennis round-robins, pick-up soccer and basketball “leagues,” even golf dates (no carts allowed, of course). Getting your pulse up is much more fun when you’re distracted by good conversation.
- Build Strength With Barre or Pilates
Yet another class of social workout is the, well, workout class. If you’re seeking a higher-impact addition to your routine, look into barre or pilates, both of which are incredibly efficient at building muscle strength and boosting cardio capacity, too. Chances are, you’ll make some new friends (or, at least, workout buddies) along the way.
Shake Off Your Old Workout Routine
Every routine wears out its welcome sooner or later.
Workout routines are no different. Not only is running the same three-mile circuit or sweating out the same 30-minute Peloton workout every day not great for your body, it’s certainly not the best way to remain enthusiastic about getting and staying in shape. Your exercise program needs some variety, some spice.
Good thing there are so many ways to get a workout. Combine four or five of the ideas on this list to create a weekly workout routine that keeps you engaged month after month after month — and gets you out of the confines of your home at least some of the time. Soon enough, you’ll be amazed you put up with that boring old morning jog for so long.