No Gym? No Problem. Strength Training and Stretching on the Cheap

I know this is going to sound sick, but if I’m not running, I basically don’t feel as though I’ve worked out – yes, even if I’ve crunched my core and lifted my legs. No workout? Usually, that’s not an option. And yet I can’t help but feel like there’s a part of me that’s missing if I haven’t run outdoors. After all, I am always, always running.

(Here is where I ran in Puerto Rico.)

(Here is where I ran in Jamaica.)

(Here is where I ran in Prague.)

(Here is where I run upstate while fishing.)

(Here is where I run at home.)

That pretty much sums up my sentiments on Thursday morning.

Right now, I’m trying to be “smart” for the sake of my body. I mean, it’s not like I’m immune to twinges and tightness that lead to long-term injury. For a runner who’s not yet hit her prime (I hear that’s around 27 – and I’m pumped for it), I’ve already incurred the wrath of several pesky points of pain after consistently pounding pavement since my sophomore year of college: piriformis syndrome, Achilles tendinitis and toe tendinitis (still not sure if that exists), to name a few.

Something I’ve both fortunately and unfortunately had to learn through dealing with each of these minor yet run-thwarting conditions is the importance of stretching and strength training. My experience with piriformis syndrome, for example, was caused by a lack of strength in my gluteal muscles (along with a tendency to run every day without breaking up my workouts with cross training). By the time I saw a physical therapist, I was told that, if I wanted to be able to run the Queens Half Marathon, I’d have to take a full month off – a daunting diagnosis for someone who, at that point, had never participated in a race of that magnitude and who only had two months left to train.

Since adding distance to my running repertoire just one year ago, I’ve made a conscious effort to also add other forms of exercise to my routine – which can be especially challenging for someone who stubbornly refuses to buy a gym membership (Mother Nature doesn’t charge me a monthly fee) and, lately, doesn’t have the attention span to make it through a 60-minute yoga class. That said, here are a few of the unofficial and unprofessional tricks I use to get by.

Core Fusion Videos. In particular, I’ve found Pilates Plus and Abs and Arms to be incredibly helpful. For a while, I was playing around with a variety of videos, from Tracy Anderson to On Demand workouts. What I discovered, however, was that many of these glute-centric videos also activated my sciatic nerve, leaving me in the type of pain that made running a chore. Pilates Plus, on the other hand, perfectly combines core sculpting with just enough glute work – but not so much that I’m left in worse shape than after a long run.

Impromptu yoga poses. This is going to differ from person to person, but I seriously encourage everyone to find a handful of yoga poses that work for them and to do them often. With piriformis problems, I tend to focus on poses that target the hip, sciatic nerve and IT band (a tight IT band was most likely a contributing factor to my injury). After reading up on which stretches and yoga poses were best, and going to several yoga studios to speak with instructors, I’ve fallen deeply in love with pigeon pose, seated spinal twist, and this.

Yogadownload.com. Don’t get me wrong; I love a good overpriced yoga class in The Big Apple. My wallet, on the other hand, does not. At first, when I realized I was spending more dough on individual yoga classes than I would on a monthly gym membership, I simply quit cold turkey. But avoiding yoga turned out to be a poor choice too, and my muscles tightened up immediately. That’s when I did a little research and stumbled upon yogadownload.com – a comprehensive portal for all different kinds of yoga flows, from vinyasa to Jivamukti (a personal favorite) to yoga for runners and cyclists. Best of all, you can choose from 5 to 10 to 20 to 30 to 45 to 60-minute sequences, depending on how much time you have to spare and, of course, your attention span.

Use what you know. This is perhaps the most obvious and underutilized piece of advice I can give. How many articles have you read within the pages of Runner’s World and Fitness Magazine; blogs have you skimmed on the internet; and secrets have you picked up from eavesdropping on girls walking home from the gym? For many of us, working out can be incredibly intuitive; you just have to implement what you already know.

Me? As a health editor, I’m privileged enough to speak to certified personal trainers, movement educators, massage therapists and other experts from all over the country on a daily basis. And let me tell you something; just because a personal trainer doesn’t have celebrity clients and multimillion dollar DVD contracts, that doesn’t make them any less qualified. I’ve learned some of the simplest, most convenient and most effective do-it-anywhere exercises just by listening to what my peers have to say. I guarantee that if you just perk up your ears and ask around, you’ll find what you’re looking for too – and on the cheap.

Do you have a gym membership? Where are your favorite places to run, and what do you do on non-running days? Do you allow your body to rest completely, or do you focus on complementary forms of exercise?

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3 thoughts on “No Gym? No Problem. Strength Training and Stretching on the Cheap

  1. I switch gyms! It can get a little crazy, but it is cheap (otherwise known as free courtesy of my health insurance reimbursement) and keeps me on my toes. I am happy that in the next 8 months, 4 will be at the same gym. I’m kind of ready for a routine; as much as one can have one with an NYC lifestyle. In an ideal world, I do step and/or spin on most non-running days and just yoga on my only non-running day per week; often in reality though I do nothing. Sad, but room for improvement! Love your final comment – back to basics & simple is sometimes what you need/all it takes!

    • That’s actually kind of cool. I feel like if I switched gyms I might get less bored of the idea of belonging to one. One day. I really do have to try spin at some point too!

  2. I work out in my basement. It was fairly low cost to collect some weights over time, and I use several different video’s for both cardio and strength workouts. I find not only is it so much cheaper than a gym, but there’s never a line up, and there is NEVER an excuse I can come up with to slack off when all I have to do is walk down the stairs.

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