Whilst for many, running in place is just a warm-up before heading out the door for a run, it can in fact be a valid workout in its own right.
But is running in place the same as running normally? And is running in place effective?
Also known as running on the spot, running in situ, or jogging in place, we’ve covered everything you need to know, including:
- What Is Running In Place?
- Is Running In Place Effective?
- How To Make Running In Place An Effective Workout
- Running In Place As An Aerobic Workout
- Running in Place As An Anaerobic Workout
- Keeping Running On The Spot Engaging
- Running In Place Vs Running
Let’s get started!
What is running in place?
Running in place is the practice of running on the spot, and can make for a great workout in a situation where you don’t have the ability to go for a normal run. Perhaps you’re stuck in a hotel, can’t leave the house, or simply want to get a workout whilst staying in the warm indoors.
In addition to just running normally on the spot, running-in-place workouts can also revolve around drills such as high knees, butt kicks, and jump squats, as well as incorporating elements of strength training.
Is running in place effective?
There are many health benefits of running in place, and it offers most of the advantages of normal running. You can practice it as an aerobic or anaerobic style workout, both of which are important for runners.
Here are some proven benefits of running in place:
- Improves muscle strength, as well as stability and flexibility
- Helps to strengthen the upper body, core, and hips
- Helps improve joint and bone health, potentially reducing the chance of knee pain
- Provides great benefits for balance, agility and coordination
- Great for burning calories and weight loss
- Lowers blood sugar levels, which can be beneficial for people with type 2 diabetes by helping to lower insulin resistance
- Similarly to normal running, running in place workouts have amazing benefits for lung and heart health
One study also demonstrated that running in place helps to improve posture.
One of the great benefits of running in place is that you can opt for either a quicker, more intense anaerobic style workout, or a less intense aerobic workout.
An anaerobic workout will provide greater weight loss and muscle growth benefits per minute spent working out, but a slower aerobic workout is much more accessible for beginners and is easier on the joints if you’re unaccustomed to exercising.
Running on the spot also has the added benefit that you don’t even necessarily need running shoes to do it (although it is better to run on a soft surface or have some sort of support if possible).
How to make running in place an effective workout
To make running in place an effective workout, it’s important to keep the correct posture, as well as properly warm up and cool down in order to minimize the risk of injury. Furthermore, it’s useful to know how to tailor a running on the spot workout so that it effectively aligns with your goals and motivations for working out.
Like normal running, it’s very important to warm up gradually before you begin your proper workout. This warms up your muscles and reduces the chance of injury. You could start by lightly jogging or walking on the spot and gradually speeding up over the course of a few minutes.
Furthermore, you should make sure to cool down afterward, which allows your body (i.e. your heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure) to gradually return to a resting state. A proper cool-down helps to remove lactic acid from the muscles more quickly and speeds up your body’s recovery process.
For an effective cooldown, try the above warm-up but in reverse!
Posture Tips For An Effective Running In Place Workout:
- Keep your legs roughly shoulder-width apart.
- Raise your knee as high as your hips. This means your thighs get a good workout and you’ll also find your abdominal muscles working as well.
- Raise your head, look straight ahead, and try to keep your chest slightly elevated (if you’re struggling with this, imagine a vertical string attached to your chest lightly pulling it upwards as you run).
- Land on the front of your feet (unlike normal running, your heel shouldn’t touch the ground when running on the spot).
- Keep your elbows at around 90 degrees and swing your arms back and forth naturally in sync with your legs as you move.
- Try to keep your breathing regular and rhythmic.
General Tips For An Effective Running In Place Workout:
- You can tailor the workout to whatever works for you, running at whatever intensity feels comfortable, or making it as challenging as you like. Although, at the end of the day it shouldn’t be too easy as you want to make sure you’re getting a good workout. Some trial and error is ok here – with a bit of practice you’ll find the right spot.
- If you’re going to be running on the spot as a regular workout, try increasing the intensity or duration over time to keep the workout effective and challenging.
- At the end of the day, to make jogging on the spot an effective workout you should listen to your body when choosing the intensity and routine for you. If something doesn’t feel right, then it probably isn’t.
Bonus Tips For An Effective Running In Place Workout:
- Make sure to stay hydrated during and after your workout. This is particularly relevant if you’re working out for strength gains, as adequate hydration is essential for muscle growth.
- Furthermore, make sure you’re properly fueled and your nutritional intake is balanced to ensure you’re getting the most out of your workout.
- Investing in a heart rate monitor or running watch can help you keep track of your biological stats and help time your workout, especially if you’re doing some interval training. However, such devices are by no means a necessity!
Here are a few different routines you can try to make running in place an effective workout:
Running In Place As An Aerobic Workout
For an aerobic, less intense, steady-state cardio style workout, try the following:
- Run at a slow to medium pace for ten to twenty minutes, with a few minutes of warmup and cool down on either side. Feel free to run for a longer period of time, or increase your running period over time if you are repeating the workout regularly and your fitness is increasing.
- Whilst running, your heart rate should be 65-90% of it’s maxiumum rate.
You’ll definitely want to opt for an aerobic workout if you’re a beginner, as your body is less accustomed to exercise and you’ll want to condition it gradually, rather than risking injury by going straight in with a high-intensity workout.
Running in Place As An Anaerobic Workout
For a more intense anaerobic, interval-style workout, try the following:
- Run on the spot quickly and intensely for one minute, followed by a minute of rest (or longer if you need). Then repeat this cycle for 10 minutes. This is known as interval training. You can time the intervals exactly with a clock or stopwatch, or feel free customise the interval periods based on what feels right.
- Whilst running, your heart rate should be 80-95% of it’s maximum rate.
Although it requires a higher level of fitness, a higher intensity more anaerobic workout is more effective at burning calories, improving cardiovascular fitness, and building strength per minute spent working out.
Keeping Running On The Spot Interesting
There are a number of different variations of running in the spot you can try to keep the workout interesting or increase the difficulty.
- Try raising your knees as high as possible when you run (the higher you raise them, the more challenging the workout). Raising the knees higher gives your abdominal muscles and hip flexors a greater workout.
- Alternatively, you can also implement butt kicks in the workout as you run, which gives your hamstrings and glutes a better workout, in addition to stretching out your quadricep muscles.
- You could also try integrating some bodyweight strength training to get even more benefits from your workout for muscle strength and stability.
- For a bonus upper body workout, try grabbing a pair of dumbells to swing as you run.
Running in place vs running
You might wonder, to what extent is running in place the same as running normally?
Whilst jogging in place has many of the health benefits of normal running, the cardiovascular benefits of normal running are greater and it puts less stress on your body.
One key difference is that as you’re not using your body to propel yourself forwards, running on the spot affects your body in some distinctly different ways.
You’ll find that you’re raising your legs much more than normal running. As this utilizes different muscles you may find that different muscles become fatigued compared to those which you’re used to if you’re a regular runner.
When running on the spot, you’ll tend to land on your toes and the balls of your feet more, which can help to build ankle and lower leg strength, but also puts more pressure on the knees and hips. You might also notice that you’re using your glutes less, due to the fact that you’re not using them to propel you forwards.
One less known advantage is that when running at home you can opt to run on a softer surface, which reduces the impact on your joints. When running normally, however, you may be limited to hard surfaces to run on, which place greater stress on your body.
Whether you’re looking to run in place because you can’t go outside, or you’re just looking to avoid the winter cold, here’s a summary of the key points to remember:
- Make sure your posture is correct to prevent injury
- Make sure you’re warming up and cooling down to prevent injury
- Find the right intensity for you (but don’t make it too easy!)
- Start slow if you’re a beginner
- Add some high intensity interval training for a more time-efficient workout
- Add some knee raises, butt kicks, or weights to further increase the difficultly and get some bonus strength gains
- Stay hydrated
To learn more about the different types of training mentioned in this article, check out the following guides:
Aerobic vs Anaerobic Training: Why You Need Both in Your Running Plan
5 Low Impact Cardio Workouts To Try
Should You Do Cardio and Weights On The Same Day?