Workouts That Give Me Everything Running Promised (but Didn't)

POPSUGAR Photography
POPSUGAR Photography

There's so much to love about running — in theory, at least. It's a workout that I've always romanticized in my mind: it's just you and the road — no judgment or competition — and let's not forget that runner's high that can solve anything.

Sadly, my running reality is the exact opposite. In all the miles I logged chasing a runner's high, it never arrived. NOT. ONCE. Three half-marathons under my belt and not once was I left feeling like a gazelle or empowered. Instead I felt defeated and questioned what was wrong with me, why was running always so hard. All of my friends loved running, so why didn't I? It took many miles, injuries, and trips to a sports doctor to let go of the idea that running was the benchmark of fitness success.

It took a few years for me to get here — and maybe a breakdown during one pitiful training run — but I'm finally OK telling myself that I am not a runner, and that's OK. Fitness is a personal journey — personal being key. There is no right or wrong way; there's only your way. Once I fully embraced this idea and hung up my running shoes for good, my life changed for the better. Along the way, I was also happy to find that all the things I craved from running were there waiting to be discovered, just not on the track.

The Runner's High: Dance Cardio

If you ever told me that dance would be my thing, I probably would have laughed. I've never been great with choreography, and I let fear hold me back from attending a dance class. On a brave day, I allowed my friends to drag me to Hipline for my first-ever dance-cardio class. I was nervous, inside my head, and made a beeline to the back of the room — but I am so glad I went. That first class and every class since has been one big ball of happiness. Instead of judgement and fear, I found pure, unabashed joy — and one hell of a workout. Here I am, finally experiencing the "runner's high" described to me by so many friends, except at a dance class! I find myself lost in the movement and the music and have a permanent smile on my face the entire time. While Hipline is my absolute favorite, I've found the same feeling of euphoria at other studios like Zumba, AKT, and 305 Fitness.

Intense Cardio: Indoor Cycling

Even if my heel was sometimes left throbbing, I always appreciated the type of workout I got from an intense running session. There is no denying that hill sprints, speed play, and running intervals get the heart rate up in a major way. You know what else does? Indoor cycling. Whether I'm at Spin, SoulCycle, or Flywheel, I know I'm in for an intense workout that will having me climbing hills and maxing out — just like I did when I ran, except this time I'm enjoying the entire process from start to finish.

Buns of Steel: Rowing

Like so many others, I walked by the rowing machine in my gym without giving it a second thought. Then I took a class at CityRow and realized what a fool I'd been. Rowing is the definition of a total-body workout; it works all the muscles of your lower body (plus your core and your arms!) while keeping the heart rate up. Unlike running, it's much easier on the joints, which is exactly what my beat-up body needed.

Becoming Zen With Nature: Backpacking

One of the things I liked most about running was getting outside. Studio workouts definitely have their place, but being outside on a sunny day can't be beat, especially when a run ended up somewhere beautful like a coastal trail. I've always been big into hiking, but in the last couple of years, I've been doing a lot of backpacking. Being out in the middle of nowhere for days on end may sound terrifying, but it's led to some of the most beautiful backdrops I've ever experienced. From a black sand beach in Hawaii only accessible to backpackers to the ever-changing scenery of the John Muir Trail, backcountry hiking has given me a glimpse of nature I would have never been able to experience otherwise.

Stress Relief: Yoga

Sadly, running only added more stress to my life, which is why I am so grateful for yoga. I was slow to come around to it, but now I can't imagine a week without taking a couple of classes. I had to find the style that worked for me, the right teachers, and a studio I loved, but once that happened, it all came into place. My regular 90-minute classes allow me to truly unwind and let go of any stress I may be feeling. It used to be hard to turn off my mind, and now I look forward to that meditative state it provides me with.

POPSUGAR Photography