Years and years and years ago, I used to do a lot of indoor running. In particular, I used to run around my giant living room while I watched TV or listened to audiobooks. I began this indoor running during the summer of 1999, and have continued fairly consistently over the last twenty years. Indoor/living room running tends to be more like jogging in place than outdoor running, but I prefer it to running in 90+ degree temps or to a treadmill. For me, an hour of jogging broken up with body weight exercises during the commercials of a show is a perfect workout.
Unfortunately, since our move to Boston five years ago, I haven’t been able to do as much of this indoor running. Every room in our Boston house was tiny, and the living room – the only room with any space at all – was above someone else’s apartment, so I was worried about making too much noise, plus I’d be in pain afterwards. I assumed this was because I had to run in a tiny 5×8 circle, constantly turning so that my knees/ankles/hips never went straight and aligned. In our next house, I broke my foot not long after we moved in and it didn’t heal before we moved again. Then in Wisconsin, I ran around our big living room often, but I experienced a lot of pain and joint stiffness that I attributed to my not-completely-healed foot. And since we moved to our current home two years ago, I’ve still been unable to take up too much indoor running. Our living room isn’t carpeted, so the only large-enough room to run in is my bedroom, and I tend to end up in pain afterwards just like in Wisconsin and Boston.
And I’ve finally, finally figured out why.
I’m sure this isn’t true of all upstairs spaces, but in all three houses I’ve run in, the upstairs floors have been bouncy, with wooden framing underneath. The give isn’t really noticeable if you’re just walking, but running makes a LOT of impact. Furniture in the room shakes when I run past it. There’s a lot of noise. Some parts of the floor are worse than others. I never really thought about that before, but can you imagine what it must do to your joints to have the floor bounce underneath you as you run?? No wonder my ankles, knees, and hips were always in so much pain, and sometimes my lower back, and all the tendons near the joints… Honestly, I’ve spent so long thinking that this was all just because of how heavy I am – even though that I know this wasn’t a problem many times in my life at this weight (or higher) – or that this is a “getting old” thing. But no.
Two weeks ago, I decided to try running in my living room despite it not having carpet. (Note: I don’t wear shoes when I run inside. Jogging in place, or my half-jogging-in-place, while in shoes causes me severe shin splints.) I absolutely HATE being barefoot on any surface except carpet, so the experience was godawful despite me doing a lot of extra sweeping beforehand. Over the course of an hour, I ran for three chunks: 14 minutes, 8 minutes, and 12 minutes, with walking breaks between. And afterwards? Well, I had a blister under one foot from the texture of our floor, but NO joint pain at all. No bounce, no pain.
I’m not going to keep running on bare floor. But clearly I’m not going to put my joints through the upstairs bounce, either. Frankly, despite most people in the world hating carpet, I love it and wish all rooms except bathroom/kitchen/dining were carpeted. So I’m not sure what to do now. Spring to carpet our living room, despite the expense, the brand-new floors, and the decrease in sales value when we might be trying to move? (I kinda wish I’d done this last year when we had to replace our living room floor. Twice.) Buy a bunch of heavy rugs and slot them over the floor so I have space to run, even though it’ll look hideous? I’m not sure. I just know that I WANT to run! I miss my indoor running, mixed with strength training. I miss being able to dance, another activity that is too hard on my joints upstairs, but which I won’t do on bare floor. I miss aerobics, and zumba, and pretty much all kinds of high impact cardio that I currently can’t do without injuring myself because we don’t have a safe, carpeted space to do them.
In the end, I suppose it’ll depend on whether we try to move right now or wait a few more years. We’re still making that decision. In the meantime, indoor running will simply have to wait. Sadness.