5 Indoor Workouts That Aren’t Boring

Kelly O'Mara
by Kelly O'Mara
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5 Indoor Workouts That Aren’t Boring

When it gets cold and icy outside, most of us hit the gym for an uninspired circuit of treadmill-weights-stair climber-bootcamp. But your indoor workouts don’t have to get stuck in a rut. From bouldering to boxing, there are all kinds of exercise options that don’t take you outside.

Try some of these unique indoor workout options and maybe you’ll stick with them even when the weather gets warmer.

Sure, it might be more picturesque to crest a boulder as the sun dawns, but indoor climbing gyms aren’t just a good place to work out in the winter, they’re also ideal for testing your climbing muscles. If you start with bouldering, know that it doesn’t involve ropes or a harness and there is typically a thick protective mat under you. Most gyms have routes of varying difficulty laid out — usually referred to as “problems. Climbing, on the other hand, involves a rope and harness and includes a staff person, friend or auto-belay device to catch you in case you fall.

Both versions stress different muscles than the ones you’d train in a regular workout, and both styles make you think about the mental challenge ahead of you. Usually, you can rent climbing shoes at the gym and someone can point out where to start and which colors designate which routes.

How to get started: Most major cities have large indoor climbing gyms. New York has some of the most popular, and when Earth Treks opens its 53,000 square foot facility outside Denver it’ll be the biggest in the country. To get started, search indoorclimbing.com‘s list of climbing gyms.

If you’ve ever seen “American Ninja Warrior” on TV, then you probably wanted to try one of the wacky obstacle courses for yourself. Fortunately, with the popularity of the show, a wave of gyms have popped up around the country to cater to wannabe ninjas. There’s even a National Ninja League, where gyms host qualifiers and finals, with a chance to meet one of the famous TV ninjas. Not everyone at a ninja gym actually wants to audition for the show; for many, it’s now just another (fun) way to work out a few times a week. Expect a ninja gym to have standard obstacles like the warped wall and salmon ladder, along with unique handmade obstacles that often look like a cross between CrossFit, gymnastics and parkour.

How to get started: You can either take classes or attend an open gym session. Most places also offer introductory or trial sessions to help you get a grip on the basics before you’re let loose. Use ninjawarriorgyms.com or Mud Run Guide’s ninja gym database to find one near you.

Jumping into a boxing ring might sound terrifying, but there’s a reason the sport has become a huge fitness trend: It’s a really hard workout. Just spend 10 minutes with a speed bag (after you learn how to use it); you’ll be dripping sweat and burning muscles you didn’t know you had. Plus, there’s something rewarding about punching something. If you want to seriously learn how to box, then you’ll want to head to a boxing gym to get you ring-ready. A real boxing workout will likely includes some warmups, shadow boxing, bag work and technique exercises, in addition to short and hard efforts. If you’re not looking for serious boxing preparation, there are plenty of boxing-based workouts, too, from muay thai to kickboxing.

How to get started: For serious boxing prep, start with Golden Gloves USA for a list of gyms near you. If you’re not ready for a full-on traditional boxing gym, start with a class at your regular gym. There are also hybrid fitness-focused boxing gyms for a mix of choices.

You can still get in the winter spirit while staying inside. Just hit the ice. (Sure, there are seasonal outdoor ice rinks too, but most year-round locations are indoors.) While there are public open skate sessions at nearly every rink, you can also sign up for adult classes and learn to figure skate. The Ice Skating Institute (ISI) and U.S. Figure Skating also host adult competitions. Rent a pair of skates at the rink and start skating. Your ankles and leg muscles might feel tired after your first session, but keep at it, and you’ll get stronger.

How to get started: Learn to Skate USA is a nationwide effort to get people on skates, with a database of skills classics and intro clinics offered near you. ISI also has a well-respected program to teach people how to skate.


Odds are you’ve had co-workers try to convince you to play adult softball or kickball after work. Team leagues are, generally, a fun way to mix drinking with working out. But don’t limit your team sports to the outdoors. While indoor soccer and basketball are certainly options, why not try the fine sport of dodgeball this winter? While you may think of it as that game from gym class or the one there was a movie about, dodgeball has actually been played for hundreds of years. There’s now a professional dodgeball league, in addition to a world governing body. There are even trampoline dodgeball tournaments, in case regular dodgeball sounds too boring. While the rules of competitive dodgeball might be stricter than when you were kids, you get the gist. Pick a co-ed, casual or competitive league and pick up a ball.

How to get started: Leagues tend to be formed regionally — ie., the World Dodgeball Society is primarily California-based, while International Dodgeball Association started in Vancouver. Club WAKA, which began as an adult kickball league, also runs dodgeball leagues around the country. The best place to start might be U.S. Dodgeball, which can help you find a game.

About the Author

Kelly O'Mara
Kelly O'Mara
Kelly is a professional triathlete and reporter outside San Francisco, where she is an on-call producer for the local NPR station. Her works appears regularly in espnW, Competitor, Triathlete and California Magazine. She also co-hosts the podcast, Locker Room Talk, for WiSP: The Global Women’s Sports Network. And she trains. A lot.


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