Still stuck at the office? Don't panic. Get faster and stronger by squeezing a conditioning workout into your daily grind.
It’s 6pm and you’re still chained to your desk, wondering how you’re going to make time for a run. Welcome to the club. According to research from Weight Watchers, long working hours are one of the most common reasons for not exercising. But, while you can’t stop the clock from ticking – or the boss from demanding – there are spare minutes hiding in your day. We’ll show you how to find them and make every second count for your running.
‘When you can’t run, you can focus on flexibility and strength,’ explains Joshua Schouten, endurance athlete and personal trainer at My Momentum (my-momentum.co.uk). ‘Through combining conditioning work with running, you become a faster and healthier athlete.’
The following simple moves are easy to do at work and won’t make you sweat or look like an idiot. Better still, they don’t even require you to use your lunch hour – you can slot them in throughout the day in your brief windows of downtime.
The move: Isometric holds
The payoff: ‘This isometric version of the double-leg squat is great for reaping explosive strength gains,’ says fitness coach, Mark Rahaman (markrfitness.com). By putting the muscles in your lower body under maximum tension for several seconds, you’re recruiting almost all of the motor units needed to boost speed – and giving your biceps a workout, too.
The move: The vacuum
The payoff: ‘This exercise activates your inner core, which is made up of the transverse abdominis, diaphragm, multifidus and pelvic floor muscles,’ says Rahaman. ‘The inner core is required to stabilise the body when reacting to undulating terrain, turns and missteps.’
The move: Chair squats
The payoff: Squats build the strong buttock muscles that trainer Papillon Luck (libertefitness.com) says will ‘put bounce in your stride’ and boost forward propulsion.
The move: Leg raises
The payoff: These develop the four quad muscles, which will help your knee track correctly. ‘They also build the glutes and hamstrings – crucial for runners,’ adds Luck.
The move: Crossover stretch
The payoff: ‘The glutes do a lot of work when you run and can easily tighten up,’ says running specialist physio Scott Mitchell (moveclinics.com) . ‘This can lead to lower back stiffness that can then cause pain to radiate into the legs.’ Sitting, particularly slumped sitting, for long periods of time can also lead to tightness in muscles such as the hamstrings. This stretch helps reduce tightness, allowing the muscles to function better when running.
The move: Peterson step-up
The payoff: ‘Runner’s knee is often caused by an imbalance between the lateral and medial quadriceps muscles,’ says Schouten. ‘This exercise wards off knee problems by strengthening the teardrop muscle on the medial side of the knee joint.’
The move: Leg lifts
The payoff: ‘This move is a simple way to carve your core,’ says Luck. ‘It’s designed to build lower abdominal strength, which will improve your running efficiency by helping to stabilise the pelvis. Without adequate abdominal strength, your body recruits other muscles to do the work when you run, which can lead to poor posture and lower back problems.’
The move: Ankle flexors
The payoff: ‘This exercise not only works the muscles of the lower leg, but also mobilises the ankle joint, which makes it a good move for runners recovering from lower leg or ankle injuries,’ says Asics Pro Team podiatrist Clifton Bradley.
The move: Foot fists
The payoff: ‘This strengthens the foot muscles,’ says Pilates instructor Dawne Likhodedova (be-pilates.co.uk). Especially useful if you wear minimalist running shoes.
The move: Calf raises
The payoff: This should be a staple of every runner’s routine because rapid heel action is an important component of running. ‘This move recruits the gastrocnemius, which is crucial for ankle stability,’ says Schouten.
The move: Thigh squeezes
The payoff: By contracting your inner thigh muscles isometrically – that is, tensing the muscles without lengthening or shortening them – this exercise builds strength in the adductor muscle group. ‘Strengthening your adductors will help you avoid knee pain and adductor tendinitis,’ says Luck. Strong adductors also decrease side-to-side movement when running, making you more efficient – and yes, faster.
The move: Nerve glides
The payoff: ‘Tight calves and hamstrings are every runner’s nemesis,’ says Mitchell. ‘By increasing nerve efficiency, this exercise reduces the tightness that can cut a run short.’ The result is a lower injury risk and greater range of movement when running.
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