Anyone who runs regularly and in balance with family and work commitments will know that sometimes it’s a challenge to fit your running around the rest of your life. This is where an approach that is flexible and focuses on quality as much as quantity can help you save some time and fit in some much needed up-tempo running into your schedule.
Also doing some training that is focused on improving strength and running technique can be less about smashing yourself and more about getting a short pocket of time to yourself to relax and enjoy the running that you might achieve in such sessions. Yes running for fun as much as trying to improve fitness – sometimes there might be some gain without pain.
Lunchtime is your time – use it
Getting some decent training in during the working week can be a challenge, but with some negotiation, planning and a clever approach you can fit running into your day. Lunch time runs are the perfect opportunity to sneak in some quality running and break up the working day.
If you can wrangle 90 minutes you can do much, but even with an hour, there’s plenty that can be achieved in the time you might normally spend surfing the web or attending another working lunch. Plus, you’ll be mentally refreshed and reinvigorated to achieve something with your afternoon; usually a time for semi-comatose dithering.
Any company that begrudges lunchtime runners or gym goers a few extra minutes to complete their exercise just doesn’t get how much more fit and active minds can achieve when they are allowed to be tuned up by regular physical exertion.
Run parks and trails
In most major cities, access to a park or running trail is possible with a ten minute jog from the office, this is your warm-up. Don’t waste time on elaborate stretching regimes before you start running, it’s been shown not to prevent injury or help performance.
You’re much better served to learn the art of slowly letting your body warm to the task at hand. This means commencing your run at just above walking pace and letting the body find an easy natural rhythm as you jog down to where the day’s running will be done.
If you do need a stretch, do so when you get back to your desk or in between other tasks. Strange looks aside, it’s better to stretch after running and it gives you an opportunity to get up and away from the computer screen for a few minutes. If you do more physical work then a good stretch during the day will also help keep you moving freely.
You can execute a very effective training session by combining your 10 minute warm-up, corresponding 10 minute warm-down with between 10-20 minutes of higher intensity running. You don’t need to be an Olympian to do this, just adjust the effort levels and composition of the running to suit your ability and fitness levels. Here are a few ideas to get you started.
Choose a friendly looking hill, not too steep. At 70-80% intensity run powerfully up the hill for between 20 and 60 seconds, making sure to engage your buttocks and hamstrings of the support leg while driving the opposite knee forwards – the action should feel strong and springy. Walk or jog back down and repeat 5 to 10 times. Ensure you are fully recovered before commencing the next effort.
This session is about strength and technique rather than hard slog so don’t try and blow yourself up. Stop before you feel your running form begin to fall apart – control is the name of the game.
If you’re at the beginning of your running program or working on strength and technique keep the repetitions short. In the early days it’ll be difficult to run with strength for more than about 20 seconds.
If you’re struggling to find a decent hill and you’re based in a big city multi story car-parks can provide a left-field option.
Tempo pace fartleks
One of my favorite running sessions that you can do anywhere. You run this by feel and forget about distance covered. The idea is to maintain a steady intensity that you could continue for a 10km run, so it’s a solid pace rather than being flat out. Your breathing and running technique should be under control.
You could do two 5 minute efforts with 2 minutes jogging between or try this challenging pyramid of 1,2,3,4,3,2,1 minute efforts separated by 1 minute jogs. You can reduce or increase the challenge by changing the width and height of the pyramid.
If you’re a beginner or returning to fitness then 1 – 2 minute tempo pace efforts separated by 1 min jogs or walks are a great way to get back to fitness and practice running a solid pace with good technique. Long plods can get a bit too slow such that it’s almost impossible to run with good technique, so running some short tempos is a good way to build strength, fitness and practice better form.
Taking these tempos to an open space like a park is a great way to forget about distance covered and just concentrate on your running. Yes you’re keeping an eye on the time, but only with a view to measuring the volume of effort rather than how far you’ve run.
This is the perfect kind of controlled training to practice maintaining proper running form.
You don’t need a lot of time to have a decent run during the working week. Getting these higher quality training sessions will also make you stronger, faster and more efficient when it comes to completing longer runs or races on the weekend. Setting aside the potential performance benefits, scheduling some shorter and sharper sessions are a great way to break monotony and keep you enjoying your running.
Written by Brian Martin