A lot of us struggle with how to fit running into a busy schedule, but it’s about working smarter, not harder – here are our top tips…
Most of us wish we had more time to dedicate to running. If you’re training for a marathon or even a 10K run, there’s no doubt you’ll want to clock up the miles and make sure you’re completely prepared for race day.
However, building a good training plan isn’t necessarily about working harder, and if your busy lifestyle means you’re struggling to cram in sessions during the week, you’ll be pleased to know that a new study has found that getting your workout fixing on the weekends instead of interspersing training throughout the week is equally as effective.
Researchers from Jiangnan University in China analyzed data from over 350,000 people in the US. They separated those who hit the recommended physical activity guidelines of 150 minutes of vigorous activity into two groups. The first group accessed their weekly targets in just one or two sessions, while the other active group reached them in three or more workouts.
The results showed that, regardless of whether the exercise sessions were spread throughout the week or concentrated in a weekend, the health benefits were the same.
So, if you don’t have the time or energy to dedicate to training during the working week but are willing to keep your training sessions to the weekends, you’ll still reap the same research in mind, we’re here to show you how to make the most of your time when you’re training, no matter when you choose to do it.
Top tips on how to fit running into a busy schedule
1. Prep your kit in advance
If there’s one thing that will keep you motivated to train it’s being organized. Spending two minutes laying out your kit the night before a workout will mean that you don’t lose valuable time in the morning.
If you’re doing strength training at home, lay out your home workout equipment like weights and resistance bands, lay our yoga mat and fill up your water bottle. Pick out your workout clothes and running shoes and leave these beside your bed. Visually seeing everything ready to go when you wake up helps to make you more accountable.
And if you’re planning a mid-morning workout – get your gear on as soon as you wake up rather than changing into your clothes just before your run. Making things as easy as possible will help you stay more focused.
2. Do an office workout
Hours spent hunched in front of a computer can be hazardous to health, reducing blood circulation and resulting in poor posture and back pain.
No surprises there but, thankfully, research shows that short spurts of activity can help to offset the negative effects. A study by experts at Columbia University found that just five minutes of walking every 30 minutes during prolonged periods of sitting can negate some of the most harmful effects of sedentary living. The researchers found that walking every half hour significantly lowered both blood pressure and blood sugar, lowered fatigue levels and lead to an improvement in mood. Result!
3. Plot your running route
It might sound obvious, but so many of us fail to properly prepare our routes. Plotting your journey before you head out will ensure that you make the most of your training time. Use running apps like Strava, OS Maps or a GPS watch to explore new routes and add variety to your routine.
4. Do compound workout moves
Complementing runs with strength conditioning is essential for runners, and if you want to get more done in a shorter timeframe, add time-saving compound moves into your strength sessions.
“A compound exercise is where you’re using more than one muscle group at a time, for example lunges with weights. Exercises that involve several muscle groups are more functional and allow us to work on many skills at once like balance, mobility, coordination and strength,” shares personal trainer Tara Lee Oakley.
The idea is that the more muscles you’re working, the more energy you’re expending.
5. Shorten your rest time between sets when working out
Tiring out your muscles in between sets is a great way to build up muscle when you are doing resistance workouts. Limiting rest periods in between sets to 30 seconds will allow you to do more in a shorter space of time, (but bear in mind you might not be able to lift as heavy as you would if you included a longer rest period in between sets) .
“If your goal is muscular endurance, the best rest period is 30 seconds or less, but if you’re looking to enhance strength and power you should rest for two to five minutes in between sets,” advises Tara.
6. Run in the morning
They say the early bird catches the worm, and when it comes to productivity, research shows that morning workouts are more productive than evening ones – plus, once you’ve clocked up the miles first thing, you’re done for the day.]
Scientists at Karolinska Institute and the University of Copenhagen found that late morning exercise was associated with a higher metabolic rate as it boosted gene expression involved in the breakdown of adipose tissue in mice and it’s thought the same effects can be exerted in humans.
“Running in the morning helps you to have better sleep in the evening, meaning you wake up refreshed and start the next day in a positive way. It creates a positive life rhythm. It also increases concentration and energy levels for the rest of the day,” says Tara.
7. Add drills to your run
The magic does’t just happen when you’re pounding the pavements or slogging it out on the treadmill. Whether you want to use them as a warm up or in the middle or end of your run, incorporating drills once or twice a week into your plan is an effective way to turn your overall performance up a notch by fine-tuning your technique and speed . And if you’re starting to hit a running plateau they could be just the ticket to get you back on track.
Clock watching can help you maximize your effort when you’re doing drills, so use a running watch, an app or even a bog-standard clock to monitor your speed. Good examples of drills for runners include high knees, plyometric butt kicks and side shuffles. Set the timer for 30 seconds and repeat each drill two or three times, keeping an eye on your form and speed.
8. Invest in a standing desk
We’ve already covered how bad sedentary living is for health, along with the importance of getting up for regular breaks if you’re desk bound, but another way to help improve recovery is by swapping a regular desk for a standing desk.
While it might not be a good idea to stand the whole working day, interspersing periods of standing with sitting can be a good way to get some extra stretches in while you beaver away at your keyboard.
Calf stretches, foot circles and tiptoe stretches are good examples of quick multi-tasking moves you can do while standing at your desk.
9. Try strides
Strides are a great way to concentrate on speed and coordination and the best thing is that they can be done anywhere, and you only need 30 seconds each time. Use your commute or even a trip to the supermarket to get some extra strides in. Pop on your workout gear and build up close to your maximum speed and then gradually slow to a stop. As you’re only running fast for a few seconds you shouldn’t break too much of a sweat.