Sitting comfortably? Staying sedentary for too long can jeopardise your running form and increase injury risk. Follow our tips and try these simple exercises to stay strong and supple
In the UK, we spend an average of 9.5 hours per day sitting down. Time spent driving, commuting, sitting at a computer at work and in front of the TV all contribute towards what is becoming an epidemic sedentary lifestyle. And just because you’re a runner doesn’t make you immune.
Even if you run for an hour every day, if you spend the rest of it sitting down for lengthy periods, then you’re still too sedentary. Sitting really is the new smoking as far as our health is concerned, and having the occasional (or even regular) run doesn’t negate the bad effects, which can lead to diabetes, heart disease and cancer – all conditions linked to inactivity.
Of course you can’t change your job, but you can change your working day and include more movement and activity. Enter the ‘Movement Break’. What you do during your working day can have a huge impact on not only your health, but your running form and injury risk – far more, in fact, than your choice of running shoe or technique. Sneaking in a couple of conditioning exercises and stretches in the form of a ‘Movement Break’ will help to break up those lengthy periods of inactivity and interrupt your sedentary time.
Even very short breaks of just one or two minutes can be enough to make a difference. Anything will do: standing up, standing on one leg for a minute, stretching, walking up a flight of stairs to fetch a cup of tea or purposefully going through a range of conditioning exercises. So, jump up out of that chair and try these exercises whether you’re at home, at work or on the train. Just keep moving – every little counts.
Why: Most runners and desk workers are stiff through the mid-back. This can affect your arm swing and running form.
How: Fix your pelvis still and clasp your hands together in front of you, heels of your hands together and arms straight. Rotate your ribcage until you feel the point of ‘bind’ in your mid-back/thoracic area – in that you can’t go further, then rotate to the other side.
Do it: Maintain a nice relaxed fluid movement, keeping your shoulders down. Aim for 20-30 reps twice per day.
1) When working at your computer, factor in an ‘Activity Break’ every 30 minutes. Set a timer on your computer, get up and move around and try some of the exercises below/overleaf.
2) Instead of sitting slumped in front of the TV, get on the floor for some quality time with your foam roller and massage ball.
3) Encourage your colleagues to join you in a ‘walking meeting’ instead of sitting in a room. Record voice notes on your smartphone.
Why: This is a progression of the ‘stand on one leg’ exercise. By lifting the opposite leg, you engage both sides of the hip and make everything work harder. This exercise is great for hip stability and glute med engagement.
How: Do the ‘Stand on one leg’ exercise, but then with the opposite leg, just lift it to the side slowly so you feel the hip muscles start working.
Do it: Repeat this 10 times and repeat twice on each side. If you feel any pain in your knee or ITB, then bend the leg you’re standing on just slightly and reduce the number of reps.
Why: This is a good mobiliser and will work the quads and glutes – both of these are important for runners. These will get you moving and up out of your chair.
How: Stand with your feet hip distance apart. Squat backwards – keeping your knees parallel over your toes – until your bum just touches your chair, then stand straight back up again.
Do it: Repeat this exercise 10 times, building up to 20 reps. Try to do a couple of sets each day. Watch your form and focus on engaging your bum muscles, rather than your back.
Why: A simple stretch, but this one is done more ‘actively’ rather than a passive static hold. Many runners are tight through the calves. This is best done after using the ball under your foot.
How: Stand facing your desk holding on for balance. Bend your front knee and keep your back foot on the floor. Push your heel into the floor and press your hips forwards until you feel a stretch in your calf.
Do it: This is a more ‘active’ stretch rather than a static stretch. Hold it for a count of 5-8 seconds, release it slightly and repeat the stretch again four times. By the fourth hold, you should feel the muscle relax.
Hip flexor stretch
How: Stand facing your desk in a split stance. Come up on your back toe and keep both legs straight. Simply tuck your pelvis under and press your pubic bone forwards until you feel a stretch through your hip.
Do it: This is a more ‘active’ stretch rather than a static stretch. Hold it for 5-8 seconds, release it slightly and repeat the stretch again four times. By the fourth hold, you should feel the muscle relax.