If you are a runner with a desk job, sitting for eight hours a day could be negatively impacting your running performance. It doesn't seem fair. You're active. You work out. But you gotta work too, right? Running doesn't exactly pay the bills. You have to sit to make a living.
Prolonged sitting can cause tight hip flexors, promote weak or sleepy gluteus muscles, and reinforce bad postural alignment which all can negatively impact your running performance and could lead to injuries. So what's a runner to do?
If you have to sit all day for your work, there are some steps (pun intended) you can take to combat the ill effects of sitting.
This post contains affiliate links. That means if you click on a link and make a purchase, I make a small percentage of the sale at no additional cost to you. Prosource is offering all my readers a 15% off discount code using code ALEA15. Click here to shop ProSource fitness equipment. Thanks, as always, for your support.
TAKE WALK BREAKS
Get up at least every 45 minutes and take a lap around the office. Walk to a co-workers office instead of sending them an email or instant message, use the bathroom on another floor, send your printouts to a printer farther away, take the stairs instead of the elevator, park at the farthest place away from the front door. Walk breaks not only help combat the negative effects of sitting, it can boost creativity and can actually make you more productive. Tell your boss I said so (just kidding, don't do that).
USE A STANDING DESK
Companies are becoming more progressive and many now offer employees the option of a standing desk. If you have the option to stand while working, take advantage of it. You don't need to stand all day, just work in a few 20-30 minutes standing intervals throughout the day.
If you work from home or if your company is really progressive try sitting on a stability ball or in a lunge "will you marry me" position (alternating sides) while working at your desk.
WORK ON POSTURE
It can be too easy to slouch over your desk while you're focused on your work, but you can improve your posture while you do your work. Sit up straight, keep your shoulders down and back and engage your core. It's easy to fall out of the good posture, so set up notifications periodically to remind you to get back into proper position. The more you slouch, the more you reinforce poor posture. A timer can help you remember so that proper posture becomes your normal sitting position. Keep practicing until it becomes second nature. (by the way, I am terrible at this and work on it every day. I just reminded myself to sit up straight while I type this.)
DO MOBILITY EXERCISES
Mobility can be increased with the use of lacrosse balls, foam rollers, resistance bands and basic stretching. The great and terrible thing about the human body is that it compensates. If it can't perform properly due to muscle tightness or weakness then it will find a way to do the movement in a less than ideal way. Poor recruitment patterns repeated over time can lead to injuries. It's the reason why runners have hip and knee issues. Something in the kinetic chain is not working the way it should and the body is compensating. If we target to release the overactive muscles and strengthen the weak muscles, we can fix recruitment problems at the source.
It's generally recommended to perform stretching exercises after you workout or stand alone. There is some evidence that static stretching (holding the position for 30 seconds or more) can reduce performance when done immediately before a workout.
Sitting causes tight hip flexors and tight hip flexors can inhibit proper running form. I recommend that runners who sit a lot should do hip flexor stretches every day. Try this kneeling hip flexor stretch. In a kneeling position, lean forward until you feel the stretch in your hip flexors. Hold for 20-30 seconds in the stretch then twist your torso toward your forward leg and hold. Repeat on the other side.
This stretch is often called a couch stretch because it is performed perfectly with your foot propped up on edge of your couch (remove your shoes or mama will yell). The idea is to get your back leg as close to the couch as possible with your thigh completely straight up and down. You will feel this stretch in your quads (thigh) and hip flexors. Try to hold on each side for up to two minutes.
Get into a low squat position holding on to your toes and pushing your elbows against your knees. Hold for one-minute intervals. If you can't get all the way down, go as low as your flexibility allows. If your heels come up off the ground, try foam rolling your calves.
Forward and rounded shoulders are caused by tight pecs (chest muscles) and looking down at our keyboards, our phones, driving our cars and just about everything else we do all day. I love this chest and shoulder stretch on a half foam roller. Support your head and position your arms into a goal post position. Hold for up to five minutes.
This is the half foam roller that I use for this stretch. You could also roll up a thick large towel.
Foam rolling can help with flexibility and range of motion which promotes a better stride for runners. It’s a fantastic way to warm up the muscles and increase blood flow before your workout. Foam rolling increases oxygen flow which is important for performance and muscle recovery.
Most runners would benefit from foam rolling the inner thighs, outer thigh, quads (front of your legs), hamstrings (back of your thighs), your calves and Glutes/Piriformis (your butt) on a regular basis. You don't need to roll all these areas every time, just the places that feel tight. Roll until you find a tender spot (you'll know what I mean when you feel it) then hold that spot for 20 to 30 seconds. It may be uncomfortable (that's normal), but shouldn't be extremely painful. If it is, back off and work up to 30 seconds over time. Here is an article I wrote on foam rolling for more information.
Throw some resistance bands in your briefcase or tote bag when you go to work and you can strength your hips and shoulders on your break. Performing low-intensity exercises like these frequently can improve strength, mobility, and performance. Keep your bands on hand and do one minute or two of these exercises several times a day for great results.
This is an especially useful exercise for runners to strengthen the gluteus medius. Holding a resistance band tight around both ankles, lift your leg out to one side. Perform 12-20 reps and repeat on the other side.
Kick your leg out to the back to perform a hip extension with the resistance band. Perform 12-20 reps and repeat on the other side. Here is an article I wrote with about resistance band exercises for runners.
If you've read this blog for any length of time you know I am a huge proponent of strength training for runners. If you run, you need strength training to balance your workouts. If you run for exercise, then sit all day at your desk job, strength training is even more important. Resistance training can help you combat the ill effects of sitting by strengthening weak muscles and targeting imbalances.
The good news is that you don't have to spend hours in the gym every single day. Two to three focused full body strength training sessions a week is all you need to compliment your running. Make sure you are hitting both upper and lower body exercises, working in all planes of motion, and including core and balance training. Learn more in this article I wrote about the five components of a strength training for runner program. Then try some of these strength circuits before your next run.
Another thing to consider if your job is stressful is that stress can affect your recovery, and to not allow proper recovery can eventually lead to injuries. Exercise is a stress on the body. It's a good stress when applied appropriately and combined with adequate recovery. However, other types of stress on your body from a demanding job, poor sleep, poor or inadequate nutrition can impact your recovery from exercise. It is all connected. The key is to build rest and recovery into your training plan and then listen to your body. If you can learn to tune in and honor the feedback that your body provides, it can help you make appropriate decisions. If you're achy, tired, feel low on energy, hungry (or hAngry), if you're hair is falling out, have skin issues, or you're losing muscle, these are all signs of inadequate recovery or overtraining. Take some time for self-care. Take a long peaceful walk without your phone, take a bubble bath, get a massage, meditate or pray, play, sing, dance or talk with friends. Make time for the things that bring you back into balance. Exercise and fitness are not all about pushing for more but finding that proper balance between work and recovery.
Are you doing the work to combat the ill effects of sitting on your running performance? Try to work in just a few minutes a day of stretching, rolling and strengthening to stay healthy and on the road.
ProSource has offered my readers a 15% off discount on any product on their site, including resistance bands, foam rollers, and Yoga mats. Use code ALEA15 to save 15% off.
Like this post? Know someone who may benefit? It helps me when you share with your friends and followers.