I spent the first five years of my professional career working for a man who couldn’t stand the idea of clock-watching. It was all about quality output, rather than time spent tethered to the desk pretending you were doing something useful. I carried those work habits with me from job to job, sometimes attracting the ire of less efficient colleagues and management by leaving the building when the job was done. When making the most out of limited time to fit your running training around a busy schedule, the same rules apply: quality, not quantity, is generally what matters most.
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. Lunchtime 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 simply doesn’t get how much more these 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 10-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 business will be done.
If you do need a stretch, do so when you get back to your desk. 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.
10-20 minutes is all you need
You can execute a very effective training session by combining your 10 minute warm-up, corresponding 10 minute warm-down with between 10 and 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:
Hill repetitions: Choose a friendly-looking hill – nothing too steep. At 70% intensity, run powerfully up the hill for between 20 and 60 seconds, making sure to engage your buttocks and hamstrings – the action should feel strong and springy. Walk or jog back down and repeat five to 10 times. Ensure you are fully recovered before commencing the next effort. This session is about strength and technique rather than hard slog. Stop before you feel your running form begin to fall apart.
Tempo pace fartlek: One of my favorite running sessions that you can do anywhere. You run this by feel – 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 four-minute efforts with two minutes’ jogging between, or try this challenging pyramid: 1,2,3,2,1 minute efforts separated by one-minute jogs. You can reduce or increase the challenge by changing the shape and height of the pyramid. If you’re a beginner or just returning to fitness, then one- or two-minute tempo pace efforts separated by one-minute jogs or walks are a great way to get back to fitness and practise running a solid pace with good technique.
You don’t need a lot of time to have a decent run during the working day. Getting these higher quality training sessions in during the week will also make you stronger, faster and more efficient when it comes to completing longer runs or races on the weekends.