Modern life means that many of us struggle to achieve a healthy work : life balance… Let alone a work : training : life balance!
Whether a runner, triathlete or any other type of athlete also holding down a full-time job, there are a number of challenges facing us both physical and organisational, many of which our colleagues will never fully comprehend.
Here are some ideas which may help your training:
Keep Your Machine Moving
It’s becoming very fashionable in the fitness industry to jump on the “sitting is the new smoking” band-wagon. For corporate athletes, particularly those involved in running sports I do think the movement implications of our 8hrs+ per day desk-bound position are important to consider.
I’ve had numerous debates with physios as to whether or not sitting down all day really contributes to the commonly seen restrictions into hip extension (normally tight hip flexors), and indeed gluteal inhibition.
As I’ve written about before, hip function is hugely important in running gait. Regardless of whether or not you believe that sitting down all day is the root cause of some of the common muscular imbalances we see at the hip, it’s hard to argue with the fact that sitting does nothing positive for the promotion of range of motion at the hip. Sitting in a static hip flexed position is about as far away as you can get from the dynamic extension pattern we want to see in running gait.
What can be done? Well, it’s unlikely that your boss is going to buy you a standing desk (great if he/she does!). So if your day is dominated by various forms of sitting down, try setting a timer to get you up out of your seat every 2hrs for a quick walk around and a stretch. More ideas on this can be found in this article from a few months ago.
The same can be said for the upper back. The thoracic spine, rib cage and shoulder girdle is another important area to keep moving properly in runners. So often in corporate athletes I see a lot of tension through the mid-to-upper back, and a lack of thoracic extension and rotation as postural imbalances develop around the shoulder girdle in particular.
Here’s a great foam roller routine you can use to work on thoracic spine mobility:
Resistance Bands For Business Trips
For athletes who find themselves being sent off to all corners of the globe on business, it can be difficult to find consistency in performing the strength and conditioning exercises we know we should be doing regularly. One hotel might have an extensive gym, another might have nothing…
One approach I encourage is the use of resistance bands and body weight exercises. The versatility this approach provides means that you’re only really limited by your imagination in terms of building a hotel room workout! For those who really want to get elaborate, the TRX is also a great bit of kit to pack in the suitcase.
Check out this resistance band routine from Dave Scott.
Don’t Play Catch-Up
In the corporate world, things can change quickly. Deadlines, meetings, and other demands on your time can all conspire to mess up the best laid training plans. When this happens, the important thing to remember is that even at elite level athletes occasionally have to let a session pass them by. This is normal.
As I write this, I think back to this year’s London Marathon (yesterday) and the months of training our athletes had put in to chasing their desired outcome. I lose count of the number of times I’ve had to have the conversation about ‘letting a missed session go’ and resisting the urge to play catch-up.
For some of our runners with more demanding work : life schedules, I like to discuss the concept of ‘mission critical‘ sessions. For first-time marathoners mid-training block for example, these are normally specific long runs, building endurance and time on the feet. With the big caveat that the gold standard is to complete (and execute well) all sessions on the training plan, the understanding is that it’s only the mission critical sessions that we’ll reschedule if missed, not the others.
Generally speaking, sessions which ‘build the cake’ are more likely to be mission critical, than the sessions which provide the ‘icing on the cake’.
Cool Down Outdoors
This and the next tip are both about being smart with your time, and protective of the ‘me time‘ that is both needed and provided by training.
This problem is as true for the self-employed as it is for corporate runners: I get back form a lunchtime run and suddenly get drawn into something work-related. A conversation, an email a voicemail needing ‘immediate action’… All of a sudden 45mins has passed and I haven’t even stretched.
Where possible I’ve taken to cooling down and stretching outdoors before re-entering the working environment (in my case the house, for others the office). I make sure I look after my body before I get engaged in conversation, read an email on my phone, or pick-up my voicemails.
Run Before Reading Emails
This is a concept I’ve borrowed from Tim Ferriss having re-read his best seller ‘The 4-Hour Work Week‘. Along similar lines to the tip above, this is all about avoiding distractions which could be detrimental to your training.
I’ve been using this particular tip for some time, and it’s completely changed my mind-set in the morning. Those who generally train in the morning will find this easiest to apply…
I used to wake up and immediately check my emails on my iPhone – before even getting out of bed. Best case scenario: whatever I found in my inbox would swim around my head all training session, creating the urge to get back to my laptop and deal with the business in hand – often detracting from the training session it self. Worst case scenario (more common in my case): the new emails in my inbox would cause me to do various ‘quick’ tasks before I would then train. The morning would sometimes run away with me and all of a sudden it would be lunchtime and I hadn’t trained. This is neither efficient or effective!
For a week, I asked myself the question about each email: “can it wait until 9am?”. The answer was almost always yes!
This has prompted me to consciously avoid my emails until after I’ve trained. It works for me 🙂
What Would You Suggest?
I’m always keen to hear new tips and suggestions on this topic. Please feel free to add your thoughts in the comments section below…Last updated on March 2nd, 2021.
Great article – thanks for the tips! As a recent convert to the corporate world I have definitely noticed some unfortunate changes in my running. My hips have definitely suffered from 10+ hours of sitting , not to mention the effect in general on my metabolism. It’s a constant battle!
I’ve started doing 5 hip exercises a couple of times a day because I spend a large proportion of the day working at my computer, and they do seem to be helping to reduce some of the pain that I occasionally experience in both hips.
James, I find if I reserve time in my diary, even if it is over a lunchtime, it stops people booking meetings etc (most of the time) and reminds me to get my backside out and run. It also gives me something to look forward to. I can often feel my body building its energy levels in anticipation of the pending exercise
I love the email tip, from now on, no mails within 15 minutes of an anticpated training session as they often result in me missing the training slot.
Thanks for your continued support.
I would add if you’re sitting all day do not have anything like a wallet in your back pocket!
I’m fortunate enough to have a gym at work but still like to discipline myself to get there. So I try to go first thing, before I have even gone to my desk. 8am for an hour and the rest of the day means I can focus on work, slightly smugly.
If we do have the ability to stand at our work desk, how long do you suggest doing this for each day etc?
I’m a corporate runner as well. What works for me is drinking a lot of water during the day so i MUST get up and use the restroom. Otherwise I could literally sit and work for hours on end. While I’m up I take a stretch or walk the long way back to my desk. Whatever works to get me moving!