You get more benefits from your mileage if you move a little all day.
Sitting kills. We’ve heard the message loud and clear – but recent studies suggest it’s not the whole truth. “Stagnicity, or remaining in a fixed position for a long period of time, is the health hazard,” says chiropractor and physiotherapist A.J. Gregg. The seated-in-a-chair position is simply where most of us clock all that motionless time. And while runners may not think they are all that sedentary, research shows exercisers are parked almost as much as their inactive pals –about nine hours a day.
“The body is meant to move,” says Gregg. When you’re motionless, the hamstrings, lower-back muscles and hip flexors can become tight – conditions that can hinder running performance and leave you hurt. Sitting allows your glutes to sleep all day, too. When that major muscle group is weak or underutilised, you bring less power and stability into your workouts, and you overwork smaller nearby muscles in ways that could lead to injury. Meanwhile, sitting slows your circulation and turns off fat burners, upping your odds for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. Ready for some good news? There’s a relatively simple fix: “By bringing more movement into your non-exercise time, you can engage forgotten muscles and offset some of those sitting effects,” says biomechanist Katy Bowman, author of Move Your DNA. “It doesn’t have to be intense, it just has to change your geometry.”
Move More: When You’re at the Office
Stand, sit or balance on a ball? The best move is to alternate between whatever positions are available, says Gregg. If you’re chair-bound, perch at the edge of your seat to roll your pelvis forward, or rest the ankle of one leg atop the thigh of the other for a piriformis stretch, says Bowman. Set an app (such as Stand Up! The Work Break Timer) to remind you to take two- to three-minute breaks every half hour to do a lap around the office or some desk stretches. Try ones that work your upper body: arm and shoulder strength and flexibility help propel you forward as you run. “Wall angels” are good (align your back and the backs of your hands against a wall and move your arms in a snow-angel motion), or you can put your hands on your desk and drop your chest for a thoracic stretch.
Move More: Away From Your Desk
Take walks during coffee or lunch breaks, and make the most of your time in the salad line: instead of resting on your hip flexors (the go-to stance for most of us), try practising pelvic lists. Shift your weight back to your heels, then push your right hip toward the floor to lift your left foot slightly off the ground. Switch sides and repeat. This move engages your glutes and lateral hip muscles, says Bowman, and activating them throughout the day can make using them on a run feel more natural.
Move More: Even on a Long-Run Day
A 20- to 30-minute nap and/or a cup of coffee should be about the most you need to avoid dragging after a long run, so if you find yourself couch-bound (or desperately wishing you could be), you may need to cut back on mileage or pace, says Ian Torrence, lead ultrarunning coach for McMillan Running. Upgrade the downtime you do have by hitting the floor instead of the couch – you can speed up recovery by using your foam roller, performing hip-opening yoga moves (try pigeon pose or happy baby), or cycling through a number of seated floor positions every 15 minutes.
Move Some: On Your Days of Rest
On your non-long-run weekend day, you might go for a quick jog, but it’s easy to get your limbs in motion without lacing up. Lift your kids at the park, garden on your hands and knees, or call friends while tidying up the house. A hike on steep and/or uneven terrain will engage your glutes as well as the stabilising muscles in your feet and ankles that keep you upright while running. Just be careful, especially if you have a race coming up – seemingly low-key activities (like raking leaves) could leave you sore if the motions are unfamiliar. Finally, hit the hay early: a solid night of sleep is one time that being sedentary works in your favour, says Gregg.