Sitting behind a desk all day can be detrimental to your health—and your running.
Many modern work schedules force runners into a seated position for hours on end. The result of all that sitting is often stiff muscles, tight hips and an achy back. None of that is helpful if you try to grind out a few miles after work.
The best prevention, though, is staying loose throughout the day.
Licensed physical therapist Wes Miller, of AntiFragile Physical Therapy, says moving around and stretching out at work can significantly reduce the effects of sitting through a typical 9 a.m. - 5 p.m. schedule. Here are some simple exercises you can do in the comfort of your own cubicle to stretch your muscles, loosen your hips and ease your weary back.
The first line of defense against a sedentary workstyle is to simply get up and move around more.
At work, walk around the office once in a while or take frequent trips to the water fountain. Keep your body moving, and you won't feel like a statue at the end of the day. Once you leave, though, it's important to stay active.
Adults should log 150-300 minutes of moderate-intensity activity (or 75-150 minutes of high-intensity activity) each week to see "substantial health benefits," according to the Centers for Disease Control's physical activity guidelines.
The CDC says that amount of activity greatly reduces the risk of many chronic diseases, like cardiovascular disease, Type 2 diabetes and several types of cancer. Moderate-intensity activities can be anything from a brisk walk to playing tennis to doing general yard work. Running, cycling, hiking and jumping rope all count as high-intensity activities.
Sitting all day affects four key areas: hip flexors, hip rotators, hamstrings and the mid-back (called the thoracic spine).
Miller says staying in a seated position for a prolonged period causes those muscles to stiffen and lose their flexibility, which compromises efficiency when your run. So, if you want to run your best, keeping those muscles open (and getting a good dynamic warmup for runners) is the first step.
Here's how to stretch each of the four main muscle groups.
This kneeling hip flexor stretch targets all the groups of your hip flexors at the same time—and you can do them anywhere.
Start in a tall kneeling position with one knee on the floor. Pull your belly button in and straighten up your chest to make a straight line between your knee, hip and shoulder. Raise your arms above your head to add an additional layer to the stretch.
Like loosening your hip flexors, this seated hip rotator stretch can be done at your desk.
Start by scooting to the edge of your chair and extending one leg out in front of you. Cross your other leg over, resting your ankle just above your knee. Slide the heel of your extend leg back toward you, and then sit upright and move your chest forward over your pelvis.
The door frame stretch gives you a combination of static stretching and dynamic stretching in one move.
Begin by lying on your back on the floor. Bring one leg up against a door frame, resting your heel against the wall. Slowly raise your other leg up next to the one on the wall, and slowly lower it back to the ground.
You can raise and lower your leg immediately after it touches the ground, or you can leave your leg on the ground longer for a deeper stretch.
The thoracic (or mid-back) stretch is a great way to open your back, chest and shoulders.
For this stretch, you need a foam roller and a clear floor. Lay the foam roller on the floor, perpendicular to your spine. Adjust the roller so it's position at your mid-back, just beneath your shoulder blades.
Reach your arms out behind your head, and then stretch back, arching your back over the roller while taking deep breaths. Make sure the stretch is comfortable, and stay back only for as long as you can—start with 10-15 seconds and work up to a minute.