Every runner can tell a story about finishing a training run JUST in time for something important. Remember when you had to jump into a taxi to the airport while you were still in your sweaty clothes? Or maybe that was me—anyway, most runs are completed with more than a single second to spare!
When you do have a few extra moments at the end of a run, you can exploit the opportunity to gain additional benefit from the workout. Even 30 seconds of “bonus time” can be put to good use. Here are a few ways to get the most out of your minutes.
If you have 30 seconds…
Form drills should be a part of every runner’s regimen! The good news is they take almost no time at all. Choose one of the following drills to perform when you have only half a minute.
Hop forward on your right foot, keeping your left knee bent toward your chest. Continue for 15 seconds, then hop forward on your left foot for 15 seconds.
Walk forward by kicking your legs as high as possible in front of you with minimal knee bend. Extend your arms straight ahead of you, zombie-style, and try to touch your toe to your palm with each leg lift. Continue for 30 seconds.
Run backward at a moderately fast pace for 30 seconds. This drill reverses the muscle imbalances that tend to develop through forward running.
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If you have 1 minute…
Short sprints go a long way. Boulder-based elite running coach Brad Hudson has his athletes do one set of sprints per week after an easy run. It only takes a minute or so.
Sprinting on flat ground carries a fairly high risk of hamstring strains, so Hudson recommends using a hill—the steeper, the better. Run as hard as you can up the hill for just 8 seconds, then stop and walk back to your starting point. Perform only one sprint the first time. Add a single additional sprint each week until you’re doing six to 10 sprints in total.
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If you have 5 Minutes…
The best time to stretch is after a run. At this time your muscles are warmed, lubricated and ready to be stretched. Five minutes is plenty of time for post-run stretching because you don’t need to stretch everything—only a few common trouble spots.
Hip Flexor Stretch
Kneel on your right knee and place your left foot flat on the floor in front of your body. Drive your hips forward until you feel a good stretch in your right hip flexor. Hold the stretch for 20 seconds and then repeat on the left.
Iliotibial Band Stretch
Stand with your legs crossed with your right foot in front of your left. Put all your weight on your left foot and press your left hip to the left until you feel a stretch on the outside of your left leg. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds, then reverse your position.
Two-Way Calf Stretch
Stand on the edge of a step with the ball of your right foot at the very edge and your heel hanging off. Drop your heel toward the ground while keeping your leg straight. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds. Now bend your knee slightly and feel the stretch migrate down into your soleus. Hold this stretch for 20 seconds and switch sides.
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If you have 10 Minutes…
It’s fun to open up the throttle a bit. Plus, “fast finishes” teach your legs to push through preexisting fatigue. If you have 10 minutes at the end of an easy run, take advantage of the opportunity by running for a little extra time at a moderate effort level—somewhere between 10K and half-marathon pace.