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Five Workouts for Time-Crunched Runners

July 30, 2019

Five Workouts for Time-Crunched Runners

Unless you are a professional runner, you are likely unable to carve time out of your busy day to train on a regular basis.  If you are like most Americans, your schedule is probably downright hectic.  Described here are five workouts you can perform when time is scarce. 

Hill Repeats
When you are short on time it is important to make the most of your workout.  A great way to stress your aerobic, anaerobic, muscular, and skeletal systems is to perform hill repeats.  Run a 1 – 2 mile warm up, then 8 – 10 x 200 m steep hill at 80 – 90% effort.  While running up the hill focus on good form and good breathing habits.  Once you reach the top, walk or jog to the bottom of the incline before repeating the process.  Finish the run with a 1 – 2 mile cool down. 

Tabata Fartlek
A personal mantra of mine when time is scarce is that a short run is better than no run.  Even if you only have 15 – 20 minutes to squeeze in exercise, you can make the most of your time with this workout.  After a 5 minute warm up alternate running all-out for 20 seconds with 10 seconds of jogging for a total of 4 – 5 minutes.  Finish with a 5 minute cool down. 

Increased Intensity, Decreased Volume
While it is not feasible to run a speed workout every single day, you can increase the intensity of your easy days if you decrease the volume of the run.  For instance, if you only have 20 – 30 minutes to sneak in a run on a day you would typically run for 45 – 60 minutes, simply run faster.  If your easy day pace is 10:00 per mile, aim for 9:30 pace on these shorter days instead.  Studies have even shown that lower volume but greater intensity can lead to personal bests. 

Progression Run
Another “workout in disguise” is a progression run.  This workout builds endurance and mental toughness while being low-volume.  For a progression run, complete each mile, kilometer, or time interval 5 – 15 seconds faster than the previous one.  For instance, during a 4 mile run you might start at 10:00 pace for the first mile and then work your way down to 9:15 pace at the finish.

Fitness Trail Fartlek
When you are crunched for time it is difficult to sneak in a run and strength workout.  You can cover all your bases with this fartlek.  Find a nearby fitness trail (i.e. a trail that contains fitness equipment such as a pull up bar or other apparatus) and complete a fartlek/circuit training run.  If the fitness stations are separated by an appreciable distance, sprint from station to station and then complete 30 – 60 seconds of the suggested exercise.  If the fitness stations are all located in one general area, complete a lap of the park where they are situated, or run at a hard effort for 2 – 3 minutes in between exercises.  If no fitness trail is available, get creative and visit a nearby playground instead. 


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