Training While Working From Home

by Neil Cooper

The global pandemic has forced numerous changes to the way we live our lives. Social distancing, lockdown, furlough and facemasks have become the words of 2020. Another big change is the increase in the number of people that are working from home.

Working from home has meant that we have had to overcome new challenges, such as mastering the use of virtual meeting software and creating a comfortable working environment, but it has also created the potential for a significant silver lining.

Training while working from home: a runner in a woodland pauses to check his watch

When I ask athletes for the biggest barrier to training, the answer is usually that they have a lack of time. Balancing work, family and training is a real challenge for many people.

Working from home gives you the opportunity to claim some time back by eliminating the daily commute to the workplace. In the UK, the average worker spends 58 minutes a day commuting, so this is a big win.

However, studies suggest that many people have struggled to take advantage of this potential for time saving and perhaps haven’t been able to continue with or increase their training.

So why have we not been able to take advantage of this time?

A runner set within a clock: where can we fit training time in this pandemic?Ask yourself this: are you working from home, or are you now living at work? Without the definitive separation of the commute between home life and work life, the two can merge together.

Many people are now working longer hours, unable to resist the temptation to finish off a document or answer one more e-mail. Before you know it, the “commute time” you have saved has been spent working. Studies suggest that this is unproductive work.

When people do gain the free time, it’s often not spent productively. Studies show that this time is often spent on activities known as passive leisure, such as spending time on social media. Although passive leisure does help people to relax, it’s not as effective as active leisure when promoting happiness.

So how do we win this time back?

  1. Make your own commute. Go for a walk, run or bike ride at the beginning and end of your work day.
  2. Have a lunch break away from your computer. So many people used their lunch break to exercise prior to the pandemic. Why not go back to using your lunch break to train?
  3. Have a Feieraband. Feierband is a German word that doesn’t have an English equivalent. It means the time straight after the end of the working day. It is often associated with a daily celebration to mark the end of the working day. This can be sitting down with a gin and tonic or doing some exercise. Studies show that 40 minutes of exercise after work is an effective way of managing stress, so it’s a great habit to get into.

Try this training day

For endurance athletes, good time management when working from home can result in big gains. For several years, some of the best endurance runners have come from Kenya. Instead of doing one long training session, they often do multiple shorter sessions in a day. So, try this Kenyan-inspired training day that is very popular with athletes I coach.

  • Prior to work, go for a nice gentle jog of up to six miles.
  • At lunchtime, do an interval session, such as a short warm up, six two-minute efforts with a one- minute recovery, and then a short cool down. This is a 30-minute session.
  • After work, go for a five-mile run. The first mile is a warm up. Then increase the pace for each mile until the final mile, which is a cool down.

This session will not only help you structure your work day, it will help your training and really improve your running. To add variety, you can change the interval session and the distances. To make it even better, why not meet a friend to share these sessions with. Research does suggest short social interactions can improve your wellbeing.

A training run in the hills

Above all, stay safe and enjoy your training.

Neil Cooper

Running Coach

Neil Cooper is the head coach of Lakes2Tri.

Read more blogs by Neil Cooper

Originally published 17/12/20

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