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Exercise Snacking For Strength Gains

“I have no time” may be the recreational runner’s favorite excuse to avoid strength training.

Despite studies showing how a strength training routine can reduce running injuries and improve running performance, many runners skip strength training.

Chances are, you too are juggling your training, a full-time job, family responsibilities, and community commitments. And chances are, you too are left wondering how you possibly could add some strength training to your already busy schedule.

If you too think you are too busy to strength train, then I have good news for you: you don’t need to dedicate an hour a week to strength train. In fact, you don’t even need to reserve a 20-minute block.

Instead, opt to exercise snack.

And no – I am not suggesting you should eat a cookie after each squat you perform.

Instead, I want you to view your strength training not as a separate training session but as small breaks throughout your day.

Read on to find out why exercise snacking is the perfect solution for the time-crunched runner and how to make it work for you.

What Is Exercise Snacking?

Exercise snacking is the practice of performing a small workout several times throughout the day.

Researchers believe that humans are better off moving a little every 20 minutes than sitting at our desks all day.

For example, in those regions where people live the longest and are the healthiest regular movement is part of daily life.

There are various ways to implement exercise snacking.

Some people simply opt to go for a 10-minute walk every hour. Others will run up a flight of stairs in their office building a few times throughout their workday. Some people enjoy a 10 – minute bodyweight circuit as a mini-break during their day in their home office.

While all of these have benefits, the focus of this article is how to implement exercise snacking for strength training.

So that you, as a time-crunched runner, get those strength workouts in, you know you should be doing but aren’t.

Why Are Strength-Based Exercise Snacks Perfect For Runners?

Runners usually don’t care much about building muscle. Hence you don’t need extended training sessions with many repetitions per muscle group.

But, you should focus on strength development. And if you want to train for strength, you need to use heavy weights and include long rest periods.

That’s excellent news because snacking on a few strength moves throughout the day may be all you need to improve your running economy and reduce injury risk.

Additionally, you reap all the benefits of preventing muscle and bone density loss as you age, improved joint health, and improved posture.

But strength training throughout the day also provides mental benefits.

Intermittent movement can elevate your mood, decrease anxiety and improve your focus.

Besides, you decouple strength training from the negative associations you have with it – like lack of time, that’s it’s boring, or that you feel tired and sore when you are done.

Instead, by integrating strength exercises as tiny bits into your day, it becomes just one more habit you keep. Like brushing your teeth or taking a shower before going to bed, you opt for a couple of quick exercise snacks every day.

How Can You Implement Exercise Snacking For Best Results?

There are several ways you can implement the concept of exercise snacking into your strength training routine.

The beauty is that you can adapt it to suit your lifestyle and needs. And since you are not dependent on the opening hours of your gym or specific course times, you can easily adapt your exercise snacks – or micro workouts – every day.

Here is a basic template that will help you to structure your exercise snack sessions.

1. Identify a trigger that prompts you to do your micro workout

The first step to getting into the habit of exercise snacking is to decide on a trigger that will signal the start of your workout.

This could be a timer that goes off at specific intervals or a daily habit to chain your exercise session.

If you choose a time–based trigger, it could be as simple as setting an alarm that goes off every 90 minutes and reminds you to get up from your desk and get some movement in.

If you opt for a habit-based trigger, you simply pick a daily routine and chain your workout to it. For example, let’s say you like to drink coffee and prepare several cups throughout the day.

You could decide to perform a 10 – minute bodyweight workout each time before you prepare your coffee. Or you could position a small weight at a popular place that you frequently pass by and decide to do a few sets of a specific exercise each time you pass it.

For example, I have a pull-up bar installed in the doorframe of my living room. Each time I walk through that door, I will do a set of pull-ups. On other days, I always carry 2 kettlebells when I walk from my living room to my kitchen and back.

2. Choose your exercises

Again, you have lots of options here. However, if you choose to use micro workouts to gain strength, you should avoid jogging in place, doing yoga, or going for a 20-minute threshold run.

Sure these activities have their place too, but the focus of this article is on getting you to commit to regular strength training. And for that, the best exercises are those you can only do a few repetitions of before your form breaks down.

Ideally, you want to be working in the 2-5 repetition range. That means, if you do bodyweight workouts, you should gradually work your way up to more challenging variations of an exercise.

For example, if you do push-ups, you would transition progressively to one-arm push-ups.

If you do bodyweight squats, instead of building up to performing a set of 50, you build up to performing pistol squats. Once you can bang out a few reps, you add some weight by holding a kettlebell or dumbbell in your hands.

3. Decide on the format

People have different preferences when it comes to structuring workouts. I am not a big fan of rigid rules. It is more important to stick to basic principles and then tweak the rules to suit your needs.

After all, only the workouts that you do consistently will bring results.

And subpar workout plan that you execute regularly is more effective than a perfectly crafted workout plan that you abandon after 2 weeks already.

With that said, you basically should decide if you focus more on time or more on the number of reps and sets you do.

For example, I prefer time-based exercise snacks since I need strict rules for when the workout ends. Otherwise, I get into the habit of doing more because I still feel good. Conversely, on days I don’t feel as good, I will extend the rest periods, and the workout takes too long.

Others feel better when they have a certain number of repetitions per exercise and a more flexible time format. That also gives them the freedom to vary rest periods while sticking to the same volume of work. I’d say it depends on your daily schedule and how flexible you are with your time.

Likewise, decide if you do one exercise per micro-workout or if you create a circuit. For example, suppose you use a time-based trigger and plan to do 4 micro workouts during your workday. In that case, you could pick 4 different exercises and decide to do one in each workout.

You could also choose to create a circuit and repeat the same circuit 4 times a day. The options are endless. Vary the exercises every day or every week. Do bodyweight only or include dumbbells, barbells, kettlebells, or bands.

Remember, the goal is not to create a perfect workout. The goal is long-term strength development and making strength training an integral part of your life.

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