How to fit training around a physically demanding job

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For a lot of content, helping you find time to run can be a bit presumptuous. Speculation that you have an office-based job. With lots of sitting down, the need for postural correction and the ability (and energy) to run in your lunch break.

But, what about you who has a physically demanding job? Training for anything alongside a job that requires a lot of physical labour can be tough. There is no way you fancy trading in that time to actually sit and take a break for yet more running around. I hear you.

That’s not to say you cannot train (and rest) to have a successful race, or training goals whilst staying injury-free and remaining energised to keep working on your feet for yet another long shift. Because truth be told, that is a workout in itself. But don’t lose faith, all you need to do is train smarter, not harder.

When I first started out in industry, I would be doing 6-8 hours straight of intense sports massages. Believe me, by the end of the day I was exhausted and couldn’t comprehend the idea of a run or gym session, so I do understand. I have had to learn how to work, and train, a little differently.

No one is saying you cannot hit the gym or run the marathon you’ve dreamed about, try the ultra or even attempt a triathlon. No, you just need to adjust your training plans, schedules and intensities easy right?

  • First off, a great option to make sure you get enough rest is to consider training to your heart rate.
  • HR based training is fantastic, and wearing a smartwatch throughout the workday can really help you understand when best to train, when to push, and when to switch off.This has changed my whole training revelation.

  • Timing your workouts.
  • Alright, probably not going to want to hear this (especially if you start work at 6 am) but getting your workout done first thing in the morning gets it ‘out of the way’ – that’s not to say training is a chore, but for the first few weeks, you’ll think it is (27 days to create a habit) and remember that’s not necessarily every day! Failing that, completing your session straight after work is our second best bet. Heck! Take your running kit in the car with you, stop at the gym or local park on the way home and get your workout done before getting home and completely switching off – so the session is part of your workday (and not a begrudging addition to it). Because we all know, even with the best of intentions, the odds of doing a workout after work, when we are fatigued are pretty slim.

    Sun rising thorough a bare tree in the earl hours of the morning

  • Working today?
  • Or changing shift patterns and need some adjustment, instead of hitting the trails for an hour or more, use those as rest days or incorporate shorter, intense 30-45min workouts such as interval fartlek, threshold or cross-training, even on the treadmill. Don’t be concerned that 30 minutes won’t add up to your marathon aims – it does! And these shorter intense sessions are just as beneficial for your fitness as the longer stints you do. If you find you are tired, try heading out or working out for 10-15 minutes. Usually, you’re in momentum and can continue, if not, head home, because believe it or not, even 15 minutes of aerobic activity positive impacts your fitness levels.

  • Keep strength work functional to the sport or even your training.
  • For running, we want to be utilising the big compound movements that mimic and benefit running technique and muscular strength/endurance. – Primarily Squats, lunges and all their glorious variations. Don’t worry so much about targeting the smaller muscles, for example singling out the gastrocs because they will be trained and worked throughout the squads/lunges. That being said don’t neglect the upper body either – we still need that for running, so shoulder, back and core exercises are also important (don’t worry about the biceps/triceps, they will be worked as secondary muscles, like the gastrocs).

    Another note for resistance training, the ‘No-Pain-no-gain’ phenomenon isn’t welcome (or helpful to you) here – you absolutely do NOT need to be sore to benefit from resistance training. Instead, you can use bodyweight, or bands instead of heavier gym lifting.

    Man training with resistance bands shoulder exercise

  • Your workday provides a lot of cardio, but you can add additional work should you desire.
  • Here, were talking core work and proprioceptive (balance) work whilst on shift. This would look like bracing and engaging the core for 20 seconds and relaxing, throughout the day (think how beneficial that would be over 8 hours!). Standing on one leg whilst you wait, or calf raises from tiptoes and back down. There are always sneaky ways to safely add in little exercises.

  • Tough day?
  • Opt for a recovery session, stretch, yoga and/or foam roll instead, our body will thank you for it. Remember I said work smarter not harder? As someone with a physically demanding job, you really are going to need to rest and recover like a pro. That means listening to your body. Does it need a rest? A stretch? Could you trade your 30-minute resistance workout for a 30-minute restorative workout instead?- I think so.

    Person using a foam roller at the gym

  • Make sure you are hydrated throughout the day.
  • Taking on enough water to keep you sufficiently hydrated to get you through an intense day is important, let alone with extra training. After all, you are pretty much working out for 8 hours…

  • Consider the training load that is expected to reach your goals.
  • If you are looking to smash our first ultramarathon, you are looking at 4-6months of training, 5-6 days a week, whereas to beat your previous 10K time, you can train 3x a week for 2-3 months (subject to current fitness levels) so be realistic with yourself, and the goals you want to achieve.

  • Lastly, allow time for fun
  • For spending time with your family, friends. You don’t need to constantly train-work-train-work, you can escape it. It might even do some good for you.



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