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3 “movement snacks” for runners to try today

Adding a few of these bite-sized exercises to your work day will boost both energy and mood

woman stretching at computer

If your day job has you sitting for hours at a time, incorporating movement snacks into your routine can be a game-changer. Movement snacks are short bursts of physical activity sprinkled throughout the day, offering a quick and effective way to keep the body engaged and energized. Here’s why (and how) you need to get started.

runner stretching

Christopher McDougall, co-author (with Eric Orton) of Born to Run 2: The Ultimate Training Guide, swears by movement snacks, calling them “bite-sized, mood-altering games that function as both playful warm-ups and easy range-of-motion assessments that let you identify any hidden trouble spots.” McDougall suggests trying any of these snack-sized exercises right away—since they are super low-impact, you can indulge in them as often as you like. “Everything that follows will feel better and easier,” he says.

Some of these exercises require a bit of room in your house or outside—but movement snacks can also be as simple as a few jumping jacks, squats, gentle stretches or a quick walk around your house. Prioritize taking the stairs at work, scheduling “walking meetings” when you can, and interspersing moments of movement and breath into your work day, and regular exercise snacking will soon become a habit.

Try the 100-up drill to finesse running form, fast

Deadbug belly breath

“How you breathe tells your body whether you are safe,” McDougall writes in Born to Run 2. “By training your breathing, you can conserve energy and calm your nervous system.”

Lie on your back with knees bent, and feet in the air, so your shins are parallel to the ground.

Press your lower back into the floor to engage your core muscles. This will help stabilize your spine throughout the exercise. Extend your arms straight out past your head, and lift your head so that your chin is tucked against your chest and your gaze is directed between your legs (for a modified version, keep your head on the floor and arms at your side or on your belly).

Inhale deeply through your nose, allowing your belly to rise as you fill your lungs with air. Notice your lower back flattening against the ground.

Exhale through your nose and feel your belly soften while you stay in position. Aim for five inhales and exhales.

Ninja jumps

Ninja jumps help stimulate explosive power and activate your entire body.

McDougall says to focus on relaxing during these jumps so that you “land with soft knees and good arm balance.” He recommends not rushing—work on being as efficient as possible. Try five jumps in varying directions—it’s OK if your jumps are very tiny to begin with.

Stand with your feet hip-width apart, knees slightly bent, and arms at your sides. Bend your knees and lower your body into a squat position, keeping your chest up and back straight.

Leap forward with the aim of landing softly and quietly, using your arms for momentum. Focus on allowing your knees to bend deeply to keep position and soften your landing.

Bear crawls

“Crawling builds full body strength and connects upper and lower body, as well as developing coordination,” says McDougall. “It’s also a sneaky quad burn!”

Begin on all fours with your hands directly under your shoulders and knees under your hips, gaze focused a few feet ahead of you.

Press into your palms, tuck your toes and lift your knees so they are hovering just above the the ground. Brace your core muscles to stabilize your spine and pelvis throughout the movement.

Lift your right hand and left foot off the ground, simultaneously moving them forward a few inches. Then, lift your left hand and right foot, moving them forward to meet your other limbs.

Continue alternating sides, moving forward in a crawling motion, and focusing on keeping your hips stable and your core engaged.

To learn more about Born to Run and Born to Run 2, click here.

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