If there's one thing all runners can agree on its that we don't like to rest. As a coach, it's a regular struggle trying to get my runners to take rest days, stick to prescribed pacing regardless of how they feel and to understand that a 30 min tempo session isn't 'active' recovery.
The gym environment is no different. We need rest periods to allow the nervous system and the muscles to recover between efforts. However, when I've got runners itching to get into the next set, one way to keep everyone happy is to utilise 'filler' exercises. These exercises allow me to get in extra work to target key areas for runners such as hip stability and Achilles health and keeps the athlete 'busy' during rest periods. The key with these exercises are that they are low intensity and do not detract from the main lift itself. Another way to utilise filler exercises is to incorporate dynamic mobility exercises in your rest periods targeting any deficits in range of motion (ROM) you may have. This can save time in the warm-up and allow you to get extra volume in to improve ROM thus seeing results quicker.
Below are 5 of my go to filler mobility exercises
Side Lying Windmills: A great exercise to promote thoracic rotation and thus enable you to unlock thoracic extension and in turn, good upper body posture.
Half Kneeling Thoracic Rotations: Similar to above, but the open half kneeling stance also gives you a little hip opener too.
Mountain Climber Mobility: A simple hip opener which is great to pair with squats.
Squat to Stand: A great hamstring and hip opener it's a good one to pair with an upper body exercise. It also allows you to spend more time in the bottom of the squat which is awesome for improving movement quality on your strength days.
Supported Leg Lowers: A simple hamstring opener, it also allows you to stabilise the pelvis whilst adding in leg movement.
Below are 5 of my go to stability filler exercises
Hamstring Marches: A great glute strengthener whilst adding in leg extensions. Hamstring Marches are a great exercise for hip stability. Pair with an upper body exercise so as not to pre-fatigue key muscles for lower body exercises.
Med Ball Hip Stability: A slight regression from the Hamstring Marches, the Med Ball Hip Stability is a great starting point to work on stabilising the pelvis whilst adding in movement. A key strength to avoid hip drop whilst running. Ensure you really squeeze the med ball throughout the exercise.
KB Leg Lifts: One of my favourite filler/finisher exercises for runners to get in some extra hip and abductor strength endurance. The wider your feet are and the more vertical the torso, the harder the exercise. Pair with an upper body movement to avoid impacting your main exercise.
Reverse Snow Angels: It's one thing to have good mobility for posture, it's another to have strength and stability of our shoulder blades and the surrounding muscles. This exercise is a great way to focus on smooth scapula movement.
Heel/Toe Walks: A simple but effective exercise for basic balance and foot and ankle health. Walk for around 20m on the heels and then on the toes. A great addition to either lower or upper body exercises.
Try adding in some filler exercise to get more quality work addressing any mobility or strength deficits you may have. If you would like to utilise these exercises in a structured easy to follow strength routine for runners, check out our Strength for Runners 16 week program here.