With everything that’s going on in the world right now, you may have suddenly found yourself with more time on your hands than normal (or much less you are key worker or you have kids).
With this extra time you may have been looking into home workouts, and the kit and accessories that come with this. There is SO much out there, so we’ve taken a look at what you can use the kit for, and how this aids your running performance.
Firstly, we’ll take a look at which muscles are mainly used in running. The primary muscles used in running are the gluteals (buttocks), quadriceps (front of the thigh), hamstrings (back of the thigh), calf muscles and hip flexors. A strong core is also vital to prevent injury and provide stability.
All of the kit and accessories below can be used to give these muscles a good workout, maintain and even build your strength if you can’t get out for any other training.
THE BARE NECESSITIES
If I could recommend one piece of kit to get at this time, it would be a yoga mat, for its versatility and value. A yoga mat can be used for warming up, cooling down and stretching parts of the workout. It can and also be used for the workout itself, including core exercises (e.g. sit ups, crunches and planks), and full body exercises (e.g. burpees and mountain climbers). Easy to wipe down, move around your house or garden and rolling up small to store, a yoga mat is the first thing I’d recommend investing in.
Yoga mats mainly vary in length, thickness and material. Length wise you want to choose one long enough for your height. For thickness most vary between 1/8 inch and ¼ inch. Thicker ones will provide more support for thejoints making contact with the floor, such as elbows in a low plank, but will be bigger to roll up and store. Thinner ones are more easily stored and transported and also provide more stability on contact with the floor.
A thicker mat may also be more durable, but this durability is mainly defined by the mat’s material. The most durable mats are made of PVC sticky plastic, which also prevent your feet and hands from slipping. Newer TPE (Thermo Plastic Elastomer) material mats are a more eco friendly choice, and provide good grip, and anti microbial properties, but some don’t stand up to as much of workout as a PVC one. Other options include thin travel yoga mats, or cotton ones.
On a yoga mat, exercises such as planks (and variations on these), windscreen wipers and glute bridges are all great for stabilizing the core and reducing your risk of injury when running.
When choosing a yoga mat to buy, take into account the activity you’ll mainly be using it for, and the surface you’ll be using it on.
If you’re doing high intensity workouts outdoors whilst wearing training shoes, a thicker, more durable one is the better choice. If it is for the occasional yoga workout in the gym or indoors you may want to choose a thinner mat. Either way, it’s a product that will see you through a lot of workouts and stretches, so well worth the investment.
Up there with Yoga mats, resistance bands are the most versatile and value for money piece of home kit you can have. Invest time in finding the right exercises and correct uses for them and you can substitute many resistance machine and free weight workouts with a resistance band, and work every muscle group.
Resistance bands are generally made of latex, and come in a pack with varying resistance levels (i.e. how difficult it is to stretch them), meaning you can track your progress by moving onto a higher resistance band as you get stronger.
There are longer ones, around 2 meter circumference, which can be used to assist with pull ups by looping the band over a pull up bar and underneath your feet. These can also be doubled over to create a smaller band for stretching exercises. You’ll need more than 1 of these type to create different resistances.
There are also smaller bands, which come in sets of differing resistance, and also latex free options, both of which will be easier to use than a long one for squats and other resistance training movements.
Adding a resistance band to hip abductor movements and squats increases intensity, and works muscles much more than bodyweight alone.
Some more ideas of exercises here: https://www.runtastic.com/blog/en/resistance-band-exercises/
Skipping can be used as an excellent warm up for other ‘at home’ workouts to raise your pulse and get your blood pumping, and also a great cardio workout in HIIT circuits. It will target those calf muscles vital for runners, and also burn lots of calories. Set yourself a target time, or number of jumps and get going.
When choosing a skipping rope it’s important to get one that fits your height. Most out there are adjustable when they arrive and have specific instructions on how to get the size right. Also good is a spare rope/ cable part, as this can wear down quickly depending on what surface you’re jumping on. Thinner cables (around 2.5mm) will mean they move faster through the air, making double unders easier but can be very painful when you catch them on your skin, and wear down faster. A thicker cable will make it easier to learn skipping techniques for beginners, and will last longer due to a thicker coating on the cable.
Unless you’ve used a kettlebell under instruction in a gym, an ‘at home’ workout is probably not the right time to pick up one for the first time. If lifted or swung with incorrect for, this could lead to an injury. If you are familiar with their safe use, then kettlebells can be a great part of a high intensity workout, or resistance, strength training session.
The majority of kettlebell exercises when done correctly target the hamstrings and quads, so are fantastic for runners looking to build strength, and prevent injuries when running. These exercises include the kettlebell swing, goblet squat, forward, lateral and reverse lunges, and deadlifts.
Avoid plastic kettlebells as they are much more likely to break, and the handles can be uncomfortable to hold.
Weight-wise, you’ll want different weights for the exercises mentioned above. There are now kettlebells on the market that vary the weight with the turn of a dial, saving space at home.
REALLY NICE TO HAVE
In a nutshell, suspension trainers are ropes and nylon straps suspended from a door frame, ceiling beam, pole, tree, etc, that use your own bodyweight to build strength and core stability. Suspension trainer systems are particularly good for runners, as they challenge coordination and balance too, working the muscles on the joints associated with running gait.
The TRX system is viewed as the holy grail of suspension training, and includes workout guides and use of TRX app to plan workouts and track progress.
Other systems, you will need to do your homework on if you’re not familiar with the exercises.
For runners, suspension trainers are great for exercises such as double and single leg hamstring curls (lying on your back with feet in the handles), and squat, lunge and plank variations.
When choosing a suspension training system this often comes down to your budget. More expensive ones will be made from better quality materials, meaning the straps last longer and are more comfortable on your hands if you’re using them a lot. If it’s a temporary fix for not being able to get to a gym, then a cheaper one may suffice.
A lot of kettlebell exercises can be substituted for using dumbells and vice versa, depending on the weights you have available and your personal strength level. Similar to the kettlebell workouts discussed, dumbbell exercises will strengthen your muscles around your joints using for running, and reduce your risk of injury. They can also be used to add weight to bodyweight exercise to burn more calories in a workout.
If doing both a resistance training workout and a run, its recommended to do the resistance (strength) training part first. If you strength train with tired muscles from running, you may not get as much out of the strength session, and this could cause injury if overworking tired muscles.
Some effective dumbbell exercises to try at home include weighted step ups, bent over row, glute bridges and dumbbell deadlift.
Pull up bars
Whilst these can of course be used for pull ups, they can also be used for a variety of exercises directly related to improving your running.
Firstly, pull ups can help with your running, as they build upper body strength, but by using your body weight won’t add too much bulk and weight from muscle hypertrophy. Pull ups will also assist with creating a well balanced body when paired with other strength training exercise.
An at home pull up bar can also be used to do leg raises, strengthening the core muscles again, or be used as an attachment point for a suspension training system, such as a TRX.
Choosing a pull up bar often depends on your home gym set up and how you are able to mount it. If you are able to put one up in a garage or outdoor wall the these ones are ideal and the most sturdy option.
If you have limited space then one that can be attached to a door frame and taken down after your workout is your best option.
If you’re really keen to train your upper body, and lots of different exercises in mind, then you might want to look into a weight bench.
These come with a variety of features, such as adjustable gradients and angles, uprights backs, and attached racks. Paired with a set of dumbbells, or a barbell they are used to provide support when lifting weights, particularly for chest and shoulder exercises.
The more varied the workouts you plan to do on them, the more bells and whistles you’ll want the bench to have.
A COUPLE OF LUXURIES TO SPLURGE ON
The ultimate luxury for the keen runner when it’s not safe or desirable to go outside? The at home treadmill has a variety of uses from adding a gradient to your training to simulate a race environment better, to adding motivation with a live streamed class, to varying your workout to target different cardiovascular training zones to lose weight.
Likely the most expensive piece of kit when it comes to your home workout kit, there’s a lot to consider when choosing a treadmill, including your budget, what you’ll be using it for, and how fast you plan to go, storage, weight capacity, and technology.
For workouts, you can stick to your current running plan, select one from here or select pre- programmed workouts from the treadmills.
Stationary and Spin bikes
If you’re being kept indoors, or unable to run for a while, a spin bike is great way to mix up your cardiovascular training, whilst also offering an effective workout for all of the same muscle groups used in running with less pressure on the joints. It can also help with weight loss and strengthening leg muscles.
There are two main differences in stationary and spin bikes. Both are relatively easy to use with low risk of injury. The spin bike has a more race ergonomic position, and allows you to stand up more easily, working more muscles, and allows you to go faster. The stationary bike feels less like a road bike generally provides more programmes in the screen, and is a gentler workout.
Alternatively if you already have a bike you can look into getting a stationary bike stand to use indoors:
Whichever kit you do choose to use, make sure you always follow manufacturer’s instructions, check for any faults, and stop using it if it gets damaged.
Always consult your GP before starting any programs, and in times of working out alone, let someone else know what you’re doing, and who to contact if they can’t reach you at any time.