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Five 15-Minute Workouts For When You Just Don’t Have Time

If you’re like most runners, there are days when you just don’t have enough time to do the workout you had planned. The question then becomes: Should I try to squeeze in something super short—or not even bother?

The answer? Any run is better than nothing! Even a 15-minute shuffle can clear your mind for the rest of the day. And the physical benefits of a quarter-hour workout are more substantial than you think. If you do just two 15-minute runs each week instead of taking the days off, you will run an extra 26 hours in one year. That’s enough to drop nearly five pounds!

To get the most out of very short runs, you need to give each of them a specific purpose and vary the format from one to the next. Here are five purposeful baby runs to try when time is of the essence.

Shakeout

Even elite runners do 15-minute runs! It’s commonplace for professional athletes to do a short jog (or shakeout) early in the morning before a race. But shakeout runs can serve other purposes. They’re great for loosening up the legs after a long drive, releasing mental tension after a tough day at work or even cruising around the airport while waiting for a connecting flight!

Do it!
The format couldn’t be simpler: Just run for 15 minutes or so at an easy-to-moderate effort.

Form Drills

Drills will help improve your running form and stride efficiency—and 15 minutes is plenty of time to get them done.

Do it!
Start with an easy 5-minute jog to warm up. Then perform the following drills:

One-Legged Running: Hop forward on your right foot 10 times, then switch and repeat on the left. Next, jog normally for 1 minute to recover.
100-Up: This drill is essentially a version of running in place. Allowing only the balls of your feet to touch the ground, complete 100 steps
(roughly one per second). Next, jog normally for 1 min-ute to recover.
Butt Kick: Run forward slowly as you try to kick your-self in the rear with the heel of your foot on each stride. Continue for 1 minute and then jog normally for 1 minute to recover.

Repeat all drills from the beginning until your 15 minutes are up!

Progression Run

The purpose behind this work-out is to start slowly and finish fast. Doing so helps your body become gently accustomed to quicker running, so that you’ll later be ready for more challenging runs at higher intensities.

Do it!
Start with 5 minutes of easy running. Then pick up the pace and run for 5 minutes at a moderate intensity. Finish with 5 minutes of running at a high intensity. (You should be breathing heavily by the end.)

Hill Sprints

A little bit of high-intensity running goes a long way. Just a few sets of uphill sprints will increase your anaerobic capacity and power. It may be short, but it is tough!

Do it!
Locate a steep hill (or hop on a treadmill), and start with 5 minutes of easy jogging to reach its base. Sprint as fast as you can up the hill (or the treadmill at an incline of 10 percent) for 15 seconds, then jog slowly back down the hill for 45 seconds to recover. Next, complete another 15-second sprint followed by another 45-second jogging recovery. Do a total of five sprints and then cool down with 5 minutes of jogging to finish.

Barefoot Run

One of the simplest ways to get some extra benefit from a very short run is to take off your shoes. In small doses, barefoot running strengthens the small muscles in your feet and lower legs that are underutilized when shoes are worn.

Do it!
Find a forgiving surface (grass golf course, home treadmill or beach) and perform a steady-state run at an easy-to-moderate effort for 15 minutes.