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Movement “snacks” to stay fit and healthy

Use movement breaks to improve your health and performance

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Earlier this month I wrote an article about the newly published Canadian 24-hour movement guidelines and their relevance for triathletes.  These guidelines include a recommended amount of moderate, or vigorous, physical activity (150 minutes per week) which most uninjured triathletes are probably meeting. The guidelines also address the issue of sedentary behaviours, and encourage us to break up long periods of sitting and limit our recreational screen time to less than three hours per day (they’re not talking about that three-hour Zwift ride you did yesterday!).  These sedentary behaviours have an independent impact on our health, even if we are otherwise active. Sedentary behaviours are also increasing as we are online for more of our daily activities, with few if any natural reasons to get up and move around.

Introducing some “movement snacks” or “mini-workouts” into our day can help to break up the periods of sedentarism and decrease the negative effects of this behaviour on our health.  A simple way to do this is to set a timer for 20, 30 or 40 minutes and get up and walk around the house whenever the timer rings. Another option is to pick some specific task you do regularly at work and stand up or walk around whenever you do that activity.  Phone calls, webinars or video conferences are good examples of opportunities to move.  If neither of those approaches work, you can insert a little movement snack at transition points – between meetings, after finishing one task etc.

Related: 4 ways to improve your mental and physical health during the pandemic

But, as triathletes with busy lives, can we get double the impact of these movement snacks? Going for a walk is great if all we want to do is reduce your sedentary time, but what else could you be doing with that time?  Ask yourself the following question – what are the little things that you should be working on but never seem to do?  Is it stretching your hip flexors?  Is it shoulder stability? Core?  These “movement snacks” are the ideal time to address any of these concrete, bite-sized goals.  You can pick a few target areas to slot into several of these snacks throughout the day.

Once you have identified the area you want to work on, pick two to three movements at most.  You don’t want to overload these breaks or they won’t be sustainable.  You also want to avoid the temptation to “solve” any one issue during one of these movement snacks.  The goal is to break up our periods of sedentarism and to do it with movement that is part of a long-term plan to move us towards our training and performance goals.  We are not trying to get in a complete workout or totally exhaust ourselves – these are not two-minute high-intensity interval training sessions.

Here are some ideas for movement snacks that target common areas of need for triathletes:


  • 10x 2s hold of an active isolated hip flexor stretch.
  • 10x 2s hold of an active isolated calf stretch.
  • 10x 2s hold of an active isolated hamstring stretch.

Shoulder Stability:

  • 8 I-Y-T shoulder raises with a light weight
  • 8 stretch-band lat pull-downs
  • 8 scapular retractions with band


  • 30s front plank (with variations if you want)
  • 30s side plank on each side
  • 15 bird dogs

Hip Stability and Lower Body Control:

  • 20 ¼ squats on each side
  • 15 one-leg hip thrusts on each side
  • 8 single-leg Romanian deadlifts on each side

Each of these movement sequences should take you no more than two to three minutes. This is enough to break up those long periods of sitting and bring you the associated health benefits, but also to help you achieve your triathlon goals.

Darian Silk is a triathlon coach and Certified Exercise Physiologist based in Toronto.  Read more about Darian at https://teamatomica.com/training/coaching/coach-darian-silk/  or email him at darian@teamatomica.com.  You can also check out his TrainingPeaks profile here : https://www.trainingpeaks.com/coach/darian-atomica