If you want to improve your running, you don’t need to totally overhaul your training.
Sometimes, the smallest changes can result in the largest results.
Pimp Your Run
All runners can benefit from adding strength work into their training plan.
Strength training will strengthen your muscles and joints (which will decrease your risk of injury) and will increase your power, flexibility, balance, and mobility.
It will balance your muscles and help power you forward.
Your strength routine doesn’t need to be complex or elaborate. It doesn’t have to require extra equipment or classes, although taking a weekly class that focuses on strength can be a great approach for getting strength work done.
Just adding in a few simple bodyweight exercises after your mid-week runs (think squats and lunges) a few times a week can produce huge gains.
Mid-Run Form Check
Even if you started your run with the best form, your form can start to slip as you fatigue.
As you run, especially during your long runs, check in with your form regularly and reset any form issues that have arisen.
- Are you still running upright or have you started to slouch?
- How are your shoulders? Are they creeping up towards your ears?
- Are you still picking up your feet or have you started to shuffle (pro tip: shuffling your feet will greatly increase your chances of tripping).
Correct any form breaks and shake out your hands, wrists, and shoulders.
Do a few butt kickers to wake up your legs.
‘Shoot the moon’ to reset your form – on the run, raise both arms like you are shooting a basketball free throw. This may look (and feel) a little ridiculous, but it will reset your body and you’ll run a little more upright.
If you are still running, I’ll assume you’re still breathing, but that isn’t always enough.
Breathing deeply (or the failure to do so) can have a significant impact on your stress levels and tension on the run.
During your run, make sure you are breathing deeply and getting enough air into your lungs.
Inhale deeply through your nose, feeling the air fill your belly, chest, and lungs. Hold the air in a few moments, then release the breath.
Visualize clean air circulating throughout your body.
Visualize stresses, tension and struggle being released as you release your breath.
Many runners view hydration as either optional or an annoying necessity.
Proper hydration on the run (and in your life) will have a huge impact on your health.
Being properly hydrated can boost your immune system, lower your cortisol (your stress hormone) levels, and will help your circulation.
But don’t ‘cram’ your hydration. Don’t slam gallons of water before you run. That will only result in many mid-run potty stops and possibly over-hydration
Instead, drink water regularly throughout the day and eat lots of fruits and veggies (which contain lots of water).
Carry a water bottle on the run, and sip from it regularly.
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Cool-Down And Recover Properly
Don’t just finish your run and head back into your real life. Take a few moments to cool-down properly.
Some runners may feel ‘recovery’ is something you only have to do after a long run or a hard track workout, or that it is something only elite runners need to do. But properly cooling-down and recovering will have several physical and mental benefits.
Physical Cool Down
Stretch. In the first hour after you finish, do some easy stretching. This will increase muscle elasticity and reduce stiffness.
Refuel. Especially after long runs, your body’s energy stores will be depleted. Within about 30 minutes of finishing, have a protein and carb-rich snack.
Rehydrate. Drink water, a sports drink, or a specialized recovery drink. Even if you’ve been hydrating well on the run, you’ll need to rehydrate when you are done.
Keep moving. After a run, it can be tempting to sit down and relax, but if you immediately sit down, your muscles and tendons will tighten up and you’ll barely be able to move. Keep moving and walking around.
Foam Roll and stretch later in the day. This will improve your mobility and reduce stiffness.
Mental Cool Down
Acknowledge your effort. In that first hour after your run, congratulate yourself for doing your run and finishing it. Regardless of what happened on the run, you should acknowledge seeing it through.
Capture your thoughts. After your run, take a few moments to consider your run. How did you feel? What worked? What didn’t? Capturing these thoughts right after the run can help you notice trends and patterns, which will allow you to maximize what is working for you, and minimize what isn’t.
Getting a solid night’s sleep is as important to your training as any run on your training calendar.
Make sleep a priority, not just the thing you do with the time left over after all your other chores are done.
To improve your sleep:
- Set a night alarm/notification to alert you when it’s time to prepare for bed.
- Build a nightly routine (with journalling, easy stretching, and preparing for tomorrow) so your body will get to know when it’s time to start winding down.
- Go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time every day. Trying to ‘making up’ for lost sleep doesn’t work. It will just leave you feeling (basically) jet-lagged.
- Know that every body is different and has different needs. Just because a business hotshot only needs 3 hours of sleep a night doesn’t mean you can get away with the same schedule.
What about you? What minor tweaks have you made to improve your running?
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