2/2/17

4 tips to improve your running fitness

 

6 minutes or 14 minutes. It doesn't matter how long it takes you to cover a mile, a mile is still a mile.

For all fitness levels, running is a great sport to challenge your mind and body. But even better, running does not require a gym membership, it's fairly inexpensive and you can do it almost anywhere (and anytime) and it comes with a list of benefits including body composition changes, fitness gains, stress relief and self-confidence.

While running can provide you with a great endorphin-rush, making you feel like you are capable of tackling everything on your to-do list after you finish a run workout, running does come with a few downfalls.

Running is very corrosive on the body and in order to reduce the risk for injuries and health issues, longevity in the sport of running requires a careful balance of consistent training, good economy, proper recovery, excellent nutrition and listening to the body. 

Running is rather hard on the body and not every human body is designed to be a runner. Running requires good flexibility and range of motion as well as exceptional cardiorespiratory endurance and muscular strength. Injuries due to overtraining, poor biomechanics and improper shoes or increasing mileage too quickly are very common in runners of all fitness levels.

If you are looking to extend your running career or you are hoping to improve your running fitness, I have 4 important tips to help you enjoy your running journey.

Build a strong body As great as it feels to check-off an hour run off your to-do list, it’s important that you build a strong and resilient body before you try to increase your speed and distance. Strength training is an important part of a balanced running routine for a weak body increases the risk for injury. It’s recommended to include 2-3 x 20-40 minute sessions of functional (ex. run-specific) strength training each week into your running routine alongside strength based running (ex. incline walking and hill strides).  Runners should aim to improve strength in the hips, glutes, lower back and core to ensure good pelvis strength but don't neglect the arms and feet. Bottom line, don't try to run yourself to a stronger body. Incorporate strength training and strength-based running to become a more resilient runner with better economy. 

Consistency is keyWhen you start your run training, you will either feel amazing and the miles will tick away naturally OR you will struggle with recovery after runs and you will find yourself sore, tired and unmotivated to continue. Based on research, the magic number of runs per week is between three and five. Less runs can place just as much stress on your body as running too much. Frequency training improves endurance, speed and stamina but you need consistent training to help you adapt to training stress with proper recovery. Also, frequent running allows you to focus on your economy and cadence, without having each run be a "key" workout designed to improve your lactate threshold or aerobic endurance. Develop a smart training plan that gives you several times to run per week,with different intensities and duration's, with no run workout being too exhausting that you can't recover from it before your next run workout. When you aren't running, consider cross training like swimming or cycling to bridge you from one run workout to the next. 


It’s not just about the running milesNothing can replace hard work so if you want to be a better runner, you have to pay your physical dues. But being a "better runner" requires so much more than running x-miles a week or running x-pace. Take a look at your lifestyle and recognize that good restful sleep (7-8 hours), a positive attitude, good stress management, attention to sport nutrition, balanced daily nutrition, a healthy immune system, good mobility, proper pacing, using RPE instead of being a slave to your gadget and a good warm-up will help you improve your running fitness. In other words, think about what you are doing when you are not running if you want to become a better, stronger and faster runner. 

Running is not punishment - You do not need to earn your food by running. If you find yourself running to earn a treat or to burn off food that you feel guilty about eating or because you hate your body, you are running for the wrong reasons. Running allows you to enjoy the fresh air, it takes you to different places, it helps you socialize with like-minded individuals and it helps you de-stress. Running should make you feel good. If you find yourself using your run training as a way to feel more in control over your eating choices or to reward yourself with "off limit" food, you may be forming a dysfunctional relationship with exercise, which may lead to disordered eating or excessive exercising. Make sure your reasons for exercising or training for an event are for the right reasons. Run to get stronger, to relieve stress, to feel confident about your body and to challenge your limits. Do not run for punishment, to earn food, to reward yourself, to justify eating certain foods or because you shame your body. Running should not control your life, your food choices or your thoughts about your body but instead, should add value to your life. Be grateful that you can use your body to run for there are many people in this world who are unable to enjoy the benefits of running.

In case you missed it, you can learn more about nutrition for runners in my recent Q&A Facebook LIVE chat with Run In.