What’s the secret to making your running training effective? You know, all the way to the expert level. Is it just a case of trying, failing, and learning what works?
The path of trial and error is the one most of us have to take, but luckily, there’s a lot you can do to become a better runner. But, what exactly?
We asked researchers, coaches, and professional athletes what makes running training effective and as a result, we put together these 6 steps to progress in running.
1. Run outside your comfort zone
The human body tends to do what’s comfortable but staying in your comfort zone will lead to a stagnant state with no progress in sight.
Working on the aspects that feel challenging is where you can make the biggest improvements. That’s because the body reacts to overload and develops when pushed outside its comfort zone.
So, you should do what feels (slightly) unpleasant, which means:
- If you hate doing flexibility and you’ve gone out of your way to avoid it, that’s what you should be doing.
- If you like long runs, but hate getting your heart rate up, you should still include some high tempo work in your training.
Spot The Missing Elements
Look at what you’re doing on a weekly and monthly basis to see what’s missing from your running training.
See what other athletes are doing and learn from them. But don’t copy blindly – adapt the best practices that serve you.
2. spice Up Your Training
It’s easy to get caught up with focusing on just one type of running, but avoid getting stuck doing one thing and one thing only.
Make sure your running training is varied and enjoyable. That will help you reach peak performance on race day.
For example, if you’re training for a marathon, long runs are key, but at the same time, it’s necessary to build your threshold running and possibly even do a prep race to check progress.
Personalize Your Plan
Build a running training plan that fits your lifestyle and fitness level and keep in mind nothing should be set in stone: Adjust the plan if and when necessary.
Build Up Gradually
Build your running training gradually: just by a few minutes or short distances a week – and make sure the increased effort is easy to manage.
3. Do ONe core Workout A week
A strong core makes you a better runner, but you don’t necessarily have to work on your core every day or for hours on end.
Research suggests that one 30-minute strength session per week produces the same results as two. So, instead of increasing frequency, you should invest in the duration and intensity of your core workouts.
If you only have a few minutes, focus on quality and opt for integrated core exercises that strengthen the front, back, and side of your core at the same time. That way you can make the most of the little time you have to become a better runner.
As an example of an integrated core exercise: a hover (a low plank) with your shoulders stacked above your elbows and your forearms down on the ground.
Strengthen The Hip
When you’re in the hover, lift and extend one leg, float the leg away from the body and and back in.
4. Save your stretches for later
Scientific evidence suggests that stretching before running doesn’t reduce injury, but could reduce power. Whereas stretching post-run may have some benefit for tight muscles.
That’s because stretching creates space in the body and better mobility and range of movement, which can improve your running speed and lower the risk of injury.
Keep Running And Stretching Separate
If you run in the morning, stretch in the afternoon or evening, and vice versa.
Stretch These Muscle Groups
- Calf muscles
- Hip abductors and the groin
5. WARM UP to become a better runner
While many runners tend to skip warming up before running, the commonly held belief is that warming up drastically reduces the occurrence of injuries, be it muscle, tendon, or bone.
Warming up before running is essential, especially if your goal is performance-oriented. Warming up is a way to make sure your body is awake on a neuromuscular level and minimize the risk of injuries.
Keep It Simple
Do some easy leg swings and lunges or try 20 minutes of easy jogging as a warm-up.
Mix Things Up
To find out what kind of warm-up works best for you, you can try different things and test, for example, if including 15-second sprints in your warm-up makes your race pace feel like a breeze.
6. Be open to advice
In many respects, you are the best expert when it comes to your body and how it reacts to training. However, on the flip side, everyone has something to learn when it comes to running – no matter your expertise level.
If you’re serious about becoming a better runner, getting a second (expert) opinion can be invaluable. This is because over time we all become blind to our own ideas and plans.
Getting an outside opinion doesn’t always mean hiring a running coach. The advice can come from a physical therapist or an online running group with some solid experience-based expertise.
Connect With Other Runners
Join a running group in your area to meet others and hear advice from more experienced runners.
Ask An Expert
Hire a running coach (or try online coaching) to help you with your running technique or find a physical therapist to help you tackle muscle weaknesses and imbalances.
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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.