05-27-2015

5 Things You Can Do To Be A Better Runner Right Now

If you’re a runner, you are probably trying to consistently improve. You know certain things, like building up mileage or nailing a PR, take time. However, there are things you can start doing today that will immediately impact your running. Let’s take a look at what those things are :)

Start doing these 5 things today to become a better runner!

Hip Openers

Most runners have tight hip flexors…it’s a common complaint. But tight hips can lead to a myriad of problems and biomechanical issues like lower back pain. When your hip flexors are tight, it can cause anterior pelvic tilt (your lower back arches, belly sticks), which is what can lead to back pain.

Hip flexors are usually tight because most of us sit all day in an office chair, which leads to tightening and shortening of the hip flexors, and lengthening and weakening of the glutes. Stretch your hips and do glute activating exercises people! ;)

A few of my favorite hip openers are: the usual one, where you lunge forward, put a knee on the floor and lean forward, pigeon pose (or modified pigeon pose), and butterfly. If you only have time for a few stretches after a run, make it a series of hip openers.

Yoga

Going along with the above, start doing yoga! At first you might feel a bit awkward and unnatural, but it is a great way to increase strength, flexibility and balance…which are all so important in running. Once you start practicing regularly, you’ll notice that yoga will improve your range of motion. I used to not even be able to get into pigeon pose, and now I can do it with my forehead on the floor. And I was only doing yoga like 2-3 times a week!

We all have muscle imbalances, and running can exacerbate that. Yoga will help point out those imbalances to you so you can work on them. For example, I know that my left foot can’t balance in tree pose – I’m falling all over the place. My right foot has no problem and I can stand there forever. This is an imbalance I’m trying to work on, especially if running is a series of single foot strikes! Here are 3 yoga poses you can start doing today.

Core Work

This is the number one thing I need to work on. I told you guys last week about doing the Tone It Up Bikini Abs routine and not even being able to finish it. Yikes. A strong core is what maintains your posture and keeps you running strong. A lack of core strength can cause improper running mechanics, which can lead to injuries. When a certain muscle group is weak, it means another muscle group is compensating for that weakness and overworking. Apparently, 90% of runners have weak abs!

Don’t be a statistic (speaking to myself as well here) – work on your core! We know planks are an excellent core exercise. If you don’t want to do a video, at least throw in 3-4 exercises after your runs. Here are 4 key core exercises you can start doing.

Single Leg Training

Squats, squats, squats. And maybe deadlifts. That’s usually what people think of when they hear “leg day.” But runners also need to throw in some different exercise that directly correlates with running – aka single leg exercises.

Single leg exercises not only work your legs, but also your core, since it is a balancing act. According to Active:

Single-leg balance training teaches you to isolate and strengthen specific balance muscles while improving your reaction time. Only when muscles are balanced can the body run fast and efficient for long periods of time.

Something I have yet to master is the single leg squat…I can probably squat down like 5 inches. But one of my favorite exercises is the single leg deadlift/reach, or add in dumbbells to make it more challenging. OR do a single leg deadlift into a row to throw in some upper body action too.

Only have time for one exercise? Do a single leg balance, as Jenny Hadfield suggests. I start with 30 seconds and once that is easier I move on up. I’ve also done single leg balances on a bosu ball, which is obviouslt more challenging. Once either of those feels too easy, try doing them with your eyes closed. 

Strides

I remember doing strides at the end of runs during high school cross country, and I still do them to this day. Strides are accelerations for about 20-30 seconds. 

Strides help you work on your running form and mechanics. You can really focus on your form when you’re only running for a short period of time. Focus on quick foot turnover and pumping your arms. Strides help you learn how to quickly move your feet, which is key at the end of a race. They also help stretch out your legs after a run, and add some speed to your training runs without taxing your body like a track workout. 

When doing strides, start off at your normal pace, speed up to about 90% max, then gradually slow down. Don’t abruptly start or stop. I usually do an amount equal to what I ran. For example, 3 strides after a 3 miler, 6 strides after a 6 miler. Start with 3 after your runs and gradually increase.

Like I mentioned, focus on quick foot turnover, and also on keeping everything relaxed. Really focus on how your muscles feel. Are your arms and shoulders tense? Is your face tense? Are your fists balled up? Relaaaxxxxxxx everything and work on remembering that during the home stretch of your next race.

Sure a lot of things take time when it comes to running. If you’re a marathoner, you know what you do now will improve you running perhaps months or years down the road. Building up base mileage takes time. A lot of other things take time for you to see the effects. But I believe if you start adding these 5 things into your running routine, you’ll immediately feel the changes in your running and strength.

Which of these do you do regularly/is your number 1 running priority?

What do you need to work on? (I predict a lot of comments saying “core” lol)

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