Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner or considering trying on your new running shoes for the first time, we’ve gathered together the 5 tops essential tips to get you running farther, faster, longer, and stronger.
1) Unleash your inner Yogi!!
Starting straight at one of my top tips, stretching!!!! I’m not talking about a 5 minute after a run, putting your foot on a park bench/table and attempting to touch your toes type of stretch. I’m talking about a dedicated 30 – 40 minute stretch, where you spend at least 30 seconds in each position and then repeat, pushing deeper each time. This stretch should be the last exercise you do that day as any strenuous movement will just tighten you back up. Starting out I would recommend performing this dedicated stretching session 3-5 times a week, as you progress you can cut back to 2 sessions spread out evenly or after a hard session. However, best practice is to maintain at least 3 times per week. Foam rolling is a bonus.
Benefits: Increased range of motion, reduced chance of injury and reduced energy consumption.
Top Tip: Stretch after a hot bath, it will act as a warm up and make it easier to really work out those tight muscles!
2) Push your boundaries
As a species the Human race is inherently lazy!! Our bodies only care about surviving, so why should it spend its valuable energy to grow muscle, increase red blood cell production and produce hormones. Unless forced to it won’t!! So by going beyond what is comfortable your body will respond. As a runner a great way of doing this is Tempo runs. With a sports watch this is slightly easier. However, using effort rating is just as effective. After your warm up start jogging and build up speed until you reach an effort rating of around 7-8 out of 10 (10 being the hardest), maintain this speed for as long as you can. When you do eventually slow down maintain a jog at an effort rating of around a 2-3 out of 10, it will take longer for your lungs to recover after doing this. However, since you are maintaining blood flow your muscles will recover faster and you won’t cool down and risk injury. When you have recovered (able to speak easily) speed back up to an effort rating of 7-8 and repeat the process. Repeat as many times as to fill a minimum session time of 30 minutes.
Benefits: Increased lung capacity, lactic acid resistance, muscle ability and speed maintenance.
Top Tip: During the 7-8 effort rating, try to raise your knee and land more towards the forefoot for an added form correction benefit.
3) Slow down
I know, I know….. I just told you to speed up and unleash you inner Man Beast and now I’m asking you to take it easy. The truth is you need to train all aspects of your aerobic and anaerobic systems to become a great runner. By training slow, especially the day after a heavy session, you are allowing your body to increase the flow of lovely fresh blood filled with oxygen and nutrients ready to heal damaged muscle and to blast out nasty waste products. In addition your body becomes more efficient at processing oxygen and therefore you will be able to travel at higher speeds before starting that downward spiral that is being anaerobic. All you need to do is jog at a pace where talking is easy for a minimum of 30 minutes and a maximum of 60 minutes. The reason there is an upper limit on this training is to stop the body from overtraining and re-damaging the muscles…not what we want!!
Benefits: Faster recovery, increased aerobic ability and decrease of stress.
Top Tip: This is a really easy session to do and is best done with a friend, so go grab your BFF and get going.
4) King of the mountain
If you want the stamina of Pheidippides (The guy the marathon is based on) and the speed of Hermes, then you need to start including hills in your regime. The extra resistance of climbing a hill will give your leg muscles a fantastic work and due to the extra work your muscles will be doing your cardio respiratory system will be working in overload….which is a good thing!! In addition climbing hills also trains your running form by forcing you to raise your knee and drive further with your back leg. By doing this for extended periods of time your body will adapt to the new running style and you will be able to transfer this new skill to running on a flat surface.
Benefits: Increased leg strength, increased anaerobic ability, form correction.
Top Tip: When descending try to lean forward slightly and stride out, this will allow your body to use gravity rather than fight against it. Warning: start slowly and allow yourself to lean more forward when you feel more comfortable.
5) Become a Social Sally
Running with a group of people or just a really good friend makes the whole experience so much better. It not only adds a social aspect (meeting for a run then a coffee) but adds accountability. If you make plans to run with a friend or group it is very hard to find a reasonable excuse not to go.
The key to success in any exercise is consistency, so don’t let yourself get in your own way and allow your friends to help you push through the barriers you are facing.
Benefits: Camaraderie, consistency and FUN!!
Top Tip: Join a running club or park run and instantly find a group of likeminded people, ready and willing to help you achieve.