This quick guide will boost your speed and endurance.
If you just started running, you’re probably concerned with two things: running farther and running faster. And you’re not alone: Those are the fundamental goals of runners at all levels, ages, and speeds, which means—sorry—you might not ever feel like you “made it” as a runner. Your pace and distance ambitions will simply adjust according to your experience. (FWIW, you can totally run simply for the joy of it, but you wouldn’t have clicked on this story if that was your only goal, right?)
The good news is, the same training principles will hold true for the rest of your running career—so learning them early is a solid first step.
“You need to do a mix of speed work and slower endurance training to develop both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems,” says Greg Grosicki, Ph.D., an assistant professor and director of the exercise physiology laboratory at Georgia Southern University.
That goes for your first 5K and 50th marathon, but you’ll notice the biggest changes during your first two to three months of training, Grosicki says. “Gradual and consistent training will continue to enhance your performance potential from there.”
But what should that training look like, exactly? Keep these training tips on how to increase running speed in mind as you embark on your speed-endurance mission.
1. Increase your mileage each week.
Take a quick look at the structure of a few training plans (even if you’re not training for a race just yet). They’re designed to gradually increase your distance and push your speed—without overdoing it—which usually translates to a few short weekday runs, then one weekend long run that gets progressively longer each week.
“To see progress, you need to keep subjecting your body to a stimulus it isn’t used to, in this case longer distances and faster speeds,” says Matt Lee, Ph.D., certified exercise physiologist and a professor of kinesiology at San Francisco State University. “You gradually overload the body, let it adapt, then overload it a little more, let it adapt, and so on.” Before you know it, you’ll be up to a mile, 5K, 10K, half marathon, and so on.
2. Listen to your body.
So, how many miles should you add to your DIY training plan each week? Common running wisdom says not to increase your total mileage by any more than 10 percent a week, but Grosicki says there’s no reason to limit yourself that much if you’re feeling good. In fact, an American Journal of Sports Medicine study found that runners had the same injury rates regardless of whether or not they followed the “10 percent” rule.
That doesn’t mean you should double your mileage over the course of seven days (that’s a one-way ticket to shin splints)—it just means you should pay attention to how you’re feeling and adjust your mileage accordingly. “The best rule of thumb is to use common sense and listen to your body,” Grosicki says. “Most hard training sessions should be followed by at least one—and probably two—easier recovery days.”
Some signs you need a rest day? “Besides any obvious aches and pains, feeling like you’re getting sick, irritability, loss of appetite, and poor sleep all signal that you’re overdoing it,” Grosicki says.
3. Add speed to your long runs.
Weekly speed work is helpful (see next), but it doesn’t exactly replicate a real-life race. “I’m a big proponent of throwing speed work into long runs to prepare your body to push through the inevitable fatigue you’ll experience in a race,” Grosicki says. Try picking up the pace for the last minute of every mile.
[Smash your goals with a Runner’s World Training Plan, designed for any speed and any distance.]
4. Do separate speed workouts—but don’t stress over them.
Grosicki suggests an easy-to-remember speed workout that builds on itself every week, like 4 half-mile repeats with 2 minutes of easy jogging or walking in between. “Do the same workout the following week and try to beat your time.” If you beat your record without a problem, add another half-mile interval or extend the distance.
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On the flip side, if speed work feels totally miserable right now, only focus on your endurance for a bit. “Running for 20 consecutive minutes can be daunting when you’re a beginner,” Grosicki says. And that’s okay—you’re still progressing every time you hit the pavement. “Build an ‘endurance base,’ then slowly add in some simple speed intervals from there.”
Because really, the best way to boost your speed and endurance as a beginner is to make running fun—not miserable—so you keep at it, one step at a time.
Become a better, faster runner with these expert tips on improving pace, endurance and confidence.
It happens to all of us. We start a new exercise routine with the best intentions, raring to go and determined to stick at it. But it’s all too easy to become disheartened when you feel like your hard work isn’t yet paying off, a mindset that allows us to slip out of our good habits. Before we know it, it’s been weeks since we last strength trained or ran a 5k, and then we’re back to the beginning again.
There’s no doubt that progress is motivating, so if you continued to improve on your training every session, you’d have no reason to lose exercise motivation. Only, that’s not how your body works. Unfortunately, we can’t hit a new 10k personal best every time. Sometimes, our progress stagnates, or even goes backwards, before getting better.
That’s particularly true when it comes to running. Plateaus are extremely common, and feeling as though you’re not improving can lead some people to want to put their running shoes away for good.
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But improving your runs is possible – even if it feels as though you’ve been stuck running a 30 minute 5k for months and months on end. From little technique changes to building up confidence when on the roads, there are tweaks you can make to your training to feel as though you’re getting somewhere – regardless of whether your goal is to get faster, run further or enjoy running more.
We asked running experts to share their tips – here’s what they said.
How to improve running distance
“If you want to improve on your running distance, you need to do it gradually,” says Fiit master trainer and running expert from the Strong Women Collective Adrienne Herbert. Not only is this important to help you avoid injury when you run, but also because you need to leave room for yourself to improve over time.
So, rather than just jumping from 5k runs straight into a 10k, the best way to up the distance is to follow the 10% rule, according to Adrienne. “Increase your total distance or time out running by 10% week-on-week,” she says. That means if you’re used to running 5ks, your first longer run should only be 5.5k, and the next week, just over 6k.
Incrementally making things harder will stop your body from plateauing further down the line and keep the challenge feeling manageable.
“Learning how to breath more efficiently for running is also important, particularly in longer runs when you may be more susceptible to stitches,” says Paralympic athlete Claire Cashmore. “Focus on breathing right through the belly and the diaphragm to maximise the oxygen uptake.”
How to improve running speed
“Learning how to pace myself as a runner was something that took some getting used to,” says Claire. While the tempting thing to do is to speed off, that won’t help you improve your performance across the run. In fact, you’ll probably just burn out. Tracking your runs can help you get a handle on that, or even just set a timer so you know you’re not getting ahead of yourself.
“If you want to work on your speed, I recommend interval training,” adds Adrienne. “That’s where you push yourself to your 90% effort for one minute and then go into an active recovery, where you jog and you drop the pace for 30 seconds. Doing this type of interval training on the road or a treadmill will help you to smash that PB!”
The reason? You’re teaching your body to be explosive, fast and powerful. That’s also why Claire recommends strength training as a way to improve your running speed. “I spend a lot of time pre-run doing drills and strength and conditioning to work on my weak calves and engage my glutes. In particular, pogo drills and calf raises have been really beneficial to me in staying injury-free and also increasing my speed.”
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How to improve running confidence
If it’s nerves, frustration or embarrassment that are holding you back from running, remember: you only get better at the things you do most often. “Don’t worry about how fast you run, forget about the pace and just focus on consistency,” says Adrienne of building up your running esteem. “Just reward yourself for ticking off those three runs, it doesn’t matter how far or fast they are, and you’ll feel your confidence gradually increase.”
For Claire, confidence comes from nailing the basics before mastering her speed or distance. “I set aside certain runs to specifically focus on my form and technique. I make sure that I am leaning slightly forward all the way from my feet and running tall, as well as maintaining a high cadence (foot turnover speed) and keeping my upper body relaxed.
“If I feel any of these slipping throughout the course of my run, I stop the run – even if it’s only after 10 minutes.”
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Tracking can be useful for some to gain more confidence too. If you love data, like Claire, then “measuring running stats, such as ground contact time and cadence using an INCUS device, can ensure I’m keeping consistent”. It also means you can’t get in your own head – while things may be up and down, you will see an upward curve on the graph of progress after building up your confidence and consistency.
Try not to be too hard on yourself for one bad run or one bad week. Remember that there’s so much that can impact your training, from where you are in your menstrual cycle to what you ate for dinner the night before. Your body’s progress isn’t necessarily a reflection of how hard you’ve worked, but you will see results if you keep going.
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You don’t need to be fast to run like the pros. In fact, top endurance athletes tend to spend most of their time training at an easy pace, according to running coach and best-selling author Matt Fitzgerald. He said it’s a consistent pattern among professional athletes in different endurance sports all over the world.
“The top performers seem to do about 80 percent of their training at low intensity, 20 percent at moderate to high intensity,” said Fitzgerald, who introduced this method in his 2014 book “80/20 Running.”
While controlled studies have found that the 80/20 method also yields the best training results for recreational athletes, and may also reduce injuries, Fitzgerald said runners tend to spend most of their time training at moderate intensities, which can actually hurt progress. It’s what he calls the “moderate intensity rut,” which he compares to being “a little bit chronically sleep deprived.”
Athletes who habitually train at just above their moderate intensity threshold are “carrying around this chronic burden of unprocessed fatigue,” he said, which can prevent their bodies from adapting.
“So it’s almost like you’re just lighting two minutes out of every five on fire,” he said. “You’re wasting your training time.”
The 80/20 method is far from the only pro running habit that everyday runners can embrace. In his upcoming book “Run Like A Pro (Even If You’re Slow): Elite Tools and Tips for Runners at Every Level,” scheduled for release in March, Fitzgerald and co-author Ben Rosario expand on elite training methods that can help almost anyone become a better runner.
Fitzgerald recommends trying these pro tips from the book to up your running game:
The 80/20 rule is the number-one pro habit most of us can adopt to improve our running, according to Fitzgerald. There are different ways to integrate 80/20 into your routine. If you run 200 minutes per week, you’ll want to spend about 160 of those minutes at low intensity and the rest at moderate and high intensity combined, said Fitzgerald. Use this as a loose guideline to inform your runs. Let’s say you do five runs a week. You can do three of those runs at a slow intensity and two runs at moderate to high intensity, or you can divide each run into 80/20 splits. For example, you can split each run into intervals, running at 20 minutes low intensity and then 10 minutes at high intensity. What matters most is that you are intentionally keeping a slow pace during your low intensity runs. “It doesn’t have to be drastic, but if you slow down just a little bit and are disciplined in executing those easier sessions, your body will just be able to absorb the stress and benefit from it more,” Fitzgerald said.
An easy way to know if you are running too fast is to get a smartwatch that monitors heart rate. You can also do what Fitzgerald calls the “talk test.” At a slow pace, you should be able to speak comfortably in full sentences. If you find that difficult, you are running too fast.
Want to be a faster runner Slow down, says running coach and best-selling author Matt Fitzgerald. Courtesy of Napa Valley Marathon
Exercise more, but within your limits
Becoming a better runner doesn’t mean training like an elite marathoner. Rather, you can get better simply by dialing up your training within your own limits, according to Fitzgerald. Once you adopt the 80/20 method, he said, this should be easy. “You’ll probably just have more energy, and you’ll have a desire to maybe do a little bit more,” he said.
Warm up, stretch and strength train
A big mistake many recreational runners make is neglecting to warm up before they run, said Fitzgerald. In comparison, the pros will often do “multi-part warmups” before they even head out the door. “They’ll actually start to get up out of their chair first and do some muscle activation exercises, simple ways of waking up your muscles and getting ready to run,” he said, “then they’ll jog a little bit and then they’ll do some drills.”
A little strength and mobility training can also go a long way for many runners, he added. He said two 20-minute strength training sessions a week is all it usually takes for beginners to see results. And mobility training and stretching can be done almost anywhere, he said. “People who start doing that just tend to start to feel younger, more athletic,” said Fitzgerald, who often stretches in the evenings while spending time with his wife. Adding cross training to your routine is another pro habit that can boost performance, he said. For example, one cycling session a week can aid training while reducing the impact on your legs.
Skip the fad diets
Unlike many recreational runners, pros typically eschew fad diets. “They tend to follow just a high-quality, well-balanced, normal diet for whatever their culture happens to be,” Fitzgerald said. But wherever they live in the world, pro runners tend to eat a wholesome diet. “The grains are whole grains, all the meats are unprocessed,” he said. Recreational runners, however, often embrace fad diets that don’t support their training goals. “They might follow a diet that’s more appropriate for weight loss, when in fact, they should be emulating the pros, and doing something that’s better for fitness and performance,” he said.
Know when to quit
A big difference between the pros and everyone else is their ability to listen to their body. Recreational runners may force themselves to train through an injury or off day in the belief that taking a break is tantamount to failure. But elite runners usually don’t hesitate to quit a workout that feels off, Fitzgerald said, opting instead to “save it for another day.”
Julie Compton is a freelance journalist in Brooklyn, New York. Follow her @julieallmighty.
Getting faster isn’t all about the time you spend on your feet
If you want to get better at anything, you have to do that thing consistently and often, and the same holds true for running. If you want to be a better runner, you have to run. Of course, there’s only so much running you can realistically do in a day, especially if you’ve got a full-time job, family commitments and social engagements. The good news is, there are several ways you can improve your running performance that don’t involve any extra running, and none of them require you to change your daily routines in a significant way.
Recover (a.k.a. sleep)
Sleep is probably the easiest way to improve your running performance and is also likely the most effective on this list. The reason is that you don’t gain fitness during your runs and workouts, you gain fitness during the time between sessions when your body is recovering. Sleep is the ultimate form of recovery when your body is completely at rest, so if you’re getting less than seven to eight hours of sleep per night, you’re missing out on some serious recovery time (and thus, some major performance gains).
Nutrition is crucially important to running well — hence why we have an entire section of our website dedicated to it. This doesn’t just mean eating vegetables. Good running nutrition means eating enough to support your training, making sure your meals are balanced so you’re getting all the nutrients you need, drinking enough water to keep you hydrated and energized and timing your meals and snacks so you’re fuelling your workouts properly. If you’re concerned your nutrition is holding you back, make an appointment with a dietitian who has knowledge about running who can help you make a few tweaks to maximize your performance.
If you haven’t gotten on board with strength training yet, you really should. You don’t have to spend hours in the gym or start doing complicated moves with hundreds of pounds. All it takes is a few simple, effective exercises that are done with good form and consistency to become a stronger, more injury-resilient runner.
Work on your breath
If you’re like many runners, you’re probably not breathing as deeply as you could be. Particularly when we start to increase the pace, we start breathing even more shallowly, which is exactly the time when taking full, deep breaths is even more important. As runner and physiotherapist, Brittany Moran, suggested in this interview, runners should focus on expanding their lungs fully when they breathe to get the most oxygen possible to their working muscles. Deep breathing can be practiced when you’re laying in your bed before you go to sleep or before you get up, and once you’ve got a handle on it that way, you can graduate to sitting, then standing and then try it out on an easy run.
This goes hand-in-hand with breathwork but brings even more to the table. Yoga is a great way to practice mobility, balance, breathing, core strength and can help you decrease stress, which aids in recovery. Like strength training, you don’t need to spend hours in a yoga studio to reap the benefits, either — even 10-20 minutes a few times a week can go a long way.
Work on your form
Over the years many experts have tried to define exactly what proper running form looks like, but the truth is, running form will vary from person to person and there’s no “perfect” stride, foot strike, arm carriage, etc. That being said, there are certain aspects of running form that are worth working on to make you a more efficient runner. Trying to force yourself to change your form while you’re running likely won’t work (and could even lead to an injury), but doing some form drills a few times/week can go a long way in cementing good patterns that will translate to your runs over time.
Slow down your easy days
OK, so technically this involves running, but we’re not asking you to run any more than you’re already running, just that you change the way you approach some of your runs — 80 per cent of them, in fact. It may sound counter-intuitive to slow down if you want to get faster, but keeping your easy days easy will allow you to work harder on the days you’re supposed to, like during intervals and tempo runs. This will ultimately have a greater positive impact on your running performance than if you speed up your easy days and will prevent you from getting burnt out or injured.
Give this high-intensity cross-training workout a try!
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Jumping jacks are a great way to build fitness. Photo: www.shutterstock.com
Give this high-intensity cross-training workout a try!
The single best way to become a better runner is to, well, run. Adding distance, speed, and changing terrain are all great ways to test your limits as a runner and to become faster and more powerful. However, cross training can be just as beneficial when incorporated into your run training. Lifting weights can make you stronger and doing other varieties of cardio can work your muscles and lungs to become more powerful.
My favorite way to cross-train is to incorporate short high-intensity bursts of cardio into weight lifting for a one-hour workout. I teach this format of group fitness twice a week and it has certainly has had a positive impact on my run. Add this cross-training workout to your running schedule once a week and you will see a difference in your race times and maybe even your biceps, too.
Complete every cardio exercise for one minute and for every weighted exercise complete three sets of 12 to 20 reps. Use weights that are heavy enough that you feel very fatigued by the end of the three sets. If you can complete all three sets without fatiguing the muscles, increase your weight or complete more reps.
Warm up for five to 10 minutes with an easy run.
— Try pulsing on the last rep at the bottom of the squat for eight counts as well as taking the squats at a faster and slower pace. It works the muscles differently.
— Alternate sets of hammer and regular curl.
— Make sure your arms are strong and straight and your heels are touching the ground at every jack.
— Try and stay a plank position and avoid sticking your butt up in the air—it makes it easier.
— Don’t lunge your front knee over your toes. Concentrate on going straight down and straight up.
Driving The Car
— Hold a five- to 10-pound plate for the barbell or a hand weight with both hands straight out in front of you. Then move your hands like you were driving left to right in a car. Keep driving for 20 to 30 seconds. This should make your shoulders burn.
— Explode off the ground when you jump up.
— Alternate left and right focusing on bringing up the knee first then extending the knee.
— Your feet should be at least three or four feet apart and your toes should point out. Tuck your tailbone under and squat straight down and straight up.
— Keep your elbows in close enough to feel your biceps grazing the sides of your head.
— Use your arms to power up your jump.
— Jump side to side, front to back and straight up and down.
— Your arms should be about as wide as a yoga mat. Set your knees down if you can’t complete a regular push-up.
— Make sure your body is aligned straight from the top of your head to your heels and engage your abs.
You may be asking yourself the question “why am I not getting better at running?” Well, your not alone, many runners of all abilities get stuck in a plateau at some point. While there is no immediate fix when it comes to running faster, there are many ways you can get out of this plateau.
Running is just half the battle and you need to ask yourself “how consistent have I been?” To be consistent you need to prevent injuries.
Injuries can be prevented by supplementing running with core and strength work. Running can be hard on your body and a demanding sport. So take the time to strengthen your muscles, so they can help provide consistency in your training. As we all know consistency is one of the best ways to get faster at running.
If you are one of the lucky ones that stay injury-free, there could be other reasons while your running pace is getting slower or your running is not improving. One of these reasons could be from inconsistent run training.
While runners need some time off, there are parts of the season where you need to train more than others. One of the key factors in improving your running is not to let your base mileage dip too much. This means if your running 40k weeks, don’t let your lowest base mileage drop below 20 kilometers a week.
Runners that have inconsistent training periods tend to be the ones that are the most injured. They are constantly trying to rebuild their training cycle, which can increase their chance of injury. If injuries aren’t causing a drop in mileage, then you need to look at your training and find what is causing these inconsistencies.
Try to keep consistent in your training, even if you aren’t focusing on any specific race or goal. You will find your running will start to improve.
Why Am I Getting Worse At Running?
While inconsistent training and injuries can cause a plateau in running fitness. You could find yourself getting worse because of this. This is even worse than having a plateau in your fitness and diagnosing the problem can be quite tricky.
As a runner, we expect to make constant progress and this is why we set goals to start with. But what happens when our performance starts to decline and we find ourselves asking “Why am I getting worse at running?” Instead of getting depressed or training hard, first, you need to outline the cause of the decline.
Running too much is often a cause of performance decline. When you run too much you the body doesn’t have time to recover and repair itself. Although you may be thinking that more volume can improve your fitness, sometimes this can be counter-intuitive.
Rest days are just as important as the training itself, so making sure you are recovering enough is a key factor in allowing the body to build strength, muscle, and improve endurance.
So if you are increasing your mileage too fast, or not allowing enough recovery in your training you may be hampering your performance and goals. Make sure you take at least one rest day per week and allow the gains to be made from the training you have done.
If you have adequate recovery into your training plan, the next thing is to focus on the training. A common mistake with amateur runners is that they tend to push too hard, too often. While intervals, speed work, and tempo runs are an important ingredient to your training, they need to be done in moderation. Having too many hard days training a week doesn’t let you recover and often you will find that your pace decreases from fatigued and exertion increase. If you continue this trend, you will find yourself getting slower at running.
Why Is My Running Pace Getting Slower?
You may be asking yourself “Why is my running pace getting slower?” when you have been training more than ever before. Just because you are training more than before, this doesn’t automatically mean your pace will improve.
Running the same loops at the same intensity is a common occurrence between runners. From beginners to elite runners, we all get stuck in running the same speeds around the same loop constantly. Changing where you run and introducing some speed work can help increase your overall run speed. If you are constantly training at the same speed every day, your pace won’t get any faster and may actually decline.
Intervals, speed work, and tempo runs are an important ingredient to your training. If you allow adequate recovery you will see your running speed improve gradually. Whether you are entering a 5k, 10k, or a marathon. These types of workouts play a vital role in your performance.
If you have been doing regular speed work and you are still finding your pace is getting slower, you may find that the body is too fatigued to improve your performance.
This is the point where running is not getting easier. Every run you struggle to hold the pace and struggle through the workout. This is a point in your training when you need to take a period off from training. If your body is fatigued and too tired to complete workouts, you will get slower.
Take a few days off from running and try to allow the body to recover. If you find the fatigue is still there, look at taking a longer period of rest. This can be anywhere from one week to two weeks.
It is better to allow the body to recover properly, rather than constantly digging a hole. Over-training will end up stopping you from running for a much longer period of time.
How To Get Better At Running?
So after all of this “How do I get better at running”. Well is quite simple for the amateur runner. Focusing on key areas such as recovery, consistency, and variation, will help you see you progress much faster.
Look at introducing speed work or interval sessions twice per week and incorporate one rest day per week. Every fourth or fifth week try to plan for a rest week where your mileage and intensity decrease by 20-30%.
After you have planned these into your training make sure your lifestyle isn’t holding you back. Things like not enough sleep can play an essential role in your performance. Limiting the time the body repairs itself.
Pay attention to your nutrition. By focusing on eating less processed foods and sugar, you can get more sustained energy. Wholesome foods such as fruits and vegetables help keep a more stable blood sugar level.
Last but not least, try to limit the stress in your life. Your training should work around your current schedule. It shouldn’t increase stress but rather reduce stress. Look at hiring a running coach, or look towards a training plan that is built for you. This will take your current lifestyle into consideration and overall reduce stress.
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Trail running with an aversion to climbing is like surfing with a fear of being underwater. Yeah, you might be able to avoid it for a bit, but eventually you’ll find yourself in way over your head, deeply questioning your life decisions.
I can’t do anything for hydrophobic surfers, but all of us can be better uphill runners.
Trust me, I understand the struggle. I started trail running as a 190-pound ex-football player. At first, each uphill had me cursing plate tectonics.
Over time, though, I learned some lessons that made things better. Within a few years, I could survive the climbs, and eventually everything clicked. Six years after quitting football, 60 pounds lighter and a whole lot smarter, I was able to win the national trail 10K championship on a brutally hilly course.
Here are the four tips that let me get there.
1. Be strong from the waist down.
Fighting gravity is all about power-to-weight ratio, whether it involves going to a mountaintop or the moon. Like a Saturn V rocket, you need thrusters that are up to the task.
The best climbers—like Joe Gray and Sage Canaday—all have rocket legs. Big power centers in the thighs and butt launch you up the mountains.
You can build rocket legs in three ways. First, you can run up and down a lot of hills in training. Second, you can do a strength routine consisting of lunges and step-ups (see our five-minute routine for strengthening your mountain legs here). Third, you can do some cross training like ski-mountaineering or biking. Many cross-country skiers and cyclists are outstanding at running steep climbs because it works some of the same muscles. (Just make sure it doesn’t cut into your running time.)
Ideally, you should run a minimum of five times per week, do the mountain-legs routine three times per week and cross train once or twice per week (especially in the off-season).
These tips will make it easier to chase rainbows, like this one on the flanks of Black Mountain near Los Altos, California. Photo by David Roche
2. Be efficient from the waist up.
You know what muscles don’t help you fight gravity? Biceps. The same goes for triceps, lats and pecs. Upper-body strength is good, but upper-body mass is usually not.
Coming from football, a lot of my climbing development was connected to losing some of the upper-body muscle forged in the weight room and replacing it with some functional strength from the trails. In practice, you probably should not be lifting heavy weights with your upper body if you want to excel at uphills. What you lose in attractiveness at the beach, you’ll gain in comfort in the mountains.
3. Lean forward and learn to relax.
The best hill climbers have a slight forward lean that lets them use their momentum and access the power centers in their butt and hips. Meanwhile, the worst hill climbers have a passive, sunken-hips form that makes it look like they are sitting in an imaginary Lazy-Boy chair.
Improve your form by looking at the ground in front of you and tilting your center of gravity forward to mimic the uphill grade (so think of a 5-percent lean for a 5-percent grade, and more for steeper climbs).
As you climb, focus on relaxing all the muscles you are not actively using. So when a leg is not engaged, let it rest for a split second rather than keeping the gas pedal on at all times. Similarly, keep your upper body cool as a cucumber, with no excess exertion, which uses precious blood and oxygen.
4. Raise your aerobic capacity.
A rising aerobic tide raises all performance ships. With that in mind, you should do two things. First, run more. In general, the more miles you run, the better a climber you’ll become, since you’ll be using those aerobic adaptations to power up hills.
Second, do VO2 max intervals of between two and five minutes. These improve your oxygen-processing power. An example is 6 x 3 minutes fast with two minutes easy running between intervals.
As your body adapts to VO2 max efforts, it will make sub-maximal efforts easier. Combined with aerobic gains from running more miles, you’ll become a hill-climbing rocket powered by red blood cells, strong leg muscles and the form to make it all work together. Blast off!
‘Find good-quality, moisture-wicking clothing.’ Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images
‘Find good-quality, moisture-wicking clothing.’ Photograph: Westend61/Getty Images
The golden rule
If you are training to run further, always obey the 10% rule. That is: never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% and never increase your longest run by more than 10%. The vast majority of running injuries are the result of overuse. Your body is capable of astonishing adaptations, but only if they are incremental – so always give it time to adjust and recover.
Get the right kit
Time for an upgrade . Photograph: Alamy
While top price does not always mean top quality, it is important to get the right pair of running shoes – get your gait analysed at a running shop. Find good-quality moisture-wicking clothing that won’t rub or cause issues when you start running in it for longer.
Distance is relative
Tell someone you run regularly and the chances are they will ask if you have done a marathon. Other distances are available! Training hard to improve your 10K or 5K time (or, indeed, your time for a shorter distance) is just as rewarding – and has the benefit of eating up less of your leisure time. Shorter distances also put less pressure on you – if a 5K goes wrong, you can do another one a week later. The reason the pros only do a couple of marathons a year – at most – is that recovering from a hard run of 26.2 miles can take weeks, if not months.
Use your head
Studies have shown repeatedly that the limits of our endurance are dictated by our heads as well as our bodies. For example, research by Prof Samuele Marcora found that cyclists in an endurance exercise presented with positive subliminal cues, such as action words (“go” or “energy”) or happy-face pictures, were able to exercise significantly longer than those who received sad faces or “inaction” words. You can practise this positive reinforcement yourself by finding a mantra to repeat in your head. Also, always break a long run into manageable chunks so that it seems less daunting.
Timed interval training will help you boost your pace. Photograph: adventtr/Getty Images
Want to get faster? Alas, there is no shortcut. You need to practise by sustaining faster speeds over shorter distances – this is the principle of interval training. The simplest way to do it is by time – for example, run faster for one minute, jog for one minute, repeat 10 times.
Before you commit to a big race – particularly a marathon or even an ultramarathon – talk to your friends, family and support network. These intense periods of training can take a lot out of you, physically and in terms of time, and you need backup and to know it is not causing you – or anyone else – too much stress.
Sleep and nutrition
It may seem like something only “proper” athletes need to worry about, but sleep – or lack of it – and poor nutrition can seriously hinder your recovery. If I had a training motto, it would be: “It’s not what you can run, it’s what you can recover from.” You do not need to go overboard on protein shakes – just make sure you get enough shut-eye and eat healthily.
Sometimes a running test comes quickly, especially if you have been nursing injuries, trying to lose weight or just trying to prepare while also getting shape in general. Here is a great question from a former Navy guy trying to prepare for the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). The test is the same as the current FBI fitness test.
Stew — I just saw your video on preparing for the FBI and DEA test with Jeff Nichols. Great video, thanks. I recently lost 36 lbs., so I’m a little slow at running as I got injured after the Navy (four years). I have been mostly dieting and doing non-impact cardio and resistance training.
I have a fitness test in a month and another a few months later. I’m trying to get two minutes off of my 1.5-mile run. I started the workout in your DEA test prep article and tried setting my goal at 13:30 (1.5 mile run), and did six quarter-mile runs at 2:15. I got pretty winded after the third set, so I wanted to ask: Should I rest more between sets. Do you have any other helpful tips?
If you are setting a goal for a 1.5-mile timed run at 13:30, you need to consider yourself a beginner and not spend too much time (mileage) running to just run. Run with a purpose but limit your distance to 1-2 miles a day. There is no need to run 4-5 miles at a slow distance right now. You’ll only hurt yourself running too much. On some days, I would recommend not running at all and doing hard bike workouts to work the lungs and the legs without the impact of running.
As you lose more weight, running will get easier for you, but you have to progress logically. Too many people jump right in where they left off before injury and wind up injured or, if they are lucky, just discouraged. Avoid injury and being discouraged by trying a plan like this:
(Note: If you are going to follow any book workout, article workout, etc., you have to personalize it to you or face either it being too hard or too easy. Add or subtract mileage according to your abilities.)
Let’s take what you have built and create a better running foundation for you. Keep doing what you are doing, but if you feel you are running too much, try starting at a beginner foundation distance with a steady progression — or replace a day of running with the bike pyramid or Tabata interval workout (listed below) in place of running that day.
For beginners: My suggestion is to start on a beginner running plan if you need to after a layoff or recovery from injury. Any day you feel pain, replace your run with bike.
Week 1: 1 mile a day five times a week (mix in a sprint day and goal pace running day, etc.)
Week 2: 1.25 miles a day five times a week
Week 3: Some people take off running this week to avoid an overuse injury. Just bike or elliptical and maybe one test day to see where you are on your timed run event.
Week 4: 1.5 miles a day five times a week (mix goal pace with intervals and steady runs)
Week 5: 1.75 miles a day five to six days a week (goal paced and intervals)
After the above base, you may be ready to get up to 10 miles a week.
As you only have five weeks, I know the above does not apply to you, but I would focus on goal paced running and intervals, alternating each day with a few no-run rest days thrown into the week.
Maybe try the following:
Monday: Run goal pace — timed run event 1.5-2 miles total
Tuesday: Sprint intervals of 400 meters or smaller distances for 1.5-2 miles total
Wednesday: No running. Do bike pyramid or Tabata interval
Thursday: Run goal pace, 6-8 x 400-meter runs at goal mile pace for timed runs
Friday: Run faster than goal pace, 6-8 x 400-meter runs faster than goal pace with longer rests if needed.
Saturday: Run goal pace, timed run event 1.5-2 miles total
Sunday: Day off or mobility day
The goal with this type of running schedule is to get you in timed running shape quickly. After this, you can go on to a more progressive running plan and build up mileage that you will need when attending the FBI or DEA Academy.
Bike pyramid and Tabata interval non-impact workouts
You either can end a workout day with a bike pyramid or Tabata interval, or replace a running day with it if you feel the need to lay off running because of shin pain, foot pain, knee pain, etc.
Bike pyramid workout: On a bike that allows for increasing resistance, start off at level one for one minute. Then increase resistance 1-2 levels per minute on the minute. Keep the RPMs of the bike at 70-90 rpm. Once you are unable to peddle in the range, stop and rest one minute, then repeat in reverse order, making each minute easier on the minute until you get to where you started. This one takes typically 20 minutes if you increase by two levels each minute.
Tabata interval on bike, elliptical or rower: Try 15-20 minutes total time of doing 20 seconds sprint and 10 seconds of rest. Take an easy minute after every five minutes of intervals (20 to 10 seconds), if needed.
You also can see these other articles for a variety of running workouts and strategies during the week:
In this Article
- Benefits of Cardio Exercise
- Walking vs. Running
- Both Running and Walking Are Great Forms of Exercise
- How to Get More Out of Your Walk
Both walking and running are great ways to get cardiovascular exercise. But is one a better exercise than the other?
Benefits of Cardio Exercise
Cardio, or aerobic, exercise is anything that gets you breathing harder and your heart beating faster.В
Some of the benefits of a cardio workout include:
- Reduced risk of dementiaВ
- Improved memory
- Increased circulation
- Better blood sugar control
- Happier mood
- An easier time falling asleep
- Healthier cholesterol levels
- Better erectile function
вЂЊFor many people, running is a vigorous exercise, while walking tends to be moderate in intensity.
Vigorous activity is when youвЂ™re breathing fast and hard, and your heart rate has gone up a lot. You may also find it hard to say more than a few words without stopping to take a breath.
В In general, one minute of vigorous activity is equal to 2 minutes of moderate-intensity activity.В
вЂЊExperts recommend that you get at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week. They also say you should do muscle-strengthening activities on two or more days a week.В
Walking vs. Running
There are some key differencesВ between walking and running.В
Starting exercise. If youвЂ™re just getting into exercise or are out of shape, start with walking short distances, then gradually increase your distance and duration. Even walking at a casual pace of 2 miles per hour can cut your risk of heart problems by 31%, if you do it regularly.
Burning calories. Running burns more than twice as many calories per minute as walking.В
For a person who weighs 160 pounds, walking at a pace of 3.5 miles per hour for 30 minutes burns about 156 calories. Running at 6 mph for the same time burns about 356 calories.
Low impact vs. high impact. You might think of walking as just running slowly. But when you walk, you have one foot on the ground at all times. When you run, youвЂ™re in the air during each stride. Each time you land, your body absorbs the impact of about three times your body weight.В
Osteoarthritis risk. Because it’s more strenuous, you might think that running would increase your risk of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis happens when the cushion between your bones (cartilage) wears down, and your joints get painful and swollen.
But a study of 74,752 runners and 14,625 walkers found that the runners had aВ lower risk of hip replacement and osteoarthritis than the walkers. Researchers said that this may be because, on average, the runners had lower body mass indices (BMI) than the walkers. Less body weight means less stress on your bones.
Risk of injury. Researchers say runners and others who do high-impact exercise are more likely to get injured than walkers. But itвЂ™s hard to say exactly how much higher the risk is.В Various studies have found that between 19% and 79% of runners get hurt while running.
About 80% of running injuries are overuse injuries. Researchers found that running just once a week may lead to overuse injuries. Those who run farther and more often are also more prone to injuries.
A previous leg injury puts you at higher risk for running-related leg injuries. Researchers found that orthotics and shoe inserts arenвЂ™t good at preventing running injuries.
Walkers have a much lower risk of getting hurt. In a study of 14,536 college students who did various types of physical activity, those who walked had some of the lowest rates of injury.В
Both Running and Walking Are Great Forms of Exercise
Scientists who looked at information from 33,060 runners and 15,945 walkers found that walking can lower your risk of diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure as much as running. They measured exercise by time, not distance.
Since walking is less vigorous than running, youвЂ™ll have to walk longer or more often to get the same benefits. Running is more efficient, but has a higher risk of injuries, and youвЂ™ll need more time to heal if you get injured.
The best exercise for you is the one youвЂ™ll actually do. So whether itвЂ™s running, walking, or both, pick the one you like best.В
How to Get More Out of Your Walk
Here are some ways to improve your walking workout.
Walk in a group. Walking with friends or family can make it more fun. It can also help you stick to your exercise plan.
Swing your arms. Bend your arms at 90 degrees and swing your arms naturally as you walk. Swinging them vigorously encourages you to walk faster. It also gives your upper body more of a workout. YouвЂ™ll burn 5% to 10% more calories, too.
Try incline walking. If you walk on a treadmill, increase the incline by 5% or 10%. If you walk outdoors, look for hills or even a steep driveway to make your walk more challenging.
Water walking. Do this in shallow water at the beach or in a pool. The resistance of the water increases the intensity of your walk but lessens the impact on your joints.
Walking poles. Walking poles can help you burn up to 30% more calories. They add intensity and help you maintain good posture as you walk.
Weighted vests. A weighted vest adds intensity but doesnвЂ™t strain your shoulders and wrists like ankle and hand weights do. Pick one thatвЂ™s 5% to 10% of your body weight.
American Council on Exercise: вЂњ3 Ways Gear Can Help You Get More Out of Your Walks,вЂќ вЂњStep Up Your Walking Routine.вЂќ
Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology: вЂњWalking Versus Running for Hypertension, Cholesterol, and Diabetes Mellitus Risk Reduction.вЂќ
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC): “How much physical activity do adults need?вЂќ
Cleveland Clinic: вЂњThe 6 Most Common Running Injuries (Plus How to Treat Them),вЂќ вЂњThe (Many) Benefits of a Cardio Workout.”
Consumer Reports: вЂњThe Benefits of Running vs. Walking.вЂќ
Go Ask Alice!: вЂњBurn more calories by swinging arms while walking?вЂќ
Harvard Health Publishing: вЂњWalking: Your steps to health.вЂќ
International Journal of Epidemiology: вЂњRisk of injury according to participation in specific physical activities: a 6-year follow-up of 14 356 participants of the SUN cohort.вЂќ
Mayo Clinic: вЂњOsteoarthritis,вЂќ вЂњWalking group: Banish boredom, boost motivation.вЂќ
Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: вЂњEffects of Running and Walking on Osteoarthritis and Hip Replacement Risk.вЂќ
PLoS One: вЂњInjuries in Runners; A Systematic Review on Risk Factors and Sex Differences.вЂќ
As a new runner, you probably haven’t given much thought to how to improve breathing while running. After all, who needs to be taught how to breathe? But soon into your journey into the world of running nearly you begin to think of concerns on improving performance and want to gain a better understanding of proper technique and start to wonder how to improve breathing while running.
In fact, most runners could benefit from learning a few breathing techniques. Understanding how to improve your breathing while running will not only boost your performance, but also reduce common injuries that often plague runners.
Here are a few tips on how to improve breathing while running so you can get your breathing under control and ensure you have a great run every time:
In fact, most runners could benefit from learning a few breathing techniques. Understanding how to breathe properly while you run will not only boosts your performance, but also reduce common injuries that often plague runners.
Become a Belly Breather
Do you tend to take shallow breaths when you’re feeling tired? Most people breathe through their chest, which isn’t the best way to maximize their oxygen intake.
Belly breathing, also known as diaphragmatic breathing, is a technique which allows you to maximize your oxygen intake while you run. It works by engaging the diaphragm to create more space in your chest cavity, allowing your lungs to expand fully to take in more oxygen.
Deep belly breathing increases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and will stave off fatigue for longer. It has another benefit as well; a growing number of studies show that belly breathing has a calming effect, which can improve your focus and mental fortitude.
An easy way to practice deep belly breathing is by lying down on the floor and placing one hand on your belly and another on your chest. Take a normal breath and see which area rises first. Practice breathing deep into your belly first, then moving the breath up into your chest as you exhale.
Inhale and Exhale Through Both Your Nose and Mouth
Breathing in and out through only your mouth can have a hyperventilating effect, while breathing in and out only through only your nose won’t provide you with enough oxygen on your run. The best way to breathe while running is to inhale and exhale using both your nose and mouth combined.
Breathing through both the mouth and the nose will keep your breathing steady and engage your diaphragm for maximum oxygen intake. It also allows you to expel carbon dioxide quickly.
Practice breathing through both your nose and mouth during the day. This might be difficult because we’re hardwired to breathe in and out through just our noses. Once you’ve got this down, you can move on to our next tip: learning the best breathing patterns during cardio to run faster and prevent injury.
Time Your Breathing with Your Cadence
Do you always seem to get injured on one side of your body? Learning the right breathing pattern to match your cadence may help prevent those nagging injuries and boost your running performance.
Rhythmic breathing, also called cadence breathing, describes the number of steps you take on inhale and on exhale. If you’re like most runners, you have a natural tendency to have an even number of foot strikes for each inhale and exhale.
For example, if you have a 2:2 breathing pattern, you inhale every two steps and exhale every two steps. This even breathing pattern can lead to injuries because the exhale is always on the same foot.
Instead, try focusing on a breathing pattern that alternates from one side to the other. For instance, a 2:1 breathing pattern in which you inhale for two steps and exhale for one. This alternating pattern will increase your core stability and help you remain injury-free.
Warm Up Your Respiratory System
If you frequently get side stitches on your runs, you aren’t alone. According to a study, 70 percent of runners report experiencing this stabbing side pain.
Although the exact cause of side stitches is still uncertain, we do know that it happens when the diaphragm muscle starts cramping. Considering how the diaphragm muscle plays a significant role in our breathing, it stands to reason that improper breathing may a likely cause of side stitches. Side stitches seem to occur more often in new runners, further supporting this theory.
Warming up your diaphragm before taking off at your usual pace can reduce the chances of developing this annoying side stitch. First, start by practicing your deep belly breathing technique to relax your diaphragm muscle.
Next, start slowly and focus on maintain your breathing technique. Gradually increase your speed to give your diaphragm time to adjust to harder breathing. This will warm up the entire body and allow you to run stitch-free. Make sure to store your gear with a secure running belt on your next run.
These running drills will help you with technique and form so that you can run more efficiently and injury-free.
Although running is not a technique-dependent sport to the same extent as swimming, dedicated attention to form in your run training holds substantial benefits, including greater resistance to injury and better running economy.
The Link Between Running Drills and Good Form
Runners who regularly incorporate drills into their training are better able to recruit muscles needed for the task, leaving them less injury-prone. And when the going gets tough, they are more efficient than the runner who doesn’t work on proper form. Given that an improvement to running economy can be just as good as an improvement in VO2max when it comes to that final number on the stopwatch, it only makes sense to squeeze as much “free speed” out of one’s performance as possible.
The key to developing good running form is to ingrain proper movement patterns into your muscle memory so that they become automatic. And proper movements can be trained through running drills. With proper movement patterns instilled as the default setting, you will be better prepared when fatigue threatens to break down your form. This article (and accompanying videos) details a sequence of running drills that you can easily incorporate into your run training.
Top Running Form Drills
These drills for running form are best performed on a soft surface, such as a rubberized track, the infield of a track, a flat dirt trail or a grassy field. Perform the drills after you have completed your initial warm-up, or at the middle or end of your run. Do each drill for 10 to 20 meters, and go through the sequence at least once. If time permits, you can repeat the sequence 2 to 3 times. Aim to incorporate at least one to two drill sessions into your running program each week.
Running takes place almost exclusively in the sagittal plane (flexion/extension) to propel the runner forward, yet muscles that operate in the frontal plane (abduction/adduction) play an important role as stabilizers. These first two drills build strength and coordination among these stabilizing muscles. For the side-to-side skip, skip side to side by bringing your feet together and then shoulder width apart. Let your arms cross over each other in front of the body as you skip.
Carioca, or Grapevine
Like the side-to-side skips, the carioca or grapevine drill further works the stabilizing muscles that play a secondary but nevertheless vital role in running. As you move sideways, cross one leg over the other in front and then behind. Hold your arms out to the side to begin; as you start to get the hang of the drill, use your arms as you would while running.
These next drills recruit the primary movers—namely, the glutes and hamstrings—that operate during the active propulsion phase of the run. For the A-skip, skip with high knees. As you bring your leg down, finish with a slight pawing motion as you pull backwards. This pawing motion is often neglected, but is a key element of a powerful stride. Focus on initiating that pull from the glutes as the hamstrings then join in the motion. This will ingrain the backward pulling motion important for running propulsion into your muscle memory. Use the same arm motion during this drill as you use while running.
The B-skip is nearly identical to the A skip, but first extends the leg forward. This extension of the leg dynamically stretches the hamstring and then allows you to really emphasize the backward pawing motion as your foot lands on the ground and pulls through. Get into the rhythm of the A and B skips by listening to the pattern of sound your feet make as they contact and scuff the ground, pawing backwards. Use the same arm motion during this drill as you use while running.
The butt kick drill further conditions and coordinates the glutes and hamstrings for a strong running stride. The butt kick drill should almost feel like a variation of running with high knees (rather than simply kicking backwards). Pull your heels up directly beneath you, keeping the knee, heel and toe up throughout the drill. Use the same arm motion during this drill as you use while running.
The high knee drill works the loading phase of the run. The key to performing the drill correctly is to focus on driving the foot down and letting it spring back up off the ground (rather than lifting the knees). Use the same arm motion during this drill as you use while running.
Straight Leg Run
The straight leg run reinforces the important pawing motion practiced in the A-skip and B-skip. Start slowly and gradually increase your speed. Avoid the temptation to lean backwards—in other words, keep your upper body perpendicular to the ground as you run with straight legs. As your foot contacts the ground, finish with that same backwards pawing motion as you practiced in the other drills—squeeze the glutes and hamstrings as you pull back.
The ankling drill helps facilitate the proper loading and spring during running. Starting at the toe, push the foot down so that the heel barely contacts the ground. The movement can be difficult to learn at first, so begin in slow motion; then gradually pick up the pace and keep the cadence high.
The bottom line is that good form equals free speed. Time-crunched athletes can easily work these drills into a few easy running days each week. As you do, focus on consistent practice and proper application to gain the most benefit for your running. The dividends will come in the form of better neuromuscular coordination and stronger muscles dedicated to the activity of running.
Video Demo of Full Running Drill Routine
Many runners have questions about running indoors versus outdoors. Is one better than the other in terms of training? Is one “harder” than the other? We find out.
In my experience, people feel one of two ways about the treadmill: They like it, or they hate it. As a runner, I have no objection to running on a treadmill—and over the years I’ve built up a case about why people should give them a try!
- If you don’t love running in extreme heat, humidity, or rain, a treadmill allows you to run in an air-conditioned environment.
- If you have a treadmill at home, you can go for a run whenever you want, at any given moment, for any length of time. It’s easy to squeeze in a quick run (and talk yourself into it) when the treadmill is so accessible.
- The treadmill offers a lot of conveniences that aren’t guaranteed when you run outside. There’s a place for your water bottle, you don’t have to hold your phone if you listen to music, and you can run far without physically going far. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve run a certain distance one way and then decided I didn’t want to run that distance back. In such cases, I’ve had to suck it up or commit to a long walk home. On a treadmill, you can just step off.
While the case for trying them is solid, many runners have questions about running indoors versus outdoors. Is one better than the other in terms of training? Is one “harder” than the other? The answers are below.
The difference between running indoors versus outdoors
If you take away the mental component of running for a second and only look at the physical demands, running outside is generally considered more challenging than running indoors. Outdoor running presents more variables and obstacles—the weather, the hills, the uneven terrain, the possible starting and stopping you have to do, etc. Plus, running outdoors means you have to pace yourself (unless you have a running watch or you’re great with time).
On a treadmill, the temperature and climate are controlled, there’s nothing stopping you, and you set the pace and incline yourself. Some runners love this because they can set the speed and not think about it anymore; if they just keep pace with the belt, they will finish their run in the desired time. Running on a treadmill can also help minimize injury—since there’s no rough or unexpected terrain your chances of being injured by that is lowered.
When you factor in the mental aspect of running, though, that’s where treadmill running becomes the harder of the two. Running outside means you’re spending time in nature, which studies have shown has major psychological benefits. You can also run new routes in different places, which can break up the monotony of running. On the flip side, because the treadmill is stationary, the route and surroundings will always be the same. Some runners see this as an advantage and find the predictable, rhythmic quality of the treadmill to be meditative. Others feel it’s boring and dislike the repetition. So while running on a treadmill can be easier on the body, your mind can make it feel just as (or even more) difficult.
The best kind of running is the running that you do, whether that’s indoors or outdoors. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, so the one that’s better for you is the one that aligns with your preferences and doesn’t turn running into an activity you dread.
That said, when training for an outdoor road race, you’ll want to clock the majority of your miles outside. Treadmills can be a useful tool throughout your training, but they don’t mimic the terrain and conditions that you’ll encounter on race day. You want to be physically ready for any hills, downhills, and changes of surface that come your way.
In short, run outside when you can, and run inside when the weather’s crummy, you’re low on time, or you need the stability and convenience of a treadmill.
Not to diss our sister sport, but let’s face it, cycling rules. We can prove it.
There’s a lot to love about running. It’s cheap to get started and works well with nearly any cross-training regimen you may have. But in the ongoing bar bet of which sport is best—biking vs. running—we believe cycling is still the overall winner. (And, we think we can prove it.)
Here’s why when it comes to biking vs. running, you’re reading the right magazine right now.
Get fit & build endurance
True running burns more calories per mile, but most people can’t run as many miles as they can ride, especially if you’re a little out of shape. Blame gravity. When you run you need to lift your body weight up off the earth to propel yourself forward.
Then you have to come back down, striking the ground and absorbing those impact forces. Both of those things make it considerably harder to run five miles than to ride twice or even three or four times as long. Running is also less forgiving of extra pounds with every excess pound slowing you down. Excess weight makes hills harder on a bike, but on the flats? Because gravity isn’t really a factor, you can motor along with the skinniest of ‘em.
Running beats you up more than cycling, even if you’re hammering super hard. One study that compared trained, competitive cyclists and runners exercising 2 ½ hours a day for three days found that the long distance runners had substantially more muscle damage (between 133 percent and 404 percent more), inflammation levels (up to 256 percent higher) and muscle soreness (87 percent more) in the following 38 hour recovery period than the cyclists.
“We knew running places more stress on the body, but how much more damage and inflammation there was was surprising and greater than anticipated,” says study author David Nieman, Dr.PH., health professor at Appalachian State University and director of the Human Performance Lab at the North Carolina Research Campus. “There’s just a lot more muscle trauma involved with running. It’s harder for the immune system to handle the damage.”
The ability to ride for multiple hours means you can cover a lot of ground and see some amazing sites in a relatively short period of time. But there are literally hundreds of amazing bike tours you can take all over the world.
You also can carry far more things far more easily on a bike than you can on foot. You not only can stuff your jersey pockets to the gills, but also wear a messenger bag or backpack and even add carrying capacity to your bike. That frees you to use your bike for commuting, day tripping, bikepacking and as everyday Earth-friendly transportation.
Tame your hunger
This one’s actually a tie in the biking vs. running debate. But it’s important to note because researchers once believed that running was more effective than cycling for suppressing a key hunger hormone called acylated ghrelin. Not so.
In back-to-back comparisons of the appetite suppressing powers of either an hour of vigorous running or an hour of vigorous cycling, a team of British researchers found that both activities suppressed the hunger hormone nearly equally. And again, it’s easier to hammer out an hour on the bike than it is to run hard for the same amount of time.
Not even close. Sure you can buy some pretty snazzy kicks, but please…between bikes, helmets, glasses, socks, caps, stem caps, saddlebags, arm warmers, gloves, jackets, vests, and an endless assortment of components, cycling is a sport that allows the fullest expression of personal style.
Cycling lets you feel like you’re flying because of the amazing ability to use the forces of the universe to coast—sometimes at insanely fast speeds—and enjoy the wind through your hair (even with a helmet on) as a reward for all your hard pedaling work. Coasting when you run is called standing, which doesn’t really get you anywhere. And running down a hill is actually harder than running up the thing.
Growing old together
“Cycling is something you can enjoy no matter what your age. It is truly as close as we can get to a lifelong sport,” says internationally known athletic trainer Andy Pruitt, EdD, founder of the University of Colorado Sports Medicine and Performance Center always says, “Even if you can’t walk or hobble, you can still ride a bike.”
And to that we say—in this long debate of biking vs. running—amen.
The Northeast Track Club share their 8-week training program to get you to your best-ever mile.
If the COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything, it’s to make the most of what we can control in order to feel better about the things we can’t. One thing within your control is your training program.
Join Washington DC-based Northeast Track Club for a tailored 8-week training program to get you to your best-ever mile.
Each week will guide you through a combination of training styles to keep things interesting, and gradually build up your strength, speed and endurance to work towards smashing your mile goals.
Northeast Track Club’s experienced coaches, Mona, Ryan, Vonks and Carl will take you through the program. New sections of the program will be released every two weeks, including video coaching to keep you motivated and give you the support you need to reach your mile PR.
“Through it. Not to it.”
The Northeast Track Club motto encourages you to finish every workout with as much energy as you started with.
“It’s the idea that what you get out of something reflects what you have put into it. If you only ever run to the line, that’s as far as you’ll ever go,” says Carl (one of the club’s founding members). “We encourage our runners to go beyond the line. Beyond the mile. Beyond the track. This is the mentality we want them to help us spread into their broader community, friendships, jobs and daily mentality.”
Ready to get started? Here’s performance coach and Northeast Track Club’s #HYPEWMN, Mona to kick things off. She’ll talk you through finding your baseline, and introduce some easy and long runs. You’ll also start to explore interval training and fartleks – which not only build your physical endurance, but your mental stamina too.
Psst: If any of these terms are a mystery to you, check out the glossary below to clear things up.
You’re in for a great 8 weeks! To make things easy, you can also download the full training plan here.
How are you getting on? Ready to step it up? Here’s Ryan to talk you through the next two weeks. You’ll be carrying on with your easy and long runs and interval workouts, as well as introducing some new challenges. You can look forward to some hill sprints to build your speed and stamina, and tempo runs to help you get comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Can you feel yourself inching closer to that goal pace? As you start to feel more comfortable, it’s the perfect time to start thinking about your running form. Here’s Vonks from Northeast Track Club to run through how to work on your stride to improve your mechanics and benefit your overall mechanics.
You’re so close! Here’s the Northeast Track Club to give you some final motivation. During these last two weeks, you’ll be honing in on your goal pace, along with some speed work and a stair workout for good measure. They’ll also walk you through how to taper your training so your muscles are primed and ready for your best ever mile.
We’d love to know how you’re getting on with the Better Your Mile challenge. Share the ups, the downs, the improvements you’re noticing, or any top tips for how to stick with it on your social channels. Just tag @on_running #onrunning #runonclouds #betteryourmile
Glossary of training terms:
Fartlek: Fartleks work on speed and strength by alternating distances and paces during a continuous run. An example of a fartlek workout structure could be one minute running easy (40-50%) followed by one minute running hard (75-85%), repeated a certain amount of times or for a set number of minutes.
Tempo: Tempo is a hard but controlled pace (70-80%) that can be run as long intervals or a steady run of 1-10 miles. The purpose of a Tempo Run is to build mental and physical endurance and to become comfortable with being uncomfortable.
Hills: Hill workouts develop speed and form. It takes extra effort to run uphill so you do not need to run as fast as you would on a flat section (think 70-80% effort, not speed). While running uphill, remain in control of your breathing. Don’t lean too far forward. A light lean with the chin leading the chest is enough. Uphills are a great way to develop speed and strength with minimal pounding on the legs.
Interval pace: Intervals are “hard” but not all-out running by any means (80-90%). Usually at a pace that you could maintain for about 10-15 minutes in a serious race.
Mile pace: The pace you would run if you were to run just one mile on that day (90-100% ).
Faster than mile pace: Our training intervals are almost always shorter than one mile. Boost your speed here and run these faster than your mile pace (90-100%), but again, not an all-out sprint.
Goal pace: Maybe this is not your mile pace today, but the goal mile pace you plan to run (i.e. If you are currently closer to an 8-minute mile and your goal is to run a 7:30 mile, your goal pace intervals would be at 7:30 pace). This will be run at our mile pace effort of
Easy run: This should feel easy and you should be able to hold a conversation comfortably (40-60%).
Long run: Focus on time on your feet. Aside from the longer distance, this is much like the “easy run” and you should be able to hold a conversation comfortably (30-40%).
Want to pick up the pace and smash your running goals? Research suggests focusing on a specific type of integrated core training – not spending more minutes pounding the pavement or tackling the treadmill – could be key to achieving quicker run times and improving running symmetry.
Read on and you’ll discover:
• Evidence that integrated core exercises improve running performance and joint symmetry
• Key exercises and workouts that will help you run faster
• Integrated training guides that will help you reach your running goals.
Targeting big muscle groups around the hips, lower back, glutes and abs will improve your running times and technique according to recent research.
Long-time running enthusiast, kinesiologist and group fitness advocate, Dr Jinger Gottschall, led a new study exploring how runners can improve their performance. And it seems that focusing on integrated core exercises could make a crucial difference.
The study, published in The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, involved a group of recreational runners adding three 30-minute integrated core training workouts into their weekly training regime. These workouts were LES MILLS CORE™, a structured core training program formerly called CXWORX.
After just six weeks of this integrated core training the exercisers benefited from:
- Increased running speed
- Improved running economy (a measure of how efficient you are as a runner)
- A decrease in five kilometre run times (by an average of 66 seconds) without a significant difference in mean heart rate
- Increased ability to hold a plank (by over 60 percent)
- A decrease in ankle range-of-motion asymmetry (by 46 percent)
Watch Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, explain more about the powerful effects of LES MILLS CORE below.
Gottschall says the unique thing about this study is that, unlike previous studies that used isolated strengthening to improve running performance, this study focused on the three-dimensional integrated exercises.
This is significant given the three-dimensional nature of running. “As you run, your legs are moving forward in one plane, yet the movement of your arms and torso move in another plane, which is also important for force production and running economy,” she says. “With this in mind, three-dimensional core training can play a fundamental role in improving running performance.”
The science shows that integrated exercises lead to two key benefits:
- Delivering superior abdominal training which drives efficient force transmission
- Improving joint symmetry which may reduce injury risk
Gottschall says runners typically have a high incidence of injury, and many of these injuries may be due to muscular imbalance and lack of symmetry.
The most common injuries reported by runners are Achilles tendinopathy, plantar fasciitis, stress fractures in the metatarsals, fibula, or tibia, medial tibial stress syndrome, patellofemoral pain syndrome, and iliotibial band syndrome.
Gottschall believes the majority of these injuries could potentially be minimized by additional activation of the core which would reduce impact forces or improved symmetry of the legs which distribute the load between the two legs. She recommends an integrated training approach, incorporating three-dimensional diversity to optimize running performance for the long term.
“Endurance athletes typically live by the slogan, ‘more is better’ and simply run more miles – but it’s clear that this isn’t the smartest approach. Thanks to this new study we now know that integrated core training – so often a missing component – can be the secret to improving running performance and symmetry.”
KEY EXERCISES FOR RUNNERS
Hovers and planks
Hovers and planks build three-dimensional core endurance, which is key to improving speed and enhancing running economy.
Once you’ve mastered the basic hover try adding an element of dynamic instability by adding foot taps or knee drops. Research shows these variations take core activation to a whole new level.
Mimicking the muscle activation patterns of running, mountain climbers are a great way to build cardio fitness and enhance running economy.
Cross crawls mimic the trunk rotation that occurs while running, building core strength and helping enhance running economy.
Squats are a great way for runners to strengthen the primary running leg muscles. This lower body strength training can also help reduce the risk of joint pain and the risk of overuse injury.
LES MILLS CORE is the ultimate workout for runners
This scientific core workout is inspired by elite athletic training principles and designed to drive incredible core definition and sports performance. LES MILLS CORE is now available as a 30- or 45-minute workout, and includes planks, lower abdominal endurance exercises, gluteal training, abdominal oblique challenges and extensor endurance. Together, this combination of integrated exercises simultaneously and effectively works large muscle groups from should to knee, unlike isolated exercises such as crunches that focus on individual core muscles.
Gottschall recommends you aim for two to three LES MILLS CORE workouts a week, with a few days’ rest between each session. If you’re training for a 10km, half marathon, marathon or ultra-distance event, LES MILLS CORE is best done two days before or two days after your longest run.
FREE TRAINING GUIDES FOR RUNNERS
Since conducing this study Gottschall has developed five different running guides catering for beginners through to experienced runners.
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Maximize your performance in hot temperatures with our heat running secrets
The heat is the most difficult element for runners to train in.
The effects of heat and humidity on training and racing are two- fold and impact performance both long-term and short-term.
During a workout or a race in the heat, your performance suffers for three different reasons.
In this guide, we’ll help you understand why running in the heat is so hard, learn how to adjust your workouts and races properly, and how to maximize your performance.
Why running in the heat is hard
First, you have an increase in your overall body temperature. Just like when you run a fever, the higher your core body temperature, the worse you are going to feel.
Second, as soon as the body starts to heat up, blood is diverted to the skin, where cooling takes place through sweating and evaporation. Therefore, less blood is available to transport oxygen to the working muscles. Less oxygen means you can’t run as fast or as hard and the effort to maintain or increase your pace dramatically increases. In this way, training and racing in the heat is somewhat similar to altitude training.
Finally, you become more easily dehydrated in hot and humid conditions. When fluid levels drop, your body’s cooling methods, mainly the ability to sweat, erode and you have a harder time controlling your body temperature. This in turn causes the core body temperature to rise faster, which creates a viscous cycle that severely limits performance.
How running in the heat effects recovery
Not only does heat and humidity make that one specific workout harder, it also hampers recovery and your ability to perform on subsequent workouts.
After you exercise in hot conditions, your body needs to spend more energy on cooling itself rather than delivering nutrients to your battered muscles.
When the muscles can’t get the nutrients they need to repair the damage caused by the workout, recovery is slower and you may not be fully prepared for your next hard workout like you normally would be.
Running in the Heat Trick #1 – Adjust Your Paces
As we can clearly see, performance suffers in the heat and humidity. I’ve worked with some runners who question the amount the heat and humidity actually affects their workout and race times, but it’s a scientific fact that even the most heat acclimatized runner will suffer performance loss in hot conditions.
Therefore, it’s important that you find ways to adjust your workout times and race paces to reflect how you’ll perform in hot conditions. Likewise, sometimes you need to know how much more effort a workout is taking in hot and humid conditions so you can better monitor fitness and progression.
How to adjust your running pace in the heat
Luckily for you, I’ve created calculator that will estimate of how much harder you’re working in the heat and humidity. Download your calculator on how heat effects your running times here.
Running in the Heat Trick #2 – Proper Hydration
Hydration is a critical element to staying cool and performing your best in hot conditions.
What makes hydrating so difficult is knowing exactly how much fluid you need to stay cool and replenish what you lose through sweating.
Likewise, pre-hydrating and re-hydrating with the proper fluids is critical to maintaining fluid levels and performing at your best
Every runners sweats at a different rate relative to their conditioning, acclimatization, and individual make-up. A study conducted by Jack Daniels found that runners with similar backgrounds, training regimens and under identical training conditions differed in sweat loss by as much as 2.5 liters per hour.
This means that while I may only sweat at a rate of 1.5 liters per hour, you might sweat at rate of 4.0 liters per hour, making drinking and hydrating much more important for you.
How to measure sweat loss in the heat
To help you out, I’ve created a simple calculator that will enable you to calculate your exact rate of fluid loss at given temperatures so that you know exactly how much you need to rehydrate before, during, and after a run of any distance or temperature.
You can use our sweat loss calculator here.
Sports drinks vs. Water
The critical factor in hydration is how rapidly fluids can be absorbed into the blood stream. As a general rule, the higher the carbohydrate content, the slower the absorption rate.
Therefore, you should drink water of diluted sports drinks before and during running and sports drinks or a recovery beverage after.
Here’s a more in-depth analysis of sports drinks or water for runners.
How to hydrate before a run
Research has demonstrated that beginning your run hyper-hydrated (of hydrating your body above its normal state before exercise ) will delay or eliminate the onset of dehydration, particularly if you fail to completely replace sweat loss during your run.
The problem is that you will quickly urinate any excess fluids. Luckily, we have a simple trick using a product called glycerol that will help you retain this extra fluid and increase your performance by up to 6% in hot and humid conditions. Check out our article on hydrating before your run
Running in the Heat Trick #3 – Racing in the Heat
The heat is the most difficult element for runners to compete in and race well. As mentioned previously, with the rise in core body temperature, a runner will have less oxygen available to working muscles, become dehydrated, and suffer a decline in performance.
However, we do have a few tricks up our sleeves to teach you how to race better in the heat.
Pre-cooling before a race
Pre-cooling is a technique used to slightly lower a runner’s core body temperature before they start running, which in turn extends the amount of time they can run hard before hitting that critical temperature threshold. Learn how you can use pre-cooling to improve your racing times.
Racing a Marathon in the heat
Running a marathon or half marathon in the heat isn’t an exciting thought. However, you can’t change the weather, so the best strategy is to be prepared. The following is a brief list of some innovative strategies and tips that you can implement on race day should you have to run a marathon in the heat
I’m going to start by stating categorically that there is no one best running form. Runners come in so many different shapes, sizes and proportions that it’s simply illogical that one running form, like one training plan, would work for all runners.
That said, there are a few keys to improving your form, which should help you stay injury-free, perform better and at the least, look better in those race photos!
The same posture that’s good in your everyday life is good for your running. Remember when your mother frequently told you to sit up straight? Well, if I’m working with you on our form, you’ll hear me telling you to “run tall.” This cue, run tall, helps get you in an upright, non-slouching posture, which is best for running. As McMillan Coach and resident Olympian Andrew “Lemon” Lemoncello shows in the photo below, head above shoulders, shoulders above hips, hips above knees and ankles. Modern life encourages us to slouch so fight that in running and run tall. Your mom would be proud. Extra note: If you feel slow in your running, think “run tall and lean forward.” You’ll run faster. By running tall, you’ll naturally lean at the ankles and then can run faster without over-striding.
2) Arm swing
When running, your arms should be bent at roughly 90 degrees (slightly more or less is also okay). Your hands should be lightly clasped and when your arm swings, your hands should brush between your lowest rib and your waistband. The swinging action itself is front to back and relaxed. Any abnormal swinging (crossing the body, elbows wide, shoulders high) will have consequences in your mechanics. Race photos often illuminate any arm swing issues and you can have someone video you while running from the front and back to evaluate your arm action. Again, as Lemon demonstrates, imagine there is a box or picture frame from your shoulders to your hips. Your arm swing should be within this box and your hands should not cross the midline of the body. Don’t be rigid but just make sure your arms stay within the box.
Demonstration of arm swing
3) Foot plant
There is a lot of chatter about foot plant. In my opinion, it matters less whether you land toward the front of the foot or the rear. What matters most is that you land under your body (or at least close to under the body). Overstriding is more of an issue than where you land on your foot. Runners can overstride with a forefoot plant as well as a heel plant. The key is to focus on landing under you and pushing behind you. (In the photo below, note that Lemon isn’t reaching out but is landing under his body.) I find if runners think not about reaching out in front to go faster but instead think about pushing harder down and behind, they cure their overstriding. Again, have someone video you from the side while you are running and you’ll see if you are landing far in front of your body (overstriding) or nearly under your body (correct landing).
A few years ago, researchers suggested a cadence (or stride frequency) of 180 steps per minute was optimal. I would suggest anything from 170-190 works depending on the runner. If you look at most runners, regardless of speed, that look really good, they usually have around this cadence.
You can count your steps in one minute to get your cadence or most GPS monitors now do this for you as well. If you do find you need to increase your cadence, just make sure you aren’t sacrificing stride length by shortening your stride too much. Understriding to achieve an optimal cadence will slow you down. We want an optimal stride rate (cadence) and an optimal stride length. They both go together to create our speed.
Running is like dancing and the runners who look the best, again regardless of speed, are the ones that have great rhythm when they run. There is a certain flow to their stride. They are relaxed and rhythmic. Think of this when you run. We like to say, “Run tall. Run relaxed.” This simple cue usually cures most form issues and results in a great running rhythm.
Click to watch a video of Lemon running. Visualize this on your next few runs to help you improve your form.
In closing, I like that we all have our unique running forms. I like that I can spot my training partners from a mile away just by their stride. Few runners need a complete overhaul in their stride. Stick with your signature stride but just make sure you adhere to these 5 keys to good form since bad habits can easily creep into our running form.
The five components of physical fitness are cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition. Getting in shape means you should include exercises in your weekly routine that help you improve all components of physical fitness.
Video of the Day
Both running and sprinting can get you in better shape. Consult your health care professional before doing any new exercises.
Sprinting and steady-state running can both get you in shape.
Ease Into It
Sprinting workouts may be too intense if you have been inactive or if you have not run in some time.
In fact, the best approach to getting in shape at the start of a new program is to begin by walking, then build up to a walk-and-jog routine, then increase the duration of your jog so that you are running non-stop for 30 minutes and finally incorporate sprint intervals.
If you are already running, one of the sprinting benefits is that it enhances your fitness, especially if you do a similar run multiple times per week. If you complete primarily sprinting workouts, running non-stop for 30 or more minutes improves your cardiovascular endurance but decreases your sprint performance.
Risk of Injury
Sprinting has a higher risk of musculoskeletal injuries than running at lower intensities for a longer duration. ACE Fitness says check your arm position. Inefficient arm movements lead to a loss of energy so keep the elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.
If you have a lower-body joint problem, sprints might aggravate your condition. Your cardiovascular system must also work at a high capacity during sprints, so if you have cardiovascular disease, sprinting will not get you in better shape and might even be dangerous.
It would be more harmful to you than a slower-paced jog, but always check with a doctor before doing any exercise.
Running and Sprinting Benefits
Sprinting and running can both help you lose weight. If you only have 20 minutes, you burn more calories with a sprint-and-walk interval than with a 20-minute non-stop run. Sprinting workouts incinerate more calories after the workout compared to steady running.
Running for 45 minutes enhances your body’s capacity to use fat as fuel instead of carbohydrates, improving your fat-burning capacity. By incorporating both types of training protocols, you can use sprinting or jogging for your heart health, improve your cardiovascular fitness and your body composition, getting in better shape, says Mayo Clinic.
Anaerobic vs. Aerobic
Anaerobic metabolism, or the conversion of the food you eat to energy your cells can use without oxygen, precedes aerobic metabolism, which uses oxygen to make energy.
Anaerobic metabolism occurs rapidly, as in sprinting, while the by-products of anaerobic metabolism are used in aerobic metabolism, as in running, if you continue to run. When you first start running, your body produces energy from anaerobic metabolism, according to ACE Fitness.
As you continue to run past 3 minutes, your body makes energy from primarily aerobic metabolism. If you sprint for 30 seconds then walk, your sprints are fueled by anaerobic metabolism. An enhanced anaerobic system augments your aerobic system, improving your fitness.
Sprinting vs. Jogging or Running
Middle-distance runners aiming to improve performance can benefit from a sprint workout included in their conditioning programs. Sprint intervals increase the point at which a runner experiences muscle fatigue from lactic acid buildup, an excellent adaptation for sprinters and runners.
This means if you run 5-kilometer races and you incorporate sprint training once per week or every other week, you can run at a faster pace for a longer duration, beating your personal time and getting in better shape.
Sprinters, however, should not be running a continuous 3 miles in their conditioning programs because the metabolic changes in muscle cells to run nonstop are not beneficial for short, intense training. In fact, if you are a sprinter and incorporate a long run every week or every other week, your performance decreases.
TIMESOFINDIA.COM | Last updated on – Mar 23, 2020, 07:00 IST
01 /3 Here is the answer!
Running is the most popular and favourite form of physical activity. You can do it to lose weight, improve your muscle endurance or just to stay fit. The simplicity of this workout is one of the reasons behind its popularity. You just have to put one foot in front of the other and keep moving forward. Indeed it is simple, but you have to take care of your posture and form to gain maximum health benefits.
Apart from this, the way you walk can determine how fast you can move forward. Some people heel strike, others are mid-foot runners, but the right strategy to run faster is to move on your toes.
02 /3 How running on toes help
Running on your toes gives you more power to move forward when you hit the pavement. In this process, the ball of your foot comes in the contact with the floor first, heels come in the contact with it afterwards. Studies suggest that about 80 per cent of athletes are rear-foot runners. Running on toes makes you faster and help you cover more distance without getting tired easily. When you heel strike, your body has to work harder, creating a disadvantage for you.
Running on forefoot creates more power and engages more muscles. Moreover, it prevents all kind of injury and also helps to keep your posture more aligned.
03 /3 Exercises you can do to run on your toes
There isn’t any doubt that a rear-foot strike is better than other kinds of running strike. But you cannot change your foot strike overnight. This will happen with time. Here are 3 exercises that you can perform to run on your toes.
Jump rope: Jumping rope is one of the easiest ways to change your running strike. While jumping rope, your toes are in use. So, jump rope to warm up to run faster. Slow down and track your landing technique. You will feel the difference after some days.
Barefoot running: Whenever you have time practice barefoot running. Walk slowly, carefully and monitor your feet. Initially, you might it difficult to do it, but with time, it will become easy.
Work on foot flexibility: One common reason why some people are not able to move on toes is due to lack of foot flexibility. Try feet rotation exercise to make your foot flexible.
When I was training for my first—and only—marathon in 2004, I used to joke that it would be a miracle if I didn’t throw my hand in the air and hail a cab when I hit the proverbial “wall” at mile 20. (It was New York City, after all.) While I can honestly say I loved running that race, I’ll admit it was more because of the eight-person-deep swarm of spectators cheering me on than the running itself.
Don’t get me wrong, I love the concept of running. After all, in this world of $40-per-class spinning gyms and fancy yoga studios, lacing up your running shoes and hitting the open road is not only free, but it’s also super convenient. Yet after I recently ran my first 5K race in about 6 years, my sore knees, burning calves, and aching lower back again reminded me of the chief downside of the sport: It’s just plain tough on my body.
Plenty of research proves that I’m not just a running wimp. One study by researchers at the Moses Cone Family Medicine Center in North Carolina found that as many as 50% of runners get injured every year, with common injuries including shin splints, knee pain, Achilles tendinitis, and iliotibial band syndrome. (I was diagnosed with tendinitis in my knee after my NYC marathon adventure.)
Other research, published in the Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness, found that the body produces higher amounts of the stress hormone cortisol and lower levels of testosterone during endurance running, which actually causes the body to burn muscle—pretty much the opposite of the muscle-building most of us aim for when we exercise. And for those who think running helps you live longer, think again. Recent research published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that those who run more than 4 hours a week have the same risk of dying as those who are sedentary and hardly exercise at all.
Yes, there’s also the pro-running research, including studies showing that running isn’t as bad for our joints as most people believe and that moderate running (we’re talking 10-minute miles or slower, for as little as 5 minutes a day) is actually associated with reduced risks of death from all causes. Yet many experts still agree that running can have more downsides than benefits for the vast majority of us. (Not a runner? Check out our Fit in 10 program to transform your body with 10-minute daily workouts—no running necessary.)
“Our modern lifestyles—sitting for the majority of our days, hunched toward a computer screen or smartphone—lead to excess tension and misalignment of our muscles, and when one part of the body is out of whack, the impact running produces can put pressure on areas that just aren’t built to withstand it,” says Chandler Stevens, a personal trainer in Cincinnati. That’s why so many of us get injured when we run, he says, and why finding alternatives to running is key. Jessica Matthews, MS, a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise, agrees, noting that there are plenty of cardio options that’ll help you get the same cardiovascular workout and calorie burn, minus the threat of injury.
So, whether you’ve always despised running or you’re starting to wonder if it’s doing more harm than good, here are 5 ways to get a great workout without (literally) pounding the pavement:
1. Hit the elliptical.
7 reasons why yoga will make you a better runner
7 reasons why yoga will make you a better runner
If you want to get stronger at running, it makes sense that you get out there and run, right? Wrong. According to Lina Nielsen, 400m hurdler and Jennis yoga coach, by adding yoga into your schedule you can transform your running times, improve recovery, prevent injuries and much more…
Has your running performance plateaued? Then the secret lies in regular yoga sessions, as we discover when we take a break with Lina Nielsen, yoga ambassador for Jennis Fitness .
Although yoga appears pretty serene, it’s incredible for helping you build muscle strength. “You might not think it,” says Lina, “but in yoga you’re engaging lots of underused, small muscles in your body that might not get worked in more traditional styles of fitness.
“All those small muscles work together to help the bigger muscles engage and strengthen – and the knock-on effect is that you get stronger, which positively impacts your running performance.”
“Take a balancing pose, such as the triangle pose,” says Lina. “As you practice this, you’ll feel your feet shift one way and another to help you stay upright. It’s almost imperceptible, but this switches on muscles through your foot, calf and quad – which are all essential for running.”
Increases stride length
One of the biggest and most surprising outcomes from yoga is that it can give you a longer running stride. “By encouraging flexibility in the hamstrings and hip flexors, you increase your stride length when you run,” says Lina.
“This means you’ll cover the same ground in less time and you’ll run faster. Whether that’s a 5k, 10k or a marathon, if you can use fewer strides to run that distance, you’ll hit a quicker time.
“In the last couple of years, it’s been my personal goal to run 15 strides to cover the first five hurdles in the 400m hurdles distance. Last year, I really struggled to meet the target because my stride length was too short, which meant I was hitting hurdles and falling over them.
“This year, partly because of my training and partly because yoga has helped my hips become more open, I’ve managed to hit my goal; it feels like I can lift my knees higher and get off the ground that little bit further.”
Whether that’s a 5k, 10k or a marathon, if you can use fewer strides to run that distance, you’ll hit a quicker time
If you’re a regular runner, you’ve probably noticed some tightness in your hips and calves from time to time. That’s where the introduction of yoga can help. “Moves like downward dog that stretch out the calves, or hip openers such as warrior pose, can definitely relieve tightness,” says Lina. “Not only will this increase your flexibility, but by having a bigger range of motion in your hips, for example, you’ll move more easily and efficiently.”
Another surprise benefit of yoga is the impact breathing during our yoga flows has on our endurance capacity.
“In yoga, you hold the poses for quite a long time. For example, you might hold downward-facing dog for anywhere between three to 10 breaths. This means you have to tap into your inner strength and breathe through any tiredness and soreness that comes up. “I think this really helps for endurance runs as you’ve learnt to breathe through any discomfort, which then mean you can run for longer.”
Ever feel like one side of your body is tighter than the other? Whether it’s your hamstrings or glutes, it’s pretty common for muscles on one side of your body to take more impact than the other, resulting in inconsistencies and risk of injury. The good news is that regular yoga can help balance things out.
“If one of your legs or arms is stronger,” says Lina, “this can naturally unbalance your gait, leading to risk of injury over time. Practicing yoga lowers the risk of injuries caused by unbalance because you are working consistently to balance the body on both sides.
“In addition, a lot of yoga poses allow your muscles to both contract and stretch out at the same time,” says Lina. “This builds elasticity and helps prevent overextension of your stride when running – another potential cause of injury.”
Paying attention to your posture isn’t usually top of anyone’s running to-do list, but it definitely should be. “A lot of people run with rounded shoulders hunched forward,” explains Lina, “especially towards the end of their run when they’re feeling tired.
“Because yoga switches on and strengthens your core muscles, it can improve your posture so that you run tall and strong, you’re more efficient and there’s less risk of injury.”
Because yoga switches on and strengthens your core, it can improve your posture so you run tall and strong, you’re more efficient and there’s less risk of injury
Finally, if you’re feeling a bit frazzled, yoga can help you find inner peace by practicing detachment and discipline. “Stepping onto the mat is a great way to devote time and energy to yourself and to put the stresses of daily life to one side,” says Lina. “It gives you the space to detach from your to-do list and reconnect with yourself, clearing your mind and moving your body in a way that feels good to you.”
“Having the discipline to show up for yourself comes in handy with running sessions, too. The more you practice discipline and detachment, the easier you’ll be able to distract yourself from any discomfort or tiredness and stick with it, pushing harder and faster each time. Before you know it, you’ll be beating your personal best.”
Check out the Jennis CycleMapping app for daily workouts and advice that’s synced to your menstrual cycle
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Lina is a qualified yoga teacher and 400m track athlete. She is a passionate advocate of yoga for holistic fitness, and has designed her Jennis yoga sessions to appeal to both seasoned yogis and flexibility seekers / dodgers.
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