Running is a great workout with lots of physical and mental benefits, including the “runner’s high” that many devotees experience. It is a great way to condition the cardiovascular system, strengthen the legs, burn calories and relieve stress. However, because of the repetitive impact of running, it can cause issues and injuries, which may ultimately limit one’s ability to run. To help prevent these injuries and improve performance, take heed of the following tips on how to run smarter:
- Run-walk: Beginners or those returning to running after a long time off should alternate periods of jogging with walking in order to build up stamina and manage impact. There’s no shame in walking a bit every half mile or every other mile, depending on your fitness level. Over time, you can lengthen the running intervals and shorten the walking duration, so that eventually, you can run the entire workout, and increase distance.
- Perfect your form: Poor form can cause fatigue and lead to injuries. Keep your head up, shoulders back and down, arms loose and core engaged. The pelvis should be neutral, and strides should be short and light, aiming for about 180 steps per minute, landing on the midfoot and pushing off with the toes.
- Vary workouts: If you compete in races and want to improve your speed, then don’t just do long, slow distance runs, but incorporate speedwork, tempo runs and hills to challenge your body differently and become a stronger, faster runner. Work outdoors but try a treadmill or track for variety and when weather is an issue.
- Cross train: We get it. Most runners prefer simply to run and nothing else. However, research shows that cross training leads to greater overall fitness, better conditioning and stronger running. Instead of just running, incorporate strength training, core work, flexibility exercises and other cardio, such as swimming or cycling.
- Manage impact: This goes along with cross training. If all you ever do is run and take on other high-impact activities, you may be subjecting your body to too much stress, thereby risking an injury. While high-intensity interval training is great, you shouldn’t do it every day. Swap out a running workout or two with lower-impact activities, such as the elliptical, rowing machine and stationary bicycle. Or try the Zero Runner, ElliptiGo or an anti-gravity treadmill to replicate real running motion without the jarring on the body.
- Ditch junk miles: When you are running more than necessary simply to hit a designated mileage target, when you are running when fatigued, or when you are running without any valuable additional physiological benefits, you are taking on junk miles. At some point, endlessly logging miles can lead to diminishing returns. Rather than routinely hit the road, try a non-impact or cross-training activity or take a recovery day.
- Address injuries: Runners tend to ignore nagging aches and pains and run through them if possible. Although their fortitude is admirable, their habit of not addressing issues can lead to more serious injuries over time, which can sideline and frustrate them. Listen to your body, check out and treat what’s bothering you, and see a doctor or physical therapist if it doesn’t go away within a reasonably short period.
- Rest and recover: Too much running can turn into overtraining, which results in rapid heart rate, insomnia and declines in performance. The body gets stronger only when you give it sufficient rest and recovery time – ideally, at least one day per week. Although this can be difficult for dedicated runners, it pays off with a longer, healthier running career.
These useful tips are great steps to take to run smarter. Let us know which one helped the most with your running. Let us know on the Octane Fitness Facebook page. Stay Fueled.