When you first start running, the sheer act of lacing up your sneakers and hitting the pavement feels like an accomplishment. But after a while, you start to crave more. More speed. More distance. Triumphant music fills your head as you have visions of pushing yourself beyond your limits and being better than you’ve ever been. Then…
Why? Because to excel as a runner you have to do more than just run. If you’re really ready to take your running to the next level and earn that triumphant music, here are eight workouts to help get you there.
STRENGTHEN YOUR CORE
Your core is more than just your abs; it encompasses your entire midsection, including your stomach, back and hips. A weak core is one of the top causes of running injuries, resulting in everything from IT band pain to runner’s knee to back pain. On top of that, a strong core helps you feel stronger on your runs, which means you’ll run longer and faster. It also betters your running form, meaning you’re less likely to hunch over. That being said, all core exercises are not equal. Runners need to concentrate on moves, like planks, that target every muscle in the core – not just the abs. You should aim to do core work two to three times per week, on alternating days. You can work up to four to five days. If you need some guidance, technology can be your best friend. Helpful apps like RunFit, feature core strength workouts designed specifically for runners and counts your reps and calorie burn for you. Talk about a win-win.
ADD IN SPEEDWORK
The best way to run faster is to, well, practice running faster. That’s where speedwork comes in. But not all speedwork is equal since different workouts boost different things. Tempo runs teach your body to run at your aerobic or anaerobic threshold and are crucial for runners wanting to improve their half marathon or marathon times. By teaching your body to clear out lactic acid buildup, you can run faster for longer. Interval runs are a more aggressive type of speedwork and help improve VO2 max – i.e., your body’s ability to use oxygen. These types of runs benefit those who want to improve their time on shorter distances, like a 5K or 10K.
Anyone who has done CrossFit is familiar with plyometric-style workouts. These are explosive exercises where “muscles exert maximum force in short intervals of time.” Studies show that runners can get faster by doing these types of workouts as they teach your muscles to use fast-twitch fibers effectively. These are the same fibers used during a speed session or a race. You may even be able to run less without sacrificing endurance or speed by simply adding plyometric exercises into your routine twice a week.
While your core is important, runners should also strengthen their entire body, including glutes, legs, and yes, arms. Just think about how much your arms swing on a run and you’ll understand why they’re critical to keeping you upright and your form solid. By incorporating a well-rounded strength routine into your training, you’ll get less tired on your runs. Your muscles will be stronger and you’ll be able to keep going for longer. And these workouts don’t have to be time consuming to be effective. The RunFit app includes a 7 Minute Workout, which allows you to work your entire body from head to toe in less time than it takes to drive to the gym. Incorporate strength training into your routine twice a week (never on back-to-back days) and ideally on the same day as a run.
HIT THE TRAILS
Trail running is a fun way to change up your scenery and improve your speed and endurance. When you’re on trails, you naturally have to run slower as the terrain is uneven and extremely steep at times. Plus, there are unpredictable obstacles, like rocks, roots, etc. While this might seem counterintuitive to getting faster, this type of running helps build your glute and core strength (you’ll definitely feel a hard trail run in your bum the next day!), making you more powerful. This power will translate to more speed and better running economy on the flat road.
SHOW THOSE HILLS WHO’S BOSS
Running hills, similar to running trails, is another way you can boost your speed and your endurance without necessarily running faster. Running hills is hard. Very hard. Running hills on repeat? Even harder. But this type of workout builds up your endurance and your muscles. So find a nearby hill and get ready to climb. You can either do intervals or you can find one long, steady hill where you slowly push yourself up.
TRY OTHER CARDIO WORKOUTS
The best all-around runners are those who focus on more than just running. From swimming to biking to rowing, they take cross-training seriously. By integrating one or two non-running cardio activities into your weekly routine, you build your endurance but lessen the load on your running joints and muscles, thus lowering your chances of burnout or injury while also improving your running cadence. You also return to your runs feeling mentally and physically fresh. The key to success here is to use the a heart rate monitor like TICKR X to ensure you’re training in your moderate to high heart rate range – or the same range as during a training run (70 to 85 percent of your max heart rate) or a tempo run (88 to 92 percent of your max heart rate). You want your blood pumping! Plus, the RunFit app will count your reps, cadence, calorie burn and can be used when running, cycling or weight lifting.
STRETCH IT OUT
Runners are notorious for being bad at stretching. We just don’t feel like it, okay!? But trust us. Taking the time after a run to do a simple stretching workout can be extremely beneficial. It helps eliminate tightness in your muscles and enables you to run faster and stronger on your next run. Stretch out your hamstrings by doing a standing toe touch, your calves and quads by doing a lunge, your IT Band by doing a figure four stretch and your glutes by hugging each knee into your chest, either while standing or laying on your back. Hold each stretch (on each side) for 30 seconds. Want to take it to the next level? Yoga or Barre workouts are great ways to get your stretch in while building strength in your core and legs.
To become a speedier and stronger runner, you need to strengthen your body. But don’t forget that, in addition to these workouts, rest and fuel are also extremely important. So take the time to let yourself recover, especially after hard efforts. Before you know it, you’ll be running longer and faster! But, if you find yourself hitting the wall and just can’t force yourself out of bed or off the couch, check out our 8 Tips to Boost Your Motivation to Run.