When you up your mileage and run on a more consistent basis, just running isn’t enough. It’s just as important to work on strengthening and core exercises as it is to run. In order to become a better runner and avoid those typical injuries, you need to become a stronger runner. Here are a few things you can try to supplement your running.
1. Lower Body Strengthening
“Running is my leg workout!” is my standard excuse. Running is a great leg workout, but supplementing your running with squats, lunges, and calf raises can help improve your running strength and performance. You don’t have to put a large amount of weight to get results. Try starting out with squats and lunges using your own bodyweight. If that’s too easy, try adding more repetitions and/or more weight.
2. Core Work
Core work consists of planks and similar exercises that will strengthen and tighten the midsection and trim up the waistline. For running, a strong core means better form and the ability to hold that through a run or race. A quick note, core work and ab work are two different things. Ab work is just going to work your abs, while core work will work your abs, obliques, and lower back. Random Abs is a great site to visit for core work exercise. Each day they post a new workout for you to do, with illustrations and videos of the movements in case you aren’t familiar with them.
Stretching. It’s about as polarizing as the barefoot/running shoe debate. Some say it doesn’t help, some swear by it. If you do stretch, do a warmup first. Warmup, then stretch. After you finish your workout, stretch again. Also, try using a foam roller (or the roller stick) after a workout. Foam rollers are great for working out tight muscles so that you can actually walk the day after a tough run.
4. Warm-Up & Cool Down
It’s extremely important to warm up and cool down when running. On longer runs this can just be starting your first mile slow and closing you last mile slow. On speed work or tempo days, you should be sure to warm up and cool down so that your muscles are ready to handle the stress you are going to put them through. It’s worth taking the extra 10-20 minutes to properly warm up and cool down. Your legs will thank you.
5. Barefoot Strides
Doing barefoot strides 2-3 times a week on a grass field (such as a football field) can help develop strong leg and foot muscles. These will help strengthen the arch of your foot and can help improve you running form by promoting a mid foot strike as opposed to a heel strike. Start out light with 2-4 strides of 60 meters per session.
By Adam Rabo
Adam Rabo is a former high school Cross Country/ Track & Field athlete. You can find additional information from him by visiting Running Rabo.