So, you’ve decided to take the leap and try out running. But before you even get 1/2 mile down the road and you feel like you can’t breathe and your wheels are about to fall off.
Running is one of the most intense and primal forms of exercise that a human can do, exactly why it appeals to us. The release of endorphins and feel good, stress-relieving chemicals after a run make it an addictive exercise that you’ll quickly grow to love as you continue your practice.
It might seem counterintuitive, but the prime way to improve your running game is to do things other than run, commonly called cross-training in the sports world.
Learn more about cross-training your body and building some colossal running strength, agility, endurance, and joint mobility through weight training.
Why do runners need to train?
As we already mentioned, cross-training is the way to improve your running performance. But why?
Running has a lot of positive benefits. A regular runner can increase lifespan by an average of about 3 years decreases all mortality risks.
To fully appreciate these benefits, you’ll need to overcome some of the downsides of running.
Running deeply works specific muscles of the legs and core. The sagittal plane (forward and backward motion) of the body is the primary movement during running.
This means the calves and the quads, which are the leading movers in the sagittal plane, become very strong, and the other leg muscles, like the hamstrings and glutes, are weaker from less use.
When one muscle becomes more substantial than another, our body adjusts, relying on that muscle more. By training these weaker muscles and having a more evenly trained body, we can avoid overuse injuries and improve all-around performance.
Building a Strong Core
Core muscles are central to improving running performance. A strong core will help improve posture while running, overall running form, breathing techniques, and avoid injury.
Improving your Power
The strength you’ll build through cross-training will help increase explosive power when you run. Your strong muscles will be able to bear the impact well and take you further, faster.
Flexibility and Range of Motion
Your muscles tighten with regular running, and you will begin to lose range of motion in your lower body joints. This tightness will lead to potential injury and decrease your ability to perform.
Strength training and mobility work (i.e., stretching) will allow you to perform your full running gait cycle.
What cross-training should runners do?
There are 2 main types of cross-training that runners should be incorporating into their regular training practice.
Weight Resistant Exercise
To build stronger muscles, you need to lift more weight regularly. We don’t recommend going to the gym and throwing the weights around, as this is not the most efficient use of your time.
Try challenging yourself with bodyweight exercises to build up your body using functional fitness for results you’ll see in the real world.
Grab a few resistance bands and dial up the challenge for moves like squats, clamshells, and presses. These bands not only build necessary strength in your body, but they’re easier on your joints than traditional weights. They will help prevent injury and get your joints used to moving with proper form, which will improve your running form.
Click here to find out more about resistance bands and their benefits.
Mobility and Stretching
It might not be the most exciting part of an exercise regimen, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most important.
Stretching is central to keeping your range of motion in tip-top shape and avoiding injury.
Running. The right starting place for a beginner runner is to run/jog for 20-30 minutes/session, 2-3x per week. As you improve, amp up the length and frequency.
To prevent overuse injury and stop your body from becoming accustomed to the exercise, vary your runs’ lengths and difficulties.
Resistance Training. Aim to perform a full-body resistance band session 2-3 times a week with at least 48 hours of rest in between for ample muscle recovery and growth.
Mobility and Stretching. You’ll want to spend 5-15 minutes stretching after each running and resistance training session. Practicing yoga 1-2x per week and stretching will keep your muscles long, loose, and healthy.
If you take the time to incorporate cross-training into your routine, you will begin to see immense growth in your running speed and distance quickly.
By strengthening your body and working on your mobility, you’ll prevent overuse damage and keep yourself running strong, long into the future.