Tips to Improve Your Running – PART 2 How to Increase Duration and Speed

July 31, 2019

  • Building a Base of Aerobic Fitness – so important as it allows you to continue running further without increasing your heart rate too much, which is what places an increasing demand on the body and slows down your recovery during a long distance run. Work on pacing yourself each run and start slowly.
  • Building a Base of Strength – will protect your body from potential overuse injuries and the stress that running places on the human body. By participating in strength/resistance training, you can specifically target the muscles used in running, which can help facilitate recovery and reduce your susceptibility to injury. Exercises that can benefit include: squats, deadlifts, lunges, bench press, pull-ups and the shoulder press. All of these exercises are compound, multi-joint movements that can help you move more efficiently and develop the strength necessary to withstand the impact of running.
  • The 10% Rule – increase weekly training by no more than 10% per week. Whatever your current fitness level is, build slowly and steadily from there. The runs you do each week should gradually increase by 0.8-1.6km per week for most people. Your body will take time to adjust and adapt to new training stresses and doing too much too soon can lead to over-training and injury.
  • Incorporate Hill Sprints – find a steep hill and use it to perform hill sprints where you sprint up the hill for approximately 10 seconds and then rest for approximately 60-120 secs., depending on your fitness level. Be sure you are able to perform each sprint with maximum effort – adequate recovery between sprints is essential. Hill sprints are known to improve leg strength and encourage better running form and technique.
  • Incorporate Interval Training – to get faster you have to dedicate time to speed sessions, which will increase your neural pathways so that your muscles can contract quicker and harder for increased power output per stride. The most efficient way to do this is by performing short, fast interval sessions. Intervals should last no longer than 90 secs. so you can maintain an intensity of approximately 85% of your maximum effort throughout the session. The rest time between each interval should be 3-4x the length of the interval to allow for adequate recovery and to maintain sprint quality and effort. The purpose of interval training is to allow for significant lactic acid to build up. Ultimately the better you are at tolerating lactic acid, the faster you can run, for longer periods of time.
  • Learn Proper Breathing – establishing a rhythm with your breathing is a vital step in running. Start the run with a one-minute walk where you are focusing on slow, deep breathing, concentrating on expanding your belly as you breathe. Also focus on good posture keeping your chest open, head up, shoulders relaxed and spine tall. This posture promotes an increase in lung capacity by enabling a deep inhalation to get oxygen into the lungs and then be transported to the working muscles. Now pick up the pace and start into your slow jog for 1 minute while maintaining the same breathing pattern. Notice how many strides you’re taking with each inhale and exhale, counting each time your right foot hits the ground. After the 1-minute jog, pick up the pace again and come into your steady run while still keeping your breathing deep and controlled. By controlling your breathing during a run, you can get more oxygen into your lungs that can be transported to your working muscles to keep you running for longer.
  • Learn Proper Running Technique – technique will reduce your chance of developing an injury and improves your running economy where less energy is wasted. How you start off running is how you should look when you finish the run. Stand up tall and proud, core activated, shoulders down and relaxed, chest upright, head held so you’re looking ahead naturally. Your arms should be bent at approximately 90 degrees forward and back and should maintain this position throughout. Your hands should be in a loose fist with palms facing towards your body, thumbs pointing forwards and thumb knuckle towards the sky. This hand placement prevents cross-body arm swinging, which wastes energy. A slight forward lean will prevent you from heel striking. You want to land around mid-foot each strike with a brief contact with the ground to enable a higher turnover and efficiency.
  • Tapering – tapering serves the purpose of rebuilding and restoring your muscles for recovery. Reducing the distance you run is important for full recovery before your race and allows for peak performance on the day of the event. In the last 2-3 weeks leading into your event, you should gradually start to taper. The week before you start your taper should be your longest distance covered. The first week of your taper you should decrease your total distance by at least 20% from the previous week. You should also avoid hill sprints and interval sessions at least 2 weeks prior to the event. Your shorter runs shouldn’t change too much but reduce the longer runs by 1-2km each week from the start of your taper. When you get to 1 week out from the event you shouldn’t be doing any long runs, just continuing the shorter runs at a steady pace.
  • Rest and Recovery – during your weekly running schedule, it is important to include a rest day at least once a week. If you’re just starting out with running, run one day and rest the next. As it comes closer to your event, it is important to let your body recover from your previous run… so be sure to leave at least 2 days of rest before event day so that your muscles are fresh and fully recovered. During the rest days it is important to stretch your muscles to help promote recovery as well as incorporating a healthy, nutritious diet.

By Emily Negus – Personal Trainer, Anytime Fitness Frenchs Forest (B.Sc. Exercise Scientist, Accredited Athletics Coach)

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