It’s race season once again, but this isn’t going to be like previous years. This is the year you’re going to hit your PRs (personal records). You’re going to become the runner you’ve always wanted to be: faster, stronger and healthier. But what are you going to add to your training to help you take that next step forward?
Old school training philosophies have always promoted high mileage as the path toward running success. But there are other ways to prepare your body for the rigors of a race. Here are a few training tips to improve your running and help you become a more well-rounded athlete without piling on the mileage.
Head for the hills
Running hills is a great way to develop your leg power, speed and endurance. If you can become comfortable running uphill, flat running will feel like a breeze.
Try incorporating hill intervals at least once per week, running six to 10 climbs of 90 seconds to two minutes. Keep your pace relatively aggressive on the way up and recover with a jog back down.
Tip: If you don’t have a quality hill to train on, take it to the treadmill. There are classes that incorporate treadmill intervals as part of their daily routine.
Lunge for late-race strength
There’s nothing worse than your legs turning to jelly at the end of a race. Strength training is key for holding it together at the end of races and lunges are a runner’s best friend.
Once per week after your run, try adding five to 10 sets of 50-100, gradually increasing in number. You’ll be pretty sore the first few times, but you’ll improve your strength rapidly.
Tip: When lunging, focus on long strides, bending both the front and back knees as you lower yourself down. Stand by driving through your lead foot.
Row your boat
Rowing is one of the best ways to develop strength in the glutes, hamstrings, quads and lower back. Plus, it’s low-impact cardio, so a day spent on the rower is a day you don’t need to pound the pavement.
Try a adding a rowing double tabata once per week: eight rounds of 40-second sprints with 20-seconds of rest in between.
Tip: Make sure you take a class somewhere to learn appropriate technique before jumping into sprints.
Low plank for core strength
Building core strength is another great way to elevate your running. The low plank utilizes muscle tension to improve strength and endurance and builds muscles that will stabilize your entire body.
Start out with three rounds of 60-second low planks after every other run. Once that becomes comfortable, extend it to two minutes.
Tip: Keep your forearms on the ground with your elbows directly beneath your shoulders. Keep your feet, hips and shoulders in one straight line.
Striders are an obvious, yet often neglected, tool for runners. They’re designed to improve technique, build lactate threshold and boost your ability to kick fast at the end of races. Yet so often we finish a run and just head on home. Not anymore.
After your easy runs, take a few minutes to run six-10 of these short bursts. Each strider should be about 80-100 yards long, starting easy, accelerating close to a sprint with long strides for about 15 seconds, then decelerating for the last few seconds.
Tip: Strides are about getting comfortable with leg turnover and improving form, so focus on quick feet, long strides, high knees and running tall.
Utilize these five training tools consistently and you will find your running changed forever. Gone are the days when runners merely ran. The best runners in the world are finding added benefits from diversifying their training and you will too. Strength, endurance, lactate threshold and late race speed can all be enhanced by adding these elements to your training. And the greatest perk of all? Goodbye boredom, hello fun!