As many of you will know I am training to run the London Marathon next month in aid of backcare.org. I won’t lie, it has been hard to keep motivated and train, especially during the long winter months, so I thought I would share some of the techniques that have helped me stay motivated to KEEP RUNNING and some of the stretches that have helped me become a better runner.
1) I joined a ladies running group in my village and you get a message every day of who is running so keeping company and chatting while you run keeps me going.
2) Getting my husband and family involved to run with me. My husband’s great at getting up at 6am to run – I would not do it on my own.
3) I have to run in the morning when I’m in the right clothes and before my body knows what I’m doing!
5) Organising fundraising events. Everyone helping and supporting me is so motivating as I can’t let you all down.
6) I also have a Personal trainer once a week to push me and check my alignment, stretch me, check that I’m doing it right as sometimes yourself you can’t tell and show me exercises I might not know. I believe it is good to go to someone else and be the participant not just the teacher.
Here are my secrets to becoming a better runner
I know you all ask me in class – “how is your running going”? Well I won’t say it’s easy to stay motivated but it helped this week having the lighter mornings as it is very hard to get/stay motivated early in the morning and when its raining, (and as I’m writing this its hailing – I’m not going out in that!!!) Once I’m up in my running clothes I want to get going first thing, once kids dropped to school, and tick my run off on my weekly schedule! What has really surprised me with all the online research and Womens Running articles I’ve read is that I’ve realised I should stick to 3/4 runs a week and do MORE strength work. Yes I do regular Pilates but for me to stop my lower back seizing up I have to stretch, stretch, stretch and have to strengthen my gluts too. So with all this I have a few tips to become a better, stronger, faster runner……..
Sam Greenwood physical literacy expert says“There is too much emphasis on actual running, when in reality runners should be focusing on improving core skills such as strength, posture, stability and mobility.”
Types of exercise to incorporate –
1. Plyometric Exercises
If you really want to boost your running implement plyometric exercises two or three times a week into your training.‘Plyometric’ is commonly used to describe any explosive, jumping exercise and this is a popular addition to circuit training and is used in many sports. The most important functions of muscles and tendons during running is to store energy. Like a spring, your body can store some energy from impact and then unload that energy to propel your body forward. A large portion of your energy actually comes from the energy stored in your legs from the impact you made with the ground. So Plyometric training activates different muscle recruitment patterns than distance running does, it teaches your body to react to fast-twitch fibres. Maximising muscle recruitment allows you to exert more force into your legs and propel yourself faster.
A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning that tested the effect of plyometric exercises and running, further confirms that runners will benefit from adding in plyometric exercises. The study established a baseline by asking all participants to complete a timed 5km run, then split them into two groups. One group’s training consisted of running around two or three times a week, whereas the second group ran less but also completed bodyweight plyometric exercises. After eight weeks, both groups had significantly improved their 5km times, but the plyometric group ran 25% less than the other and still achieved the same results.
Example Exercises are – Switch Lunges, Leg bounds and Box Jumps.
2. Improve your posture
Your posture is the foundation of your movements, it affects how you stand, walk and run. Poor posture will shift your centre of mass back, accentuates over striding and impairs your ability to control the muscles in the spine and the lower legs. This lack of control can inhibit you from correctly storing and releasing the elastic energy for optimum running performance. As gravity pushes down on our bodies, our muscles make thousands of tiny contractions to keep us in a natural position, which means that you are actively maintaining your joints in the middle of their range of motion whilst standing, sitting and moving.
Pilates can help you work in a neutral spine and stretches are important such as – Kneeling hip flexor stretch, Balanced Donkey Kicks.
Posture strengthening moves have to include the posterior muscles including lower back, the glutes, the hamstrings, and the calf muscles, try deadlifts, squats, lunges.
3. Improve your balance
Balance and stability is key to performance to maintain efficiency in each stride to helping to avoid injuries.
“The ankle is very common to injure while running, due to the nature of undulating surfaces and the up and down of pavement, good balance will help your ankle respond to the change in level of the surface you run on.” states Matthew Crehan, Author of The Art of Running and Sport and Exercise Science graduate from University of Leeds.
Exercise – Stand on one leg with your eyes closed for 30 seconds before repeating on the other. Stand on the edge of a stair and raise up to toes and down both feet then try one at a time. Also the reformer works the ankles and can help get the legs, knees and ankles in good alignment.
4. Develop your core
There is a direct correlation between a strong core, strength and flexibility and a powerful run.
A strong core is vital for good running form; the core muscles work together to stabilise the whole body, allowing the arms and legs to work hard, propelling you along at a pace. If the core is weak, runners will tire more easily and tend to slump, particularly on long runs. This contracts the lungs, limiting the amount of oxygen reaching the lungs which reduces blood flow to the working muscles. Furthermore, a weak core can mean that movement from the arms or legs can throw the rest of the body around; making the energy spend totally inefficient and increasing the risk of injury.”
5. Stretch to Prevent injuries
After every single workout, whether it’s a run, walk or a strength session, you must stretch! This is one of the most crucial parts of running training that is so often overlooked. Having tight muscles will not only affect your performance but increase your chances of injury. So take the time to stretch these properly to look after them. This helps prevent injuries and can improve strength, power and speed. Being aware of your body and staying pain free enables you to train more frequently and increase the intensity of your workouts. I use the foam roller to stretch and relax the muscles after each workout. (I still have 2 available. )
See my best stretches after running from last week
USING FOAM ROLLERS– these are great for going greater range of motion at a joint, speed recovery, myiofascia release but we have been discussing in class not stretching the IT Band (Iliotibial band) on the side of the leg as this can injury you as it is a tendon not a muscle, the answer is to get the glut med to fire up properly and it would not be so tight.
Need to improve your core strength come for a postural and functional movement assessment, for us to be able to give you a personalised training program. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org