By Imani Mack PT, DPT
As a former collegiate middle distance sprinter (400m), turned long distance runner (currently running 10Ks, 10-milers, and half-marathons), I know that sometimes it can feel like you are doing the same mundane routine over and over again. But being stuck in a running rut doesn’t have to be looked at as a negative thing. This training lull can be a motivator to try new things and can take you to another level as a runner. Here are some tips to provide new challenges to optimize your running performance...
Cross Training and Strength Training
The body is a dynamic machine. Though runners often like to focus on miles, it’s important to include some non-running days into your workouts. Cross training can positively impact your training routine and decrease your risk of injury or overtraining. Swimming, cycling, hiking, and using the elliptical are all great ways to safely and effectively cross train and still mimic the reciprocal pattern of running.
Strength training should also be an important part of your training regimen. This can range from core and hip strengthening to total-body workouts. Exercises such as planks, kettlebell swings, banded bridges, and clam shells can be great at improving muscle strength in runners. Running only 3 to 4 days per week, and cross training the other days, can be a great way to mix up your running workouts, while maintaining the proper fitness levels and strength.
Incorporate Sprints, Shorter Distances, and Hills into Your Training
Sprinters use completely different muscle recruitment patterns than distance runners.
Incorporate speed workouts and/or shorter runs into your training routine, plus cross training and strength training a couple days per week, to provide you with the sprinting power you need to give you that edge when crossing the finish line.
Incorporate faster runs and hill running to help you get out of the repetition of running the same distance, with the same times, on the same surfaces. This allows you to train the body under different conditions and will prepare you for different elevations on race day. To get even more of a training edge, try challenging yourself by adding in some short races earlier in the season to prepare you for the longer runs and keep things fun and interesting.
Running with a buddy can inspire you to run longer and push yourself harder. Buddying up can also keep you motivated and accountable, which can be especially important for those longer runs. Running groups are great ways to get on a running schedule, and can provide safe increases in weekly mileage, which can preventing injury down the road.
And lastly, for me, running with a buddy is a great distraction. We start chatting, and before I know it, I’ve run 7 miles! Don’t let a running rut bring you down, or get you out of running! If you need help along the way, the FX Physical Therapy team is happy to provide a run gait analysis and proper instruction on how to safely perform any cross training exercises to ensure that you have optimal outcomes on race day. Happy running!