It is amazing how the little things can make such a difference. Take, for example, the right pair of socks: these can protect your feet so you have a comfortable and happy run, while the wrong pair of socks can leave your feet bleeding. In training, whether you are preparing for a 5K or a marathon, the miles and specific running workouts certainly help prepare you to run 3.1 or 26.2 miles as fast as possible. However, the little things can often make or break your achievement of your goals. These 5 training hacks to boost speed and endurance will help you run faster and farther while preventing injury and staying healthy during your training and goal race.
As I’m about 1/3 of the way through my marathon training, these are also things I am planning to incorporate 1-2 times per week in order to run a strong marathon. I’m determined to BQ at the Portland Marathon, so I’m not about to let hills, an upset stomach, stiff muscles, or poor running form get the best of me on October 4th!
Strides only take five minutes and will improve your running economy, increase your cadence and foot turnover rate, and teach you to run faster. Strides are a fun and easy addition to any easy or long run. You simply accelerate to a controlled sprint for 100 meters (roughly 0.06 miles or 20-25 seconds) and repeat 4-8 times, with about 1 minutes easy jog or rest in between. You can also add these after your warm-up run before starting speed intervals or tempo runs to loosen your legs and help you run faster during the workout.
Plyometrics are explosive exercises done using your body weight. Think jump squats, burpees, box jumps, mountain climbers, and any torturous exercise from a Jillian Michaels workout. As much as these exercises hurt, they build your fast twitch muscle fibers and improve your running economy, both of which are essential for running faster at any distance. After all, running is basically an extended series of single leg hops, building explosive power will undoubtably make you a better runner. Not sure where to start? Check out these Six Plyometric Exercises for Runners from Competitor.com. Since these will make you sore, do them on a day preceding an easy run, so you’re not too sore for an important workout.
Hill repeats are certainly not the most exciting or enjoyable run. You run at a steady or hard pace up a considerable hill, jog back down, and repeat several times. Needless to say, running up and down the same hill over and over fosters boredom much more quickly than running along a loop or out-and-back route. However, even if you are training for a flat race, hill repeats have endless benefits. Hill repeats will build muscular strength in your legs and glutes, increase your capillary density (which in turn increases your endurance), and build intermediate muscle fibers that will help you run faster at long and short distances. Not to mention hill repeats help you improve your running form and cadence! Near the end of an easy run, find a hill that is challenging but not too steep. To begin, do ten repeats of 30 seconds uphill at a moderate to hard pace with 90 seconds of active recovery. Progress to doing 8 repeats of 90 seconds uphill with 3 minutes active recovery.
A happy tummy makes for a happy runner. GI distress can ruin a race or even an everyday run. Everyone has their off days, but when you regularly experience the trots, constipation, or stomach discomfort, it could be a sign that something is off with your gut. Eating a diet high in fiber and low in sugar, preservatives, and refined flours is essential for a healthy digestive system, but good gut health goes beyond that. A healthy GI system requires a proper balance of gut bacteria. Several factors including stress, birth control pills, high training volume and intensity, and antibiotics can wreck havoc on your gut bacteria. Foods rich in prebiotics and probiotics will restore good gut bacteria. Prebiotics are found in bananas, mushrooms, garlic, almonds, and oats. The best sources of probiotics are fermented foods, such as yogurt, kefir, kombucha, sauerkraut, and apple cider vinegar. If you need an extra boost, you can take a probiotic or digestive enzyme supplement.
Balance Training and Posture
I by far do not have perfect posture, and I definitely feel the effects of it in the later miles of a race. One of the simplest and most effective means to improving your running form is by running tall. This prevents over-striding, slouched shoulders, and misfiring glutes. By working on your posture, you will ameliorate any running form problems. So how do you improve your posture? Pilates and yoga increase your flexibility and straighten your spine, which will help you develop better posture. Strengthening your core and back will also help; try exercises such as back extensions, rows, bridges, and planks. Even focusing on sitting up straighter throughout the day will make good posture feel more natural, thus making it easier to maintain while running.
Question of the Day:
What little things had a big impact on your training?
Are there certain foods that have a huge impact on your running, either negatively or positively?
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