You may be wondering how to get better at running without pounding the pavement every week. One of the best ways to get better at running is, well, to run.
However, without running there are ways to improve your strength and performance through other means such as strength training and cross training.
When I first started running, all I would focus on was running.
It didn’t occur to me that other forms of exercise and different modes of training could actually help me become a better runner.
Like many runners, I was led to believe that running miles after miles would help me get better at running. How I was wrong!
After all, running for miles on end makes sense right? Wrong.
The truth is you should be focusing on other forms of fitness in order to become a stronger and faster runner.
In this blog post I’d explain to explain how to get better at running without actually running.
The tips in this blog may be useful for you if you’re suffering from an injury and you cannot run as often. Or you’re looking for new ways to improve your running.
How to get better at running
In order to get better at running, you must be tapping into other forms of fitness other than cardio.
The five components of fitness are: cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, flexibility and body composition.
These components are the blueprint for many physical activity guidelines and serve as a useful tool for organising your own training routine.
According to the 2016 physical activity guidelines, moderate intensity physical activities should be combined with muscle strengthening activity at least two days a week.
Notably, the guidelines argue that muscle strengthening activity can help lower the risk of muscle mass loss.
This is associated with ageing but also occurs in response to immobility at any age.
Some of the many benefits of running is that it improves your aerobic endurance and cardiovascular health.
Although these are both important to overall health, it’s good to target other forms of fitness in your training plan to make you stronger and faster.
Running, although great for cardiovascular fitness, over time it can start to negatively impact your muscular strength.
This is because running focuses mainly on your aerobic energy systems and targets the muscles in your lower body – your glutes, quads, hamstrings and hip flexors.
This creates an imbalance. By including other activities that improve your muscular strength, you even out this imbalance and strengthen weaker and underused muscles.
How to get better at running: What to include in your training plan other than running
The good news is that if you like a bit of variety in your training plan, you will enjoy trying out a range of activities to keep boredom at bay.
Here are some tips on how to get better at running and what to include in your training plan.
I’ve spoken a lot about strength training on my blog over the years. This is because it has completely changed how I approach running.
Strength training can be just as beneficial as running when incorporated into your training routine.
And I believe it’s one of the best ways to get better at running without running. But how do you include it in your training plan?
Strength training is essentially a type of exercise that specialises in the use of resistance, in the form of your own body weight or weights, to build the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles and bone density.
Strength training is important for runners because it helps you build stronger muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues.
It improves your speed and power and lowers your risk of injury. It also contributes to better running form. In other words, it helps you run more efficiently!
Include at least one strength training session in your training plan each week.
Each session should last between 45-60 minutes and focus on all body movements.
Read my essential strength training guide for runners for more information and tips on including it in your training plan.
Your body is good at adapting to different types of movement and it likes to be tested in different ways.
Cross training, in addition to strength training, is a great way to become faster and more powerful.
It improves your flexibility, balance, coordination and core strength.
Cross training is also proven to strengthen your muscles and help speed your recovery after a long run.
So it’s good practice to include at least one or two cross training activities in your training routine to really reap the benefits.
It’s a great way to get better at running, without the need to pound the pavement each week. How you choose cross training activities is completely up to you.
Popular cross training activities for runners include swimming, cycling, walking, rowing, barre, pilates and yoga.
You need to be incorporating a range of workouts and exercises to improve your muscular strength and endurance and build it up over time.
Stretching is important for increased range of motion as well as flexibility and is one of the best ways to get better at running without running.
It increases mobility in joints and muscles which therefore makes you less susceptible to injury.
Muscles work best when they are warmed up. Stretching gets your body warmed up before a run, especially if you have stiff or tight muscles.
Loosening your joints and getting your blood circulating around your body before a run is a good way to become a better runner without running.
Dynamic stretches should be the focus of a warm up. Stuck for which exercises to do? Check out my blog on how to warm up before a run.
Static stretches should be used during a cool down.
Check out my post if want to know my thoughts on the best cool down stretches to do after a run.
As mentioned above, cross training activities like barre, pilates and yoga are great for runners.
They improve your flexibility, mobility and range of motion.
Foam rolling (also known as self-myofascial release) provides many benefits, and is something that all runners should consider doing before and after a run.
If you regularly experience tight or sore muscles after a run, then it might just be a sign that you need to invest in a foam roller.
Many runners think foam rolling is just for injured muscle rehab. This is a common mistake and one that needs to be laid to rest right now!
The truth is, if you have stiff muscles, these could be holding you back on those long and short runs.
Foam rolling helps to loosen tight muscles and is probably one of my favourite ways to loosen up before a run and to help recover after a run.
Check out my post on the benefits of foam rolling for runners for more information and tips on including foam rolling into your weekly routine.
Power and explosive movement can be very useful for runners, especially if you do a lot of speedwork and hill training.
Many runners though neglect ancillary work that focuses on improving their strength and power.
Adding the right mix of explosive and energy-honing exercises to your training can make your usual runs like you’ve switched up a level.
Plyometric movements are great for converting strength into speed and power.
They involve fast and high-intensity movements – think immediate and explosive power. HIIT workouts are popular for some runners.
In order to be considered plyometric, an exercise has to be completed in less than two-tenths of a second.
Due to the amount of power used in each rep, plyometric movements shouldn’t be seen as a conditioning tool.
In other words, keep your reps low (between 6 to 10) and focus on form and quality over piling on the weight.
If you’re new to plyometrics, start with simple jump training.
Skips, bounds and low hurdle jumps are all great starting exercises from which you can build from.
Perform one jump at a time, focusing on form. Then progress on to running leaps, medicine ball throws and depth jumps.
Remember to rest in between each set. Plyometric movements can be exhausting, but more doesn’t always mean better.
Give yourself 48 to 72 hours between plyometric sessions – your body needs that much time to fully recover.
The best time to do a plyometric session is at the beginning of a strength training workout, before a run, or on its own for a quick power session.