Cool running

As marathon season approaches, Stephanie Hazelwood offers some tips for improving your running performance

Running is one of the easiest and cheapest ways to get a good cardio workout, and with a good technique and positive mindset it can be extremely enjoyable too. Below, we’ve outlined some of the most crucial tips to improve your running performance, speed and comfort.

1. Speed bursts

Also known as interval training, speed bursts are the most effective way of improving speediness. It may feel like a lot of work, but integrate this into your running routine and you’ll be knocking off seconds in no time!

So how does it work? It’s simple really. Rather than running at the same pace for the whole run’s duration, alternate between bursts of fast and slow running. In your sprints, aim to reach 85 per cent of your maximum effort, and in your resting periods, either walk or jog lightly allowing the body to recover. Try not to lose focus on your technique, ensuring that you achieve maximum effectiveness.

2. Strength training

Do you suffer with aches and pains post running? If so, it might be because you are suffering with muscle imbalances.

Regular aerobic fitness is important for improving your running performance, but resistance training is just as crucial, especially given the amount of sitting we now do today. Regular strength training enables the body to correct imbalances that will ultimately prevent you from getting injured. Try to focus not just on your leg strength, but also your core and pelvic muscles.

3. New shoes

One concern with running is the impact that it can have on the rest of your body, particularly the ankles and knees.

A good pair of shoes can significantly lessen the impact of your steps and prevent any pain from heavy landings. Not only do a good pair of shoes support any heavy impact, they can also improve your ability to move faster and change direction more easily.

Every individual has a different anatomy, gait and comfort level and for these reasons, you’re better off going to a running shop and having yourself assessed by a professional rather than shopping for running shoes online. Although it can be more expensive this way, investing in a quality pair of shoes will prevent foot and ankle damage, making your ability to achieve your running goals more attainable.

4. Running technique

Below are some small and simple changes you can make to your running style, which can greatly affect your performance.

Avoid heel-striking
If you’re suffering with back and knee pain it could mean that you’re striking the pavement too much with your heels. Try to avoid this, and instead focus on keeping your foot in contact with the ground.

Take short, effective strides
The shorter the stride, the less wear and tear to your joints. In time, this improves your efficiency and ability to run longer distances.

Land on the midsole of your foot
Whilst running, try to focus on engaging the core and ensuring that you are landing on your forefoot. If you start to fall too much inwards, or too much outwards, you’ll cause serious damage to your joints and bones.

5. Rest

Running causes micro-damage to your body and, without allowing your body to recover, you cause your muscles and bones to break down further. Have a go at scheduling in rest days and see the effect it has on both your mental and physical performance. If you’re already suffering with injuries such as shin splints or tendonitis, this is a big indicator you’re already well overdue some big, hearty rest days!

Adopt these tips and techniques and you’ll be hitting your running goals in no time. Also, remember to smile, have fun and enjoy your running experience.

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