Whether you’re working through an injury or just looking for a leg up on your competitors, the following three workouts are great cross-training methods to improve your running.
Deep Water Workouts
If you want to improve strength, mobility, endurance and more, consider heading to the deep end of the pool. Grab a flotation belt and a timer, hop in and do some interval training—like you would at the track—with short (30-60 seconds) bursts of intense work followed by a brief recovery.
You can water run (regular running form, focusing on a long stride), cross country ski (straight-ish legs, activating opposite arms), high knees or floating grapevine. Basically, if it works your muscles, it’s working. Check out more workouts and specific water workouts from the Hydro Interval Training Method website.
Leg-Specific Strength Work
It’s important to incorporate strength exercises into your workout regimen to build single leg strength while helping you identify imbalances. The following moves are great for identifying these areas:
- Single leg calf raises
- Rear leg-elevated split squat
- Single leg hip drive
- Single leg hop (Bonus: Use it as a benchmark. Hop from one point to another, including a running motion with your lifted foot, then hop back on the other foot. Record how many hops you take on each leg, then come back to that same spot every couple of weeks to see if you can reduce that number.)
Runners should also focus on core strength, all varieties of planks are beneficial, as well as upper back and shoulder work. This will allow you to maintain posture (and the ability to breathe freely) when you become fatigued at the end of a race or workout.
This one shouldn’t come as a surprise to runners; yoga is great for flexibility and recovery, but that’s not the only benefit. “One of the most powerful things yoga does for runners is [create] mental durability,” shared Alison Heilig, a Level 2 RRCA-Certified Running Coach at Miles To Go Athletics and Registered Yoga Teacher.
When it comes to that mental durability, there are two aspects of note for runners: focus and presence. “Focus is the ability to keep your eyes on the prize despite everything that’s around you,” like being able to concentrate on holding a running pace in spite of discomfort, explained Heilig. Presence, on the other hand, is what allows athletes to center in on their goal while still taking note of important outside factors, such as changes in weather or physiological cues that go beyond discomfort.
Yoga also resets the nervous system. While you might know the difference between mental stresses caused by work or family and the physical stresses of training, your body doesn’t. “The practice of yoga is really good at flushing out those stress hormones that accumulate from the stress of life and stress of training,” said Heilig.
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