Do you want to become a better runner? Well, it’s not all about what you do while you’re out there training – carrying out a few simple daily tasks can also improve how well you move, breathe and feel as you run.
This awesome article by Ben Bulach, Bodyweight Training Specialist at the fitness app Freeletics explains exactly what you need to do to improve your running even when you’re not out on the track or pounding the pavement.
This post contains affiliate links and I get a small commission if you make a purchase. Buying from these links does not involve any extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
1. Drop The Tension
You probably expect that any pain you feel from running will be in your lower body, but that‘s not always the case. Pounding the pavement can also cause discomfort in your neck and shoulders, which can make your run feel twice as hard.
The best way to cure this tension is to prevent it in the first place. For starters, check your posture when you‘re sitting at your desk – odds are that you‘re sitting hunched over, which can be dangerous to your health and damage your body in the long run.
Also, don‘t be afraid to also switch up your sleeping position. Snoozing on your stomach strains the neck‘s vertebrae, so instead, move on to your side or your back to give your muscles a much-needed break.
(I’m going to butt in here for a minute – I’m obsessed with buckwheat pillows right now for changing the position of the neck when you sleep. I tried them first in Japan and now have one at home and it’s brilliant.)
Your morning cup of tea or coffee doesn‘t just give you a boost for the office – it‘s also a great way to energise your run.
Drinking a caffeinated beverage first thing in the morning can help fuel your best performance, so you‘ll be faster and stronger, not to mention more alert, energetic, and attentive.
Caffeine can also give you that necessary energy kick you need at the crucial point of your workout to keep exhaustion at bay.
However, if you’re going to pick up your coffee at somewhere like Starbucks it’s important to make sure it doesn’t contain more calories than you’re going to burn on your workout. To make sure, check our guide to the lowest calorie options in Starbucks.
If you’re in the US, you’ll want to have a look at this version
Readers in the UK, this version including the calorie counts from the Starbucks UK menu.
3. Fuel Yourself
There‘s nothing worse than feeling completely drained of energy mid-run, but this can be avoided by fuelling yourself with the right foods beforehand.
Food that‘s high in complex carbs (think oatmeal and whole-grain pasta) is a great choice since it raises your glycogen levels which provide energy and delays the onset of fatigue.
Carb loading is particularly important in marathon training. When your body‘s carbohydrate stores are depleted, it turns to using muscle for energy, which slows you down.
4. Walk Like a Runner
Treat every step you take as an opportunity to improve your running technique.
When you walk, try to get an awareness of how your foot hits the ground. Avoid striking the pavement heel-first. This can cause back and knee pain. Instead, focus on landing on your forefoot, allowing your muscles to catch the weight of your body and reducing the impact on joints and bones when you land.
Where your foot lands in relation to the rest of your body is also something to keep in mind. Ideally, your foot should make contact with the ground directly underneath your body, rather than far out in front of it. When there‘s a straight line from your hips to where your foot lands, it reduces the impact on your legs and cuts your risk of injury.
5. Prioritise Sleep
If you‘re an early morning runner, clocking in early to bed is absolutely essential.
Apart from improving performance, being well-rested can reduce inflammation and speed up the healing time when you‘re injured. But sleep (or lack of) doesn‘t just influence your body, it also has a huge impact on your mind. Motivation is directly linked to how well-rested you are, so if you make sleep a priority, you‘ll be more likely to stick to your goals.
You’ll find a whole load other sleep tips in this post on how to fall asleep faster.
6. Catch Your Breath
Breathing seems pretty straightforward, however, the only time it becomes difficult is at the end of a run, when we find ourselves huffing and puffing to finish the last few hundred metres. That’s because improper breathing is the number one mistake made by beginner and intermediate runners.
The good news is that anyone can improve their breathing with some basic awareness.
Every day, try focusing on your breathing at least twice. A great technique is to put one hand on your chest and the other on your abdominal area, taking deep breaths for 1-2 minutes. Make sure you spend as much time on the exhale as on the inhale – as many athletes tend to inhale deeper which prevents your body from expelling all the CO2 in your lungs.
The more you practice your breathing, the greater control you‘ll have over it in the long run.
(I’m back: I’ve written a lot about breathing well and the impact on health and it’s fascinating. If you want to read more about improving your breath techniques, then have a look at this book).
7. Stretch it Out
Stretching every morning will help safeguard your most-used running muscles from injury. Regular stretching increases flexibility and range of motion, which allows for a longer stride and better circulation. Focus on stretching your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calf muscles:
- Stand upright and pull your leg behind you with the corresponding hand.
- Tuck your pelvis and pull your shin toward your thigh.
- Keep your knee pointing downward as you do this stretch to protect your knee joint.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch legs.
- Sit on the ground and extend your left leg.
- Move your right foot toward your inner thigh, so that it touches the top part of your left leg, if possible.
- Lean forward, bending but not rounding your back and waist toward the left foot as if reaching for your toes.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Stand with your right foot behind your left.
- Bend your left leg forward while keeping your right leg straight.
- Be sure not to bend the right knee and to keep your right foot firmly on the ground, pointing straight ahead.
- Straighten your back and hold the pose for at least 30 seconds.
- Repeat with the other leg.
- Lie on your back with knees bent and feet flat on the floor.
- Cross your right ankle over your left knee.
- Grab behind your left knee and bring your leg toward your chest.
- Hold for at least 30 seconds, then switch sides.
The Freeletics Bodyweight, Running, Gym and Nutrition apps can be downloaded for free in the App Store and Google Play Store. For more information about Freeletics, visit www.freeletics.com.
This post contains affiliate links and I get a small commission if you make a purchase. Buying from these links does not involve any extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. Freeletics is not an affiliate link and they did not pay me for this article.