A Runner's 9 Point Checklist to Improve Your Fitness and Reduce Injury

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Are you a runner looking who wants to improve your performance? How would you like to maintain or increase your mileage without injury?

Runners are constantly bombarded with the importance of strength training. Getting strong is indeed the best defense against the epidemic of running injury (per the National Academy of Sports Medicine, 83% of runners miss training due to injury each year!!).

And yet, the information about HOW to actually train intelligently is confusing and conflicting.

We’ve worked with runners of all shapes, sizes, and ability levels. Here’s our 9-Point checklist to see if YOUR training program is on the right track:

  1. Lift heavy, stay fresh (rest adequately between sets): Endurance athletes are accustomed to getting their heart rate up, and keeping it there for extended periods of time. However, this counterproductive to building strength—if you’re still tired from your last set, you won’t be able to perform adequately. A good rule of thumb is 2-3 minutes in between sets of strength exercises.
  2. Keep the reps low: One of the biggest myths in strength training is that low reps will make you bulky. In fact, the opposite is true—bodybuilders (who look huge but aren’t that strong) use high reps to build muscle, while powerlifters (who aren’t nearly as muscular as bodybuilders, but are much stronger) use lower reps. Using lower reps will more effectively build strength, keep you from getting as sore, and ensure that your form is good (did you really think you could maintain good form for 15 reps). A good range is 5-8 repetitions for most exercises.
  3. Use Real Movement Patterns / Compound Movements: Training muscles in isolation, or on machines that have no relation to the way you actual move, is one of the surest ways to develop muscle imbalances. For example, the leg press machine will make your legs stronger, but requires nothing of your core to balance and stabilize movement. That’s like having a motorcycle engine with bicycle breaks. Train authentic human movements like squatting, lunging, pushups, crawling, or pull-ups.
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  5. Hip Extension: Inadequate hip extension (pushing the hips forward when standing, or pushing your leg behind you as you run), is a major problem for our society, since we spend so much time sitting, which is hip flexion. For distance runners, this problem is even more common. If you have “tight hip flexors,” you can be almost certain that you’re missing some hip extension. Get it back with deadlifts, or hip bridges.
  6. Learn to Control Rotation: The ability to manage rotation is crucial for runners—it’s what prevents the power from your arms from leaking away, and lets you propel that power into the ground instead. Rotating well will also take pressure off the lower back, knees, and other joints. Try segmental rolling (don’t know that is? Sign up for our course below!), or paloff presses to improve your ability to rotate and anti-rotate.
  7. Improve Gait: Nearly everyone has some gait inefficiencies, such as excessive side-to-side shifting, or inefficient stride turnover. Try these drills from Phillipines National Champion Isang Smith to improve your gait: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FT3kcAdzAmE
  8. Breathing matters: The first movement a human ever does is to move the diaphragm to breath. The diaphragm forms the top of the abdominal cavity, and if you’re not breathing efficiently, you’re not stabilizing your core effectively. As runners, sometimes at the end of a long run we’re doing everything we can just to get oxygen, which can lead to habitual breathing inefficiencies. Add some breathing drills to your weekly routine, so you can breath more with your belly, and less with your neck and chest.
  9. Left/right balance: Running is an activity that takes place exclusively on one leg at a time, and yet we meet so many runners who do all their strength training on one leg. Add some single leg deadlifts, split squats, or lunges to your training to make sure your left and right are balanced.
  10. Training to failure is training to fail: This one fits in nicely with #1. You don’t have to empty the tank every time you strength train. In fact, you should probably never empty the tank. Train with mindful awareness, and stop your set with a few reps left.

Want more tips to help your running? We’ve put together a completely free six-week program for runners. It requires no experience or equipment, and takes just 10-15 minutes per workout. Each week, we’ll send you exercises, completely with video descriptions, straight to your inbox. Interested? Just sign up in the box below!

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