Tips to becoming a better runner

March 6, 2014

Whether you’re new to the sport or a veteran runner who’s looking to revamp their routine, there are plenty of ways to improve your skills.

Of course, it’s important to spend regular time on your home treadmill logging those running sessions to increase your distances and gain better stamina and endurance, but there are a variety of things you can do using other components of your home gym equipment to become an even better runner.

Here are some tips you can use to improve your running game and really make strides on your fitness treadmill:

Learn how to stand and improve your posture: Since most people spend the majority of their week sitting hunched over a desk, proper posture often goes out the window. Many men and women sit and stand incorrectly with their backs arched and stomachs sticking out. Now only does this cause lower back pain, but it can affect how well you are able to run. A simple fix is to practice proper posture. When standing, have your arms at your sides and evenly distribute your weight on your feet. Take the over-arch out of your back by dropping the bottom of your rib cage toward the floor, so your stomach no longer sticks out. You should feel the pressure being taken off your lower back too. Practice standing (and sitting) like this whenever possible, and it will translate into better fitness sessions on the treadmill.

Strengthen your core: The core muscles are those in the trunk of your body – front and back – from your neck to your hips. It’s important that these muscles are strong because they can help you improve your posture. Also, according to Shape magazine, a weak core can’t handle the force of your foot striking the ground during a run, which slows you down and can make you more susceptible to injuries. Performing exercise that regularly strengthens both your abdominal and back muscles will improve your overall running performance.

Exercise in all planes of motion: When you’re running, it’s mainly a forward or front-and-back movement, but the body was created to move in all directions. When runners only focus on forward and backward motions and forget about side-to-side exercises, it can cause imbalances. In between runs, it’s a good idea to exercise in all planes of motion. For cardio, you can incorporate side shuffles or set up a cone line and weave around them. Strength exercises can include front, back and side lunges, and squats that step to the right and left. You can also add rotation with compound movements. For example, hold a medicine ball at chest level. Do a front lunge and, while your knees are bent at 90 degrees, rotate to each side, working your obliques.

Find your balance: Having a good sense of balance can save yourself from injuries like ankle sprains and twisted knees. If you have trouble balancing, it could also be as sign that your lower body (feet, ankles, hip flexors, core) are too weak, and your body will overcompensate. This leads to imbalances that can often cause you to get hurt. During your strength training, spend some time doing balance work. Shape magazine suggests standing on one foot and writing out each letter of the alphabet with the foot in the air. You can also work on your range of motion by incorporating BOSU and stability balls into your core and strength routines.

Stretch and massage post-workout: Cool downs are a crucial yet underrated part of fitness. Runners’ lower body muscles are often very tight and need to be stretched in order to avoid injury and stay loose. You can also work out knots on a foam roller or ball (tennis or lacrosse) in addition to stretching. Find the tender point of your calf, quad or side of the thigh and place pressure on it for 30 seconds. This loosens up the muscle fibers so that they can perform better.