8 things you can be doing to improve your running… that isn’t actually running
Indeed, there’s always room for improvement in your running. Whether it’s your stride length, endurance levels or your speed injections, there is always something that you can work on to improve your running – that’s the beauty of it!
However, one of the biggest barriers to improving your running is often the lack of time you can dedicate to it. Between work commitments, kids and their hobbies, and maintaining some sort of social life, life can get in the way.
That’s why we’ve put together 8 things you can be doing that will help improve your running… that isn’t actually running!
- Planning your meals
There are so many benefits to planning what you’re going to eat during the day to make sure you’re fuelled up for your sessions effectively. Not only will you have to spend less brain power on working out how to piece together the contents of your fridge into a healthy meal, but planning your meals also helps ensure you are getting the correct nutritional values from your food.
Make sure to think about the following:
- What your body requires before your run session
- When you should be eating – 2-3 hours before a run works for most people, but you might have to do some trial and error to find what works best for you!
- Ensure you are getting enough of each food group to refuel your body after a session
- Eat enough on days that are more difficult mentally – your brain uses energy too!
- Sitting at your desk correctly
One of the easiest changes you can make to your running (without more running!) is changing the way your sit at your desk. Setting an alarm to consciously remind you to move can help; whether that’s rolling your shoulders backwards to realign your back, scrunching up a towel with your toes to strengthen your foot arch, or standing up.
A standing desk is also an option, although this is not a posture savour for some; it can cause people to stand on one hip, which is no better than slouching! Do your research, trial a few options and work out what’s best for you.
Until this becomes a well-drilled habit, setting an alarm to remind you is probably the best way to ensure you do these little things at your desk.
- Daily dose of stretching or yoga
Stretching should not just be saved for within your warm-up or after your run – it should be completed daily! Forms of stretching, including yoga, aid flexibility and prevent pain and stiffness from building up. This stiffness will not only cause discomfort during your day but hamper your ability to run with a strong form.
Here are 5 stretches you could do daily to counter the inflexibility of our mostly-sedentary lives:
- Cat-Cow stretches
- Kneeling hip flexor stretch
- Child’s pose
- Seated hamstring stretch
- Downward dog
- Weekly dose of strength work
Unknown to some, strength work does not have to be lifting heavy weights and springing onto high-stacked boxes in the gym. If the pandemic taught us anything, it was the methods of getting in our strength training at home!
Here are 5 running-specific exercises you can do without equipment in your own home:
- Press-ups – starting with your knees grounded and working up to full body weight
- Step-ups – with a high knee drive on top of a box, chair or step
- Lunges – to improve your single-leg stability and stride length as well as leg strength
- Superman lifts – to strengthen your back and encourage an upright running posture
- Glute bridges – develops glute activation, maintaining alignment when you run
- Set your goals
Working towards a goal boosts performance, motivation, confidence and progression. Put simply, giving yourself something to focus on will help you both mentally and physically.
There are two types of goals you could set yourself; outcome and process goals. Either way, set yourself a goal that is achievable but will challenge you.
Outcome Goals – e.g. to achieve a sub-30 minute 5k at ParkRun, or to complete the Windsor 10km race without walking
Process Goal – e.g. running with your friend twice a week, or making sure you spend each run warm-up thinking about your cadence.
Whilst outcome goals may seem shiny and more desirable, it’s important to have smaller process goals to tick off along the way and give you that confidence boost!
- Ensuring you have the right kit
Sometimes running can seem like a race to have the fastest trainers or the best watch… but that’s not at all what it’s about. Having the right kit for YOU is very important. For example, having the right sports bra can be the difference between loving your running, and hating the discomfort of it.
In terms of equipment, some runners like to carry water with them. However, carrying a water bottle in your hand can subtly edit your run form, therefore investing in a water camel pack, or doing loops so you can leave your water in one place, would be more suitable options.
- Establishing a work-life balance
Easier said than done, I know! But staying on top of your work-life balance can be simplified. Below are some pointers on how to make those scales stay even:
- Daily, do one thing that relaxes you, one thing that teaches you, and one thing that excites you.
- Plan as much as you can! Thinking ahead will allow you to fit in things you want to do, rather than just things you have to do.
- Time can be made if you really want to.
- Remember: it’s not easy, but it doesn’t need to be perfect.
- Drink 8+ cups of water per day
It’s generally recommended that you should drink 8-10 cups of water every day. However, you should be drinking even more before, during and after you exercise. The amount you should drink depends on the weather, the intensity of your exercise, and how much you sweat. Again, finding the right balance will come with trial and error!
Performing a sweat test will help you work out how much sweat you lose in an hour, and therefore how much you should be replenishing your body with every 60 mins of exercise.
Working at these eight things will help your running! Whether that’s directly impacting your strength and flexibility to perfect your run form or providing your body with what it needs to complete your running sessions in terms of correct nutrition and hydration, or the mental headspace it needs to manage those tough track sessions.
Ace these, and you’ll be one step further toward your goals this year!
Let us know what you’re doing outside of your running to improve every step you take in your trainers. Comment below, or get in touch with us on social media. We’re on Instagram – @running4women – so come and join the community of women who just love this inclusive and rewarding sport.