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There’s a lot more to running than simply lacing up your shoes, hitting the road and doing what feels natural. Improving your running form can help you run faster, more efficiently, and with less stress on your body and reduced injury risk.
From foot strikes and stride turnover to posture and body tension, there’s always room for improvement when it comes to running form.
Follow these tips to work on perfecting your running form:
Perfect your stride
One of the most common mistakes new runners make is reaching out with their foot to take a longer stride. Overstriding creates an aggressive, heel-smashing foot strike, which not only wastes more energy, but also leads to injury issues such as runner’s knee and shin splints.
Your strides shouldn’t be too short either. This is just as inefficient as overstriding. When it comes to proper running form, you should find a stride length that is comfortable, almost effortless.
Ideally your knee should be above your foot and your shin vertical as your foot makes contact with the ground. This running form will put your foot down underneath your hips, preventing your leg from stretching in front of your body.
One of the biggest concerns among new runners is how their foot strikes the ground. Heel strikers tend to land with their heel first and roll to the ball of the foot, while for toe runners, landing on their toes comes naturally.
Even though, the reality is that most average runners are either heel strikers or toe runners, these two foot strikes can truly damage your performance. If you land on your toes, your calves will get tight or fatigued quickly and you may develop shin pain. Landing on your heels wastes energy and may cause injury.
A mid-foot strike, in contrast to a heel or a forefoot strike, provides greater shock absorption, decreases strain on the calves and Achilles tendon, and may help prevent shin splints. Heading to a track and leaving your shoes behind is a great way to practice avoiding a huge heel or toe strike.
Check your posture
Just as you should maintain good posture when standing or sitting, maintaining a straight and erect posture while running is essential. Just by keeping a good posture, you will help release tension and reduce strain in the neck and shoulders and prevent muscle fatigue.
Next time you get out for a run, follow these proper posture principles that will help you to reinforce a tall, straight back with no slouching:
- Hold your head high, centered between your shoulders, and your back straight.
- Your eyes should be focused on the ground about 10 to 20 feet ahead of you.
- Keep your shoulders under your ears and maintain a neutral pelvis.
- Avoid side-to-side arm swinging. To help you remember, imagine a vertical line splitting your body in half – your hands should not cross it.
- When you’re feeling sluggish, poke your chest out for an extra boost of confidence.
Whether is it caused by lack of experience or by trying too hard, the truth is many runners have way too much tension in their bodies. But putting this extra pressure on yourself isn’t doing you any favors.
In fact, anywhere you’re holding extra tension is using up energy that should be spent elsewhere. It’s important to know your tension spots and check to make sure you’re not clenching when you should be relaxed:
- Be aware of jaw tension and squinting. Unclench your jaw by opening your mouth and taking a deep breath; to reduce squinting, use a hat with a brim that puts your eyes in shade, or by wearing sunglasses.
- Keep your arms relaxed and hands as loosed as possible. You can hold your hands as if you are holding drumsticks or as if you have a fragile egg in each hand. Don’t clench your fists because it can lead to tightness in the arms, shoulders, and neck.
- Keep your wrists loose. This will help you maintain a good hand and shoulder position.
You’re a very committed runner. You never skip a workout, you fuel properly and even rest when all you wanted was to log some miles. But, even so, you never seem to improve your race times. You’re not alone.
In fact, this is one of the biggest issues that strike runners who are focused in increasing their speed, along with their mileage.
To help you become faster, we have put together five tips to change things up in training and stimulate better results:
You can’t become a faster runner without practicing running fast. Short sprinting bursts are a great exercise for improving your personal best, along with building your strength and endurance. And because they last only a short amount of time, they are easy to incorporate into your running plan.
There are many different ways of incorporating short repeats into your training. Whether you choose to time your intervals or use the terrain to your advantage, it’s important you don’t push yourself too much, too soon. Keep in mind that a fast pace doesn’t mean an all-out sprint, but a faster pace than your usual.
Tempo runs are similar to high-intensity intervals, but instead of doing short sprinting bursts, you have to run slightly faster than your normal pace for a longer time period. A tempo run should challenge your body, but not as much as a sprint: if you’re able to hold a conversation, you’re going too slow, but if you can easily answer short questions, it means you’re at the right pace.
These types of runs will push your physical threshold, which will help you improve your endurance and speed. If you have never done a tempo run, start out with 10 minutes, and build up to 40 minutes, every 7 to 10 days.
This strategy involves running the second half of a run at a faster pace than the first half. This is a very simple way to make every run a good run and, despite what you may think, it actually helps to improve your PR.
To incorporate negative splits into one of your runs, start at a good, steady pace. After the first half of the run, your body is properly warmed up and it should be easy to increase your pace on the second half of the workout, so you end up with a faster overall time. Out-and-back runs are a great way to inspire negative splits: run at a comfortable pace to a destination, and increase your speed once you head back home.
The next time you get out for a run, make sure an incline is part of your route. Running up hills is the perfect way to make you a faster runner: it strengthens the same muscles you use for sprinting and builds your body’s endurance, which can be useful when you’re fatigued and struggling to pick up the pace.
Whether you choose to run on the treadmill or outside, you can either opt for short and fast reps (8 x 20 seconds) to build strength and power, or longer reps (8 x 1 minute) to build speed and endurance.
Run on different surfaces
If you’re used to running on flat terrain, get yourself to a soft-surface trail to challenge your muscles in different ways.
Running on undulating routes and on different types of pavement avoids repetition and forces your body to engage muscles that normally go unused while you run a consistent road or track gait.
All runners share a common goal: to be better runners. It doesn’t matter if you started Ease Into 5K last week or if you already have a few races under your belt; you want to become faster, more efficient and more injury resistant.
But just running isn’t going to be enough. It is important to incorporate strength training into your workout plans. Not only do these exercises help you build muscle power, but they also fire up your metabolism and strengthen your bones against age-related deterioration.
To become a stronger, faster, more complete runner, make sure you add these four running specific strength training exercises to your running routine:
If we had to pick just one strength training exercise for runners it would be squats. They strengthen the entire lower body, by targeting running-specific muscles, such as the quadriceps, hamstrings, hips, hip flexors, and glutes. Squats can even help you strengthen your knees and prevent knee pain and injury.
Begin this exercise by standing with your feet hip distance apart, with your toes facing forward. Slowly lower your body and sit back like you are sitting in a chair behind you. Make sure your knees don’t cross the plane of your toes when your glutes, quads and hamstrings are engaged. Straighten legs and come back up to standing to complete one rep.
Bodyweight squats can easily be added to your post-run routine and, even though they don’t require any equipment, you can always try modified versions that combine the squats’ movement with dumbbells, a band or a swiss ball.
The upper body is often neglected by runners when they train. Strong arms, chest, shoulders, as well as a strong core are essential for overall fitness and powerful, faster runs.
Push-ups are great for the upper body. They help strengthen the chest, core, biceps, triceps and back in just one move and without any type of equipment.
The exercise is very simple: in a plank position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, bend elbows and descend down until the chest nearly touches the ground. Push yourself all the way up to plank position for one rep.
If you are a beginner, you can start with your knees on floor or even opt for a wall push instead. Depending on your fitness level or where your train takes places, there are several variations of the traditional push-up position, that you can easily incorporate to your training plan.
Most runners are probably tired of hearing about how they should strengthen their core. But there’s a reason! A strong core – your abs, obliques, lower back and hips – is essential for improving stride, form, breathing and speed.
The plank is the perfect exercise for strengthening every muscle in your core. Begin in a push-up position, with your arms straight (palms below shoulders) and weight balanced evenly between hands and toes. Align the body straight from the top of the head through the heels. Tighten up the abs while lifting through the chest to create as much space as possible in between the chest and the ground. Hold for 30 seconds and work up to 1-3 minutes.
You can progress by alternate lifting each leg or using a balance board as support for your hands.
As a runner, all you want is to keep on moving forward. But this repetitive, unidirectional movement, along with muscle weakness, can be the cause for the most common injuries among runners. That’s why it’s so important to train your body through other planes of movement, like backwards or sideways.
Lateral lunges help you train often-neglected muscles like the hip flexors, quads, calves, core, hamstrings and glutes, helping increase stability at your joints, improve your balance, and prevent injury.
To perform a lateral lunge, begin by standing with your feet shoulder width apart and your hands on your hips. Then, step three to four feet out to the right with one foot while sending the hips back and squatting to a 90 degree angle at the right knee. Try to sit down with your butt, keeping your back as upright as possible, your abs tight and chest up. When coming back to standing, engage the glute to power off the ground. After finishing all reps on this side, repeat on left side to complete one set.
What strength training exercise best works for you? Tells us all about it in the comments below.
Finding time and motivation to run is hard for all of us. For busy moms, it’s even tougher. With your full time job, small children that require your full attention, and a household to manage, you still manage to find time for date night and your friends every now and then. How can running fit in such a hectic schedule?
We put together some simple tips and tricks that will help you balance training and motherhood.
Wake up early to run
The hardest thing about being a mother runner is finding time to workout without hurting the family schedule. Early mornings are usually the best time slots to fit a run. At this time of the day there aren’t any interruptions, and there’s no need to arrange babysitting because everyone is still asleep. But motivation can be hard to find when you would rather stay in bed instead of lacing up. It can be really helpful and motivating if you prep everything you need – clothes, running shoes, pre-run meal and water – the night before. When the alarm goes off, you won’t have any more excuses to skip the workout. Just say to yourself, “Don’t think, just go.”
Make every minute count
If mornings are not a good time to squeeze in a workout, and evenings are too crowded to log a few miles, you should start making every minute count.
Many runners plan their workouts around their children’s naps; others run laps around the soccer or baseball field when their kids are at practice; and putting your kids in a day care a few miles away from home can do wonders for your weekly mileage.
The most important thing of being a busy mom runner, is to pick the most convenient time to work out and learn to be flexible – a 4-mile run may turn into 8 miles if your child is behaving in the running stroller, or a longer run might get compromised if your kid would rather be at home.
Choose the right training plan
If you have just decided to have a more active lifestyle, you should begin with a minimum time per day and minimum number of days per week goal.
How about 30 minutes per day, three days per week? You can easily fit in a workout in your busy mom’s schedule with a run/walk interval program, such as Ease Into 5K.
Interval workouts alternate high-intensity levels with lower-intensity effort, which helps you see greater results in less time. Studies have shown that interval training burns three times as much fat as running twice as long at a moderately hard, steady pace. But the benefits don’t end there – recovery from interval training forces the body to continue burning fat for energy.
Work out alone
Although working out with a running partner can help you stay motivated, coordinating schedules can be a daunting task.
Working out alone allows you to manage your own schedule, fitting in a run whenever possible and focusing on a more targeted workout that will you give you quicker results.
But if you already have a running buddy that holds you accountable, you can both benefit a lot more from this partnership. Next time you go out for a run, bring your kids along and swap the duties back and forth – have your running partner watch the children while you run, then switch when you get back.
Cherish your solo runs
When you run alone, make that workout about you. You need that time to recharge yourself, away from the chaos of your busy mom life.
When you run, try to focus completely on running and don’t let thoughts of your children or other worries distract you. It will be hard at first; but when you get back from your work out, your kids will have your complete attention and you will feel physically and mentally reinvigorated and ready to give your best to all those around you.
If we ask you to name a benefit of cross-training, what would be your answer? Let us guess… injury prevention? Even though this is the most widely recognized benefit of cross-training among runners, it’s not the only one.
Cross-training should be part of every fitness plan because it helps to rehabilitate injuries, aids in muscle recovery, and improves fitness. In addition, cross-training can also prevent burnout and add a little fun and variety to your workout, helping you to stay motivated during the several weeks of training.
In this article, we chose a few cross-training activities that you can include one to three times per week in your fitness routine for optimal results. Depending on your training and health situation, you can select the activities that will work best for you.
Unlike running, walking is a low-impact activity that exercises many of the same muscles, which makes it a great cross-training activity.
If you’re a beginner and your body is not used to the repetitive impact of running, you can use walking to improve endurance without beating up your most vulnerable joints, muscles, and connective tissues. Doing a vigorous walk the day after an intense run is also a great way to recover.
To get all the cardio-respiratory benefits of this cross-training activity, walk at a brisk pace and pump your arms to burn more calories.
Pool running, also known as water running, is exactly as the name implies: running in a pool, in deep water.
Even though you always need a pool deep enough to perform this workout, it is worth the try, especially if you’re recovering from an injury. This activity mimics running movements on land without the impact on the joints. Plus the water’s resistance helps you strengthen your legs, back, shoulders, core and arms.
Just make sure you warm up and cool down for at least 5-10 minutes before and after your pool running.
Need a break from the impact of running? Swimming is a non-weightbearing activity that gives your legs a break while developing the upper body musculature that is often neglected by runners.
Swimming can benefit all runners, from beginners to veterans, especially those recovering from a long race or an injury. By targeting all the major muscle groups (quadriceps, hamstrings, glutes, abs, lower back and upper body), swimming is a great way to improve your efficiency, strengthen your muscles, and add more training sessions without additional breakdown.
If you’re a regular at the gym, you might have noticed the elliptical trainer. This is one of the most popular cardio machines and also an excellent cross-training activity for runners because it mimics running without the impact.
The elliptical trainer is a weight-bearing activity, but has a very low-impact in the joints. This is the reason why so many runners use this machine to prevent or recover from injuries, while developing the muscle of the core and legs. In addition, if you use an elliptical trainer with arm levers, the pushing and pulling motion allows you to develop a stronger arm swing, helping make you a more efficient runner.
What are your favorite cross-training activities? How do they help you to become a better runner?
Did you race a marathon recently? Congratulations!
Whether you crushed your goal or struggled to walk to the finish, you might be feeling that post-race high that motivates you to keep on training… but your muscles, tendons and ligaments are begging you to stop.
For a marathon runner who spent four to five months logging miles, physically and mentally training for a 26.2 mile race, taking a few days off (or worse, a few weeks off) seems counter-intuitive. After a great race all you want is to capitalize on your fitness and continue to set new personal bests. Likewise, after disappointing results, the last thing on your mind is resting.
Some runners even believe that missing a few days of training will diminish their hard-earned fitness. This common belief couldn’t be more wrong. In fact, not taking enough time to fully recover after a marathon can cause injuries, which will definitely compromise your fitness and future training plans.
But how long should you allow your body to rest until you can run or train again?
Usually, it takes a minimum of two to three weeks for a full physical and mental recovery from the strain of running a marathon. Some experts suggest resting one day for every mile you run, thus 26 days of no hard running or racing! Others recommend one day of rest for each kilometer raced, or 42 days of rest!
The truth is that there is no exact formula to follow for recovery after a marathon. No matter what your plan is, you should always listen to your body and make sure you’re recovered before you resume your race training routine. The good news is that light fitness activity actually helps you recover faster because it promotes good circulation, which delivers fresh oxygen and nutrients to muscles and, therefore, aids healing and recovery.
On his Post-Marathon Training Guide, Hal Higdon suggests that “the training you do in the three weeks following a marathon should be a near mirror of what you did the last three weeks before: in other words, an upward, or reverse, taper.” That means you should take at least three days completely off running after a marathon and gradually return to a more active routine, starting by incorporating cross-training, then 2 – 3 miles running and ending what he calls “Zero Week” by logging 6 – 8 miles with some marathon friends.
The four weeks following Zero Week should still be part of your post-marathon recovery. These 4 weeks are a good time to decide what you want to do next. Setting a new goal and planning your training is a great way to use your time during recovery.
So, have you decided what’s your next running goal? Share it in the comments below!
The Boston Marathon is around the corner! It’s time you put your weeks of training to work and tackle the big 26.2!
Besides mental and physical training, fueling is key to any successful race. What you decide to put in your body can help you run at your best and help in post-race recovery.
If you’re racing the Boston Marathon or have a race coming up, you should be thinking about what to eat and what to avoid in the days before your marathon. Below, you’ll find our tips for marathon fueling up to 5 days out from your big race.
4 to 5 days from the race
During several weeks of intense marathon training, your muscles never have a chance to fully reload with glycogen. To build up your energy reserves for race day, you will need to back off on training for a few days, so that muscle enzymes responsible for restocking glycogen will gradually begin to store more carbohydrate.
In addition, boost your total carbohydrate intake to 3.5 to 4 grams for every pound of your body weight by adding in more pastas and starches to your diet throughout the week. If you notice you are gaining too much weight, back off on fat and protein and reduce carb intake until your weight balances out.
Good choices are: Pastas, brown rice, sweet potatoes and baked potatoes.
2 days before the race
You should eat your last big meal two nights before the race. It will give your body enough time to fully digest anything you eat and avoid feeling stuffed and lethargic when you reach the starting line, lowers the risk of stomach problems and can even help you sleep more soundly.
During the two days before the race, also consider limiting high-fiber foods such as large amounts of vegetables, whole grains and bran cereals. Studies conducted by the Australian Institute of Sport show that eating lower fiber foods can help lighten the weight of material in the intestines. This can actually help you run faster, as it reduces your body weight and decreases the chance of a mid-race pit stop that would otherwise add time to your race.
Good choices: Pasta is still often considered one of the best pre-race meals.
24h before the race
Ideally, you should allow your body to rest the two days before the race, so you may feel full very quickly. Try to eat balanced meals like you would normally do on any training day, but make sure your main meals are still in the form of low glycemic to medium glycemic index foods. If you’re not sure about what foods have a low or medium glycemic index, you can check Harvard Health’s Glycemic index and glycemic load for 100+ foods or WebMD’s Guide How to Use the Glycemic Index for a more in depth picture of what glycemic index foods do for the body.
Fluids are just as important as food, so it is mandatory to hydrate properly all day long. Opt for sports drinks or other beverages containing electrolytes and nutrients, along with water. To remind yourself to drink, always carry a water bottle with you throughout the day or set a reminder for every other hour.
Good choices are: Sweet potatoes, pastas, baked potatoes, brown rice
2 to 4 hours out
Not only is it important what you choose to eat the day of the race, but also the time you eat. In the two to four hours before the race, eat a small breakfast containing protein, simple carbs and fluids. Aim for 0.5 to one gram of carbs for every pound of body weight and keep protein to about 15 grams or fewer. Avoid high fiber, fatty and new foods, which can take longer to digest and cause stomach problems.
Instead of trying to get all your fluids down by chugging your water bottle the hour prior to the race, you should drink small, regular sized amounts. Opt for room temperature water – which is absorbed quicker than warm or cold water – and drink approximately 6 oz. every hour to get hydrated before the gun goes off.
Good choices are: bread, bagels, cereal, fruit, and small amounts of peanut or almond butter, low-fat cheese, low-fat milk or a fruit smoothie.
Now it is up to you! We wish you a very successful (and fun) race day!
Are you ready to start running again after a long break? Even if you were an experienced runner in the past, incorporating running back into your daily routine can be as challenging as it would be for a beginner. The difference is you already know how great and strong you feel after a run!
It’s time you restart your running engines with these simple tips in mind:
Have a goal
Whether you have just signed up for a race or you want to get off the couch and get fit, it’s always important to have a motivation to start running again.
Start by choosing manageable goals and focus on the path you need to follow to accomplish them, instead of trying to change many different things at once. For some extra motivation, set smaller and attainable milestones and reward yourself every time you achieve a goal with something special that will benefit your running.
Follow a training schedule
We have already mentioned how important it is to follow a training schedule. Not only it allows you to have your workouts planned ahead, but it also helps you to establish a regular running habit and avoid getting injured by working out too much, too soon.
When you get out there, it’s also important to track your runs. When your goal is just getting outside the door, you can simply mark down a “1” when you run, and a “0” when you don’t. As soon as you start to be concerned about mileage, pace and time, it might help you stay motivated and hold you accountable if you write all this information down. You can use a notebook or save your runs from your smartphone, with our running apps.
Don’t do too much too soon
Many runners, especially those who are new to running or coming off a long break, make the “too much too soon” mistake. Driven by their excitement, they mistakenly think that “more is better” and end up developing common overuse running injuries, such as shin splints, runner’s knee, or ITB syndrome.
Be more moderate with how often, how long, and how much you run, especially during your first weeks of training. You can start with just walking, and then progress into a run/walk program, such as Ease into 5K, Bridge to 10K or Ease into 10K, depending on your fitness level and your goal.
Make sure you don’t increase your overall weekly mileage by more than 10 percent per week, keep your runs at a conversational pace and always allow your body to rest for at least one day each week.
Cross train to become a better runner
If you’re not feeling the motivation to run, that doesn’t mean you have to let yourself get out of shape. You can still stay active, strong and fit between your running days, with cross-training activities.
Cross-training strengthens your non-running muscles and increases your endurance, without running too much and risking injury. By combining running and other exercises, you will become a better runner and overcome more easily the challenges of coming off a long break.
Swimming, aqua jogging, cycling, strength training, yoga, and Pilates are some of the most popular cross-training activities among runners.
Join a running group
If you used to run by yourself in the past, try to convince your friends to be your training partners or join a running group, and start enjoying the benefits of group training. Besides helping you get out of the bed even when you don’t feel like, meeting other people for a run motivates you to perform better and stick with your goals.
And finding your future running partners is not that difficult! Check with local running clubs to see when they offer group runs, join a charity training group or sign up for a local race that offers free group training runs to registered participants.
You’ve tackled a few 5Ks and you already have a couple of 10Ks under your belt. What’s next? We guess you’re more than ready to sign up for your first half marathon.
But training for a 13.1 is very different from preparing yourself for a 5K or a 10K. Before you get started, read on for five tips that will help you stick with your goal and cross that finish line with confidence!
Commit to your end goal
Whether you’re a total newbie or an experienced runner, training for a half marathon requires a lot of time and energy. During your training there will be plenty of reasons not to run – you’re tired, you’re busy, the weather is too cold or too hot, your running clothes are dirty. But those are just excuses, and if you really want to cross the finish line, you will have to overcome them all!
Start by asking yourself “Why do I want to race a half marathon?”. Do you want to shed a few pounds, raise money for a cause or set a personal best? Whatever your reason, this will serve as your end goal, your primary motivation throughout the training and on race day.
Have a plan
If you think you can keep on using the same 10K training program to train for your first half marathon, you’re wrong. Running 13.1 miles is a lot different than 6.2.
Choose a training plan that gives you plenty of time to train before race day and make sure it includes some cross-training, stretching and strength exercises, besides the traditional long runs.
If you are at least 12 weeks away from the race day, Half Marathon Novice 1 can help you cross the finish line with a smile on your face. Based on Hal Higdon’s training plans, Half Marathon Novice 1 advises you to run three days a week, cross train two days a week and allow your body to rest when scheduled. During this training program, you will be running two regular runs and one long run each week, until you’re half marathon ready!
Longer distances require different gear.
Start by buying two supportive pair of sneakers instead of just one. Having two pairs of shoes when you start your training sounds like an an expensive outlay in cash, but it actually helps extend the life of each pair by giving them recovery time between runs. Plus, recent studies suggest that alternating between a couple different pairs of shoes in training can decrease injury risk by varying the load to your musculoskeletal system.
In addition, make sure you add wicking and seamless socks, shorts or pants and tops to your shopping list. Invest in a good pair of sunglasses with 100-percent UV protection and a running hat to protect your face from the sun. And don’t forget to have a comfortable armband to hold your phone or iPod, that you will definitely want to carry for your longer runs!
At this point, you already know how important it is to eat right before you lace up and get out there. But as you increase the mileage and start running up to 10 miles a week, it’s very important to reconsider your fueling strategy so you don’t end up hitting the “wall” on longer training runs.
Aim to consume 150 to 200 calories for every hour of running. GU, a banana, Luna Sport Moons, packets of honey or jelly beans are great options and very easy to carry with you.
Work on your mental fitness
The two most important things you can take to the starting line on race day are confidence and motivation. On longer runs, it’s easy to get bored, focus on the pain you’re feeling and, eventually, want to give up.
Just as you practice to improve your speed or your strength, it’s important to train your mental muscle as well. During your training, imagine yourself on race day and going through all the challenges that you will have to overcome. Being mentally prepared allows all the work you’re putting into achieving your goal to manifest itself on the race course.
This week, Bluefin Software celebrates its 5th birthday! During these 5 years, we witnessed the progress of thousands towards a more active lifestyle, including ourselves! Your passion, determination and strength have always been our main motivation! Therefore, you are our guest of honor in this celebration!
For the next five days, you can get a great deal on our mobile apps! Each day, a set of apps will be on a limited time sale, from 12:01 am to 11:59 pm (your time zone). To find out which apps have our birthday special discounts, you can follow us on Twitter or visit our Facebook page.
We’ll be announcing the first set of apps this Friday! A small hint: newbie runners will love these first deals!