Fitness

Seven easy moves to boost your run

Back in the day, hardcore runners avoided resistance training like it was the hardest obstacle in a Tough Mudder race, particularly when it involved being in a gym and lifting weights. Often their worry was that their muscles would become bulky and somehow slow them down. However, there are now enough sports science studies out there to prove that this kind of workout can bring serious benefits to runners, whatever their favoured distance.

A stronger core allows you to maintain good posture which is vital for running efficiency, while increased leg strength improves the power of your push-off and so reduces the amount of effort you put into each stride. In addition, extra strength in the muscles, tendons and ligaments will help to reduce the risk of injury that is inevitably associated with the repetitive running motion.

Of course, as well as working to improve your running technique, strength training also tones your target areas and increases your ability to burn calories, so this is not just about performance. Here are my seven easy moves to max your motor!


  • Stand sideways on to a step platform, sturdy bench or the bottom step of a flight of stairs, with your left foot on the step and your right foot on the ground but a full stride length away, so the legs are wide apart. Your toes on both feet should be pointing slightly outwards.
    Squat down, by bending both knees, then slowly lift up and shift all your weight onto your straightening left leg and at the same time lift your right foot off the floor and the leg out to the side. Gently begin to lower down by bending your left leg then place the right foot back on the floor and continue down straight into the squat, by bending both knees. Keep your abdominals pulled in tight and try not to lean to the left.

    Target

    15 repetitions on each side


  • This is a great exercise to develop strength in the muscles on the front of the lower leg and so can help to power your stride and also reduce the risk of shin splints. Simply lift your toes as high as you can and walk. You may lose your balance at first, as your posture will change but bear with it. You can get even greater benefit from this one by doing it barefoot.

    Target

    5 minutes worth of walking. This could be used as a cool down after your run.


  • Stand with your feet apart on the front edge of a step box, a sturdy bench or the bottom step of a flight of stairs, with your heels hanging off behind you. You may need help with your balance on this exercise, so ensure you are within comfortable touching distance of a wall. Now turn your toes in to point toward the centre line of your body, so the heels will be turned out to the side. Holding this angled position, slowly raise the heels as high as is comfortable and roll onto the balls of your feet by strongly contracting the calf muscles then lower down under control, working against gravity all the way down. Take a short rest then turn your toes to point out to the side and repeat the heel raise motion.

    Target

    15 repetitions.


  • A common runner’s injury problem occurs when a weakness in the vastus medialis (inner quadricep muscle) causes the kneecap to be pulled out of line and rub against the boney bits on the end of the thigh bone rather than smoothly between them. This exercise will specifically strengthen that muscle. Standing on a declined step platform or facing downwards on any slope, place your feet about hip width apart. Bend your knees and push your bum behind to lower into a squat position, ensuring the knees point directly forwards. You will find you are not able to sink as low as on even ground and may need to counter-balance with your arms.

    Target

    15 repetitions


  • This will strengthen the muscles and connective tissues in the sole of the foot, helping to ramp up your push-off but also to prevent plantar fasciitis that afflicts a lot of runners. Place your naked foot on a towel and drag it back with your toes, pressing them into the ground at the same time. Once fully pulled back, lift the sole of the foot, spread the toes and put it back down again.

    Target

    20 repetitions on each foot.


  • Standing on a step or raised platform, take a leap of faith off the platform and land about a stride length forward. As you land on both feet, immediately drop into a deep squat by bending your knees. Your upper body should hinge forward slightly at the hips, but keep your tummy pulled in really tight and lift your arms high behind you. Now, without hesitation at the bottom of your squat, explosively leap up using a maximal contraction in your thighs and buttocks, also throwing your hands up to help increase the height. Ensure landings are soft to reduce the risk of impact injury to your joints, so the quieter the better.

    Target

    15 repetitions


  • This is a specific technique focus to help increase speed. When running, think of placing the ball of your foot on the ground and then dragging it back, pushing off from the big toe with your rear leg fully extended. Once your foot leaves the ground, immediately pull your toes up towards your shins and ensure your toes are always facing to the front. Think tall, never feel as though you are sitting on your hips and drive your elbows as high behind as they will go, ensuring they pump forwards and upwards on returning, not across your chest. Try to relax your shoulders, and think flow and speed rather than tensing and pushing. Imagine your legs are like wheels driving you down the track, not up and down, as this is wasted motion and therefore lost time.

    TARGET Aim for five to 10 short bursts of between 10 and 25 seconds, either as stand-alone shuttles with rest time in between or weaved into a longer jog.

}

Dean Hodgkin