Fitness

Surprising Ways To Improve Your Running

If your default setting for fitness is to go for a run, it could be causing you more harm than good. In fact, cross training, rather than running, could actually improve your running technique. Scott Marsh, PT from Xcelerate Fitness (xceleratefitness.co.uk ) says: “Most runners, when I begin working with them, have got into bad habits. Many can run impressive times and go for miles on end without even breaking a sweat. However, some of them lack the basic body awareness, core stability and general strength that could really make a difference to their performance.”

Not only does cross training mean you’re less likely to get injured, it can also help improve your running times, refine form and add motivation. So, from boxing to yoga, we asked the experts how to get the most from your fitness class…

BOOT CAMPS

“Popular throughout 2012 and still growing in number today, boot camps can be a great way to incorporate some cross training into your regime, varying the stresses placed on your body, while still boosting the aerobic and anaerobic base,” says Scott Marsh. Sam Warrington (swfitnessgroup.co.uk ) runs boot camps in London and says: “The benefits are huge; you’ll gain improved fitness, more energy, a lower body fat percentage, and generally more tone. Each session burns between 700-1000 calories,” he says.

Why it’s good for runners…

“Very few runners I know think about incorporating bodyweight sets, based on time and reps, as a way of improving their running. Due to most boot camps using interval-based timing, they can be great for improving general physical preparedness, as well as aerobic capacity. What’s more, most runners severely lack general strength, normally preferring to train outside rather than in a gym, so the boot camp combines the best of both worlds.”

 

HOW ABOUT GOING BAREFOOT?

Far from being just another fitness fad, barefoot running is deemed the quickest way to reconnect the body to its true centre of balance, helping to transform running performance.

Rollo Mahon, founder of the Barefoot Performance Academy (barefootperformanceacademy.com) says: “It’s important to remember common injury only comes from poor movement skill. We humans were designed to run. At the Barefoot Performance Academy we simply apply the correct posture, force and time in all our techniques that mimics the action of good form running, helping eliminate common running injuries and improve running times.”

 

BOXING

“The physical benefits of boxing have a positive impact on running and vice versa,” says Papillon Luck, personal trainer from Liberte Fitness (libertefitness.com). Increasing in popularity since the Olympics, boxing is one of the toughest workouts around.”

Why it’s good for runners…

“Boxing fitness classes involve skipping, circuit exercises for the whole body, bag or pad work and shadow boxing, which, combined, will improve your strength and endurance,” explains Papillon. “This allows you to train for longer when it comes to improving running technique and stamina. Boxing training increases agility, power, speed, co-ordination, overall fitness and mental toughness. When applied to running, this ensures you are fully prepared to tackle any distance by focusing on your mental strength, which will get you digging deep.”

 

BUNGEE RUNNING

In this class, a bungee cord is attached to you and pulls as you run. You’ll need a training partner to run away from, so it’s best to start this with a personal trainer who has all the kit and who’ll make sure you’re doing it right. James Griffiths, founder of Wild Training (wildtraining.co.uk), says: “With bungee running you can create running resistance like a hill, without changing your natural stride, so the results you get are more transferable to running on the flat.”

Why it’s good for runners…

“Bungee running is a fun way to get your legs working harder than they normally would and can help you develop speed, strength and reduce your risk of injury. Running up hill is a well-known way to use running resistance to aid performance by improving stride length,” explains James.

 

YOGA

For the average endorphin junkie, the very idea of a yoga class might leave them frustrated and itching to get sprinting! However, many top runners practise yoga. Jane Wrafter (jcwfitness.co.uk), says: “Yoga is a discipline that strengthens the mind as well as the body. Through intense concentration, the mind can actually improve its ability to focus on movements and postures, and not get distracted by other internal thoughts or external distractions.”

Why it’s good for runners…

“This mental strength would translate well to running. When the run feels tough and challenging, a trained mind stays positively focussed on targets and goals, without allowing distracting negative thoughts to take over. The ability to keep going is a skill that can be practised and improved, and yoga is ideal for this,” says Jane.

 

CHOOSING A CLASS

  • You don’t have to go to the swankiest gym in town – check out what your local leisure centre has on offer first.
  • Buddy up – going with a friend can make being the ‘new girl’ less daunting, and you’re bound to have more fun, too.
  • Concentrate and learn – remember the exercises so you can practise them at home. For instance, Pilates and yoga moves can become a part of your general pre- and post-run stretching routine.

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Phoebe Doyle