How To Condition Your Body For Running

Introduction

Most of the runners concentrate on covering more distance. The problem with this philosophy is that if you do so, you will struggle to go beyond a certain point. There will be the physical limitations of your body. You will not be able to cover more distance after a certain threshold. The best solution is to opt for proper, or more formal structured, training.

With the help of proper training programme, you can condition your body to not only cover more distance but also increase strength. It will help you run fast, with more energy, and cover more distance. As a result, you can avoid injuries and make your body accustomed (or conditioned) to running. Today we will highlight a few simple steps which you can undertake to do aid this.

1. Stretching

It might be a simple exercise to accomplish, but it can help you a lot. Stretching should be in your programme, both as part of your warm/cool-down and as a session on its own. You have to stretch your calves and quads to help develop your running performance. With the help of stretching, you can improve the co-ordination between your knee joint and your ankle. In simple terms, when the bones and muscles are in complete sync, it will be easier for you to cover a considerable distance at a faster pace.

When you look at the motion which you follow while running, it is repetitive. If the joints are not healthy and stable enough to handle that motion, it can result in injuries. Injuries can easily ground you for weeks or months. A much better option is to opt to perform stretching exercises on a regular basis.

You can perform the stepping exercise to stretch the calves. For the quads, you can move your heels to the bum while standing, or sitting on the floor. You can do similar activities while kneeling. When you attain a specific position, you need to hold that position for between 30 and 60 seconds before gently releasing.

You can perform stretching exercises just before running, although there is still some debate on the effectiveness of this.

2. Get the Gear Right

Conditioning the body for running also includes getting the right gear. You have to opt for the right shoes and socks. There are a few factors which you have to keep in mind. These include:

  • Size:
    • You have to first look at the size of the shoes which you are wearing.
    • Ideally, the size should be such that it is entirely comfortable for you – meaning not too wide or narrow, nor too much distance between the big toe and the tip of the shoe.
    • You should be able to get a proper grip when wearing the running shoes.
  • Outsole:
    • The outsole consists of rubber or various other foam compounds.
    • You have to look at the life of the outsole and also the kind of bounce which it provides.
    • It should be entirely flexible.
    • The outsole design for a shoe plays a major factor in shoe performance.
    • For high-end running shoes the outsole can be 25% to 35% of the shoe’s factory price. A simple cupsole may cost $2.00, while a multi-part running sole with carbon shank could cost $8.00 to $10.00.
  • Heel Cushioning:
    • There is enormous pressure on your heel when running.
    • You have to look at the cushioning material used.
    • It should be such that it can absorb the maximum amount of impact.
    • Even when you land hard on the ground, there should be proper/sufficient cushioning and stability.
    • Only when that is the case, should you choose that shoe.

Once you consider these, and other, factors while choosing your new running shoes, you can easily make a better decision. As for socks, you could go for compression socks so that the pressure on the fascia is on the lower side.

Another piece of gear which can increase your stamina when it comes to running is the treadmill. The treadmill will help you practice running. You can use either a bike or just a treadmill to train your lower body for running. Irrespective of the budget or the facilities you have, you should not compromise on the gear. Any compromise on equipment will not only affect your strength and agility but can also cause injuries which can be detrimental to your running career. Once you get the right gear and equipment, it is just a matter of practice.

3. Increase Leg Strength

Apart from the exercise bike and the treadmill, there are various other exercises which you can practice to strengthen your legs. Only when your leg muscles are up to the mark, can you condition your body for running. Some of the exercises which you can opt for include (but not limited to):

  • Side Planks;
  • Single-leg heel raises;
  • High step ups; and
  • Single-leg deadlifts.

You have to increase the repetition of these exercises so that you can strengthen your back muscles more. Ideally, you should perform these exercises at three-four times per week. Within the first eight weeks, you will be able to see the benefits.

4. Do not Compromise on Rest

When conditioning your body for running, there is an enormous stress on the body. That is why you should ensure you get proper rest. Once you get adequate rest, it is easier for you to relax your body and avoid injuries. The problem is, that if you are continuously practising with little to no rest, there will be pressure on your bone joints (and your body in general). When that is the case, an injury can be just around the corner.

Instead of just looking at the distance which you cover in your training, it is a good idea to look at the quality of training. If you only consider distance in your training, sooner or later you are bound to sustain an injury – which could curtail your training for months!

Some tips which you can follow to get proper rest include (but not limited to):

  • Having gaps between your training sessions;
  • Opting for weekly massage;
  • Training on running tracks (rather than roads); and/or
  • Training with proper gear.

These four tips alone can help you reduce the pressure on your body and ensure that your stamina increases rather than just the running distance; as well as reducing your risk of injury.

5. Strength/Resistance Training

Strength training is one of the most versatile forms of workout which you practice. With the help of proper strength training exercises, you can increase your performance. There are many ways to use strength training to increase your running efficiency.

These include (but not limited to):

  • Increasing muscle endurance:
    • With the help of appropriate strength training exercises, you can condition your body for repeated muscle contractions. This will help you to run!
    • When you are targeting the lower half of the body with strength training, you can improve your running performance significantly.
    • During strength training, your muscles might be under a lot of pressure but, once you get used to it, your running performance can increase significantly.
    • At the start, you may start with a low number of repetitions, increasing as you get stronger/more comfortable with/conditioned to the exercises.
    • You should start with a weight which is near your endurance level when you commence you strength training.
  • Concentrate on mobility:
    • When you look at the motion which you usually follow while running, it can appear very restricted.
    • In some cases, it may feel like only your lower half is active or working out.
    • It is important to work on your upper body and core, as well as your lower body.
    • During strength training, you should opt for exercises which can impact on all of the muscles in the body.
    • Compound and dynamic exercises can aid this.
    • It will help you in making your body more flexible and thereby increasing your speed and agility.
  • Train the posterior muscles:
    • It is common for people to think the posterior chain does not, usually, contribute much to running.
    • Put simply, the posterior chain refers to the muscles that make up the backside of your body, running all the way from your feet to your head.
    • Muscles that make up the posterior chain include the calves, hamstrings, glutes, erector spinae muscles, posterior deltoids, trapezius and rhomboids.
    • Although taking the weight off your feet (e.g. desk job) will mean your legs will feel nice and rested for running, this type of lifestyle means the rear side of your body can get lazy and weak. This can lead to problems when you ask it to do something crazy, like running.
    • With each step the posterior chain collectively contracts and propels your body forward.
    • Taken separately:
      • The back stabilises the spine and pelvis which stops energy loss through sideways movement and absorbs the impact of each step.
      • The glutes generate power through the footstrike and stabilise your legs which prevents injuries such as Illiotibial band syndrome (aka runner’s knee).
      • Hamstrings give you control when descending and they also give you speed – when sprinters get injured in races, it’s often a hamstring pull.
      • Calves are essential to the landing and taking off of the foot, absorbing the shock and turning it into power.
    • Strength training can be utilised to condition the posterior chain and therefore impact on your running performance.

6. Increase your Speed

Regardless of whether you are looking to run a short, fast sprint or a marathon, you need to condition your body for the maximum (sustainable) speed possible throughout the course.

We are not stating that you have to run the marathon with the speed of a sprint, but some extra speed is always beneficial. This is why you have to consistently work on your running speed and adjust it depending on the kind of race you are running.

While many runners might consider themselves to be running at their optimum performance, they may be surprised to know that when you condition your body for going faster, it will undoubtedly help you. However, you need to do that in the right manner. Below are a few options runners have when it comes to increasing running speed (they are a number of others):

  • Interval training:
    • Interval training involves running short distances with intervals of walking or slow running in between.
    • During this time, you will be resting your body.
    • You can also opt for interval training which involves running shorter sprints and then relaxing and running the longer ones.
    • After the longer ones, you have to again rest and switch back to the shorter ones. You have to set a specific interval like 200 m and practice according to the distance.
  • Fartlek:
    • It means speed play.
    • It is a system which uses alternate running at fast ans slow speeds over both level and hilly landscape.
  • Hill Training:
    • Hills training has a two-fold benefit:
      • It ensures a great workout over a minimum time limit; and
      • Aids sprinters and distance runners to quicken their stride and turnover.
    • Top Tip: Initially, you can start with the smaller hills and after that navigate the most difficult ones which have a higher gradient.

There are a variety of different options which you have to increase your speed. You should always understand that these options increase not only your speed but also your endurance. It does not matter whether you are planning to run a marathon or a sprint. These exercises will help you in both of these cases when applied correctly.

Summary

So, if you are planning on conditioning your body for running, you have to start with the basics and, after that, progress to exercises which can help you increase your speed.

The quick guide that outlined above enables you to perform the entire spectrum of exercises which can condition your body to run.

It will help you not only build your stamina but also make sure that you reduce the risk of injury while running so that you can embark on a running career which progresses (in achievement and fun!) with every passing day.

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