Updated: May 1, 2022
Questions about how to improve running are quite common in my profession. There are many ways to improve your running depending on which type of runner you are. In other words, certain exercise is dedicated to sprinters while others are for distance runners. Below I will highlight 3 exercises that will benefit all runners.
During running, you are momentarily balancing on one leg for a short period before your cycle to your next step. Therefore, strengthening your stabilizing muscles will improve your gait, and one of the easiest ways to do it is with this exercise above. Your stabilizing muscles are the muscles that support joint movement and/or stability. So, for this movement, it's essentially the major muscle groups of your leg (Glutes/Hamstrings/Quads/Calves). These muscles will give you a better foundation when your foot hits the ground which decreases the chances of overworking your muscles (which causes you to fatigue faster). You can make this movement harder by holding a weight and reaching towards the floor instead of forward.
Jumping rope improves your aerobic capacity. This occurs whether you’re jumping for speed or endurance. Plyometrics increases bone density and jumping rope is considered low-level plyometrics. This exercise also strengthens the muscles in your feet and lower leg region. The stronger those muscles are, the less stress will apply to your tendons and ligaments. Stronger feet will also increase muscle endurance as well as decrease the chances of injury. Studies show chances of injury are increased with mal-alignment and/or increased ground contact time. Jumping rope helps reinforce quick ground contact response, allowing you to cycle quicker in your gate. This exercise also helps eliminate heel contact time which is essential for sprinting.
Lunges hit 4 of the 6 major muscle groups of the legs (Glutes/quads/hamstrings/calves). What I like is it also strengthens your leg in a similar pattern to running as it’s a unilateral movement. If you tend to favor one leg because of a pattern you’re in or past injury, then lunges will help address those muscle imbalances. If you’re lifting for strength and power, then you want to keep your repetitions under 8. If lifting for hypertrophy and endurance, then keep your reps above 10.
As mentioned in the intro many exercises will improve your running from strength exercises, and balance exercises to specific running drills that will improve your gait. If you are interested in knowing what will specifically help you in your running, please email me at email@example.com.
N'Namdi Nelson, M.B.A, CSCS, ACSM-EP, PES, CES