Hey, Runners! This one's for you!
When people decide to start exercising, running is often their go-to sport, and for good reason. The only piece of equipment you really need is a good pair of running shoes or sneakers; all you have to do is lace up and you’re ready to go! In fact, the total number of running events in the United States in 2015 clocked in at a whopping 30,300 – a clear reflection of the sport’s increasing popularity! And while there are a ton of articles devoted to improving one’s running technique, the importance of speed work, and how to breathe properly, there’s far less literature discussing the benefits of strength training and stretching – both of which can help runners improve their endurance and reduce their risk of injury.
Strength training can be intimidating for both runners and non-runners alike. Many people tend to shy away from strength training for fear of becoming too muscular, or “bulky.” But if you’re an endurance athlete, you’re short-changing yourself if you don’t incorporate strength training into your routine. According to Brendan Brazier at Breaking Muscle, stronger muscles put less demand on the heart, as they don’t require as much oxygen or circulating blood as weaker muscles do. In other words, they don’t have to work as hard to move the body forward. Not only does this allow you to run more efficiently, it also allows you to run for a longer period of time – important if you’re an endurance athlete. And if you’re still worried about bulking up – don’t be. You don’t have to go into full bodybuilder mode in order to reap the benefits of strength training. You don’t even have to lift weights! Body weight exercises, such as squats, lunges, and donkey kicks will do the trick. Of course, you can always add a little bit of extra weight to these exercises for more of a challenge. ;-)
Stretching can also help runners improve their performance, as it improves their flexibility. In fact, increased flexibility reduces the risk of injury, helps muscles recover more quickly, and increases the body’s range of motion – which can improve strength and endurance without clocking extra time on the treadmill or increasing mileage. When you are stretching, make sure you target your thigh muscles, calf muscles, lower back, neck, and arms, as these areas tend to absorb the brunt of the work and are prone to injury and/or stiffness. Don’t have a stretching routine? These moves can get you started.
The Tampa Bay area has a lot of fun races that are perfect for runners of all levels. Pick a race, and don’t forget to strength train and stretch when you’re not pounding the pavement. Have fun!
Upcoming Races (via Active.com)
The SGT Eric Landon 5K Benefiting Stop Soldier Suicide – July 30th, Dunedin, FL
Run With the Indians 5K Family “Fun”draiser – August 6th, Venice, FL
Hotdog Summer 5K and 1 Mile With Threshers Baseball in Clearwater – August 6th, Clearwater, FL
Annual FiskHawk Roadrunners XC Classic – August 12th, Lithia, FL
Crusader Gallop 5K – August 13th, Lakeland, FL