With summer now in full swing, lots of us are hitting the track, the streets and the trails to get and stay fit. Whether you run marathons or prefer a quick lap around the block, there are many ways to adjust your running routine to get the most out of your workout.
"It's not uncommon for runners to get into a regular running routine," says Jamie Schwab, an athletic trainer at Henry Ford Health. "They'll find a comfortable pace and stick with it, often even doing the same route." Unfortunately, doing the same run day after day not only leads to boredom, but it can also prevent you from reaching your full potential.
5 Tips To Run Smarter
It’s no secret that running is tough on the body. In fact, runners frequently develop muscle imbalances that make the body work harder. But you can take steps can help you improve your run, maximize efficiency and get the most out of your running workout. Here's how:
- Listen to your body: Whether you're a seasoned runner or just starting out, pay close attention to what your body is telling you. If your hips and knees are sore, back off. Feeling strong? Run another mile. The key to improving your run is to gradually increase distance and intensity over time. At first, you may only be able to handle a 10- or 15-minute jog. But if you keep at it, you'll be running for 30 minutes straight in no time.
- Get the right footwear: If you're not a competitive runner, you might think any pair of running shoes will do. In reality, properly fitted running shoes not only enhance your performance but also reduce your risk of injury. Find a running store that can analyze your form and recommend shoes based on your unique gait and foot strike.
- Pay attention to your target heart rate: Your target heart rate is 220 minus your age. Once you hit that rate during your run, you're working at maximum capacity. Don't want to invest in a heart rate monitor or be bothered with another tracking device? You're probably hitting the zone if you can still carry on a conversation during your run.
- Focus on strength: If you're an avid runner but you aren’t strength training, you're setting yourself up for injury. "You're asking your body to do a lot during a run," Schwab says. "Weak glutes or hips add stress to your knees and ankles." Want to stabilize your run? Pay special attention to your core muscles. Solid strength training exercises include lunges, planks, squats and pushups.
- Keep it interesting: Doing the same running routine day after day can be exhausting. Break out of your comfort zone by trying a different route, playing with your pacing, or running stairs or hills. You might even incorporate plyometric activities into your run. These explosive motions — hopping, skipping and jumping — help build power, strength and performance.
Eating well and getting regular exercise are key to enhancing overall health. Plus, a fit body is better equipped to avoid and battle infection. Running can also protect your sanity.
"Running is a great escape for many exercise enthusiasts," Schwab says. "Many people find they not only feel physically healthier, but their mental and emotional health also gets a boost."
The caveat: When you're running, you're placing double or triple your body weight on one side of your body at a time. So it's critical to pay attention to what shape your body is in before you take to the track. A few questions to ask yourself:
- Am I in good cardiovascular shape?
- Am I recovering from shin splints, knee injuries or hip problems?
- Am I at risk of falls?
- Am I suffering from osteoporosis?
It’s always important to check with your doctor before making changes in your exercise regimen. If running isn't appropriate for you, plenty of other activities, such as swimming, hiking and biking, can get your heart pumping.
Jamie Schwab, AT, ATC, SCAT, CSCS, is an athletic trainer with Henry Ford Sports Medicine and works with student athletes at Edsel Ford High School. She is a National Strength and Conditioning Association certified strength and conditioning specialist.