It’s not just what you do on the road that counts. Making a few changes in the gym will jump-start your running progress

Description: Supercharge Your Run

Knowledge is power when it comes to running. You can put it the miles on the road, but the more you focus on stretching, warming up and cross-training, the faster you’ll be. To help you supercharge your run, we asked Daley Thompson, Olympic gold medallist and trainer at The Body Holiday’s Well Fit Retreat (thebodyholiday.com), for some simple but powerful tips you can apply to your training, to help you become the runner you always wanted to be.

Cross-train for power

“Cross-training increases your lung power, while helping you learn to handle your bodyweight,” says Thompson. “As well as doing cardio on the bike and rower, take off your shoes and do some mat work, such as squats, one-legged balances and lunges. This will strengthen the tiny stabilizing muscles in your ankles and knees to make your body stronger and more agile. It also breaks up regular running training and makes things more fun.”

Try this: With bare feet, stand on your left leg with your core braced. Squat by bending at the hip, knee and ankle, and lower your right hand to the outside of your left foot. Perform 10 reps on each leg to improve stability and overall leg strength.

Use a speed ladder

Description: Use a speed ladder

“A ladder is a simple training device that helps improve co-ordination, efficiency and leg speed,” explains Thompson. “Your body is economical, it doesn’t want to use any more energy that it has to so, over time, it will adapt to running at a certain speed and won’t improve. Speed ladders encourage proper running mechanics while also training fast-twitch muscles – the muscles that help your legs turn over faster and more efficiently.

Try this: Buy a speed ladder from around $23 from escapefitness.com or amazon.com, and practise running through it, keeping your knees high while pushing off from the balls of your feet.

Keep tabs on your form

Description: “Run with an upright posture and a slight forward lean,”

“Run with an upright posture and a slight forward lean,” says Thompson. “Try not to over stride with a heel-to-toe foot movement because this places excessive pressure through the heel and can lead to leg and back injuries. Aim to keep your core tight as you run. This will give you good all-round balance and help stabilize your spine.”

Try this: When running, concentrate on landing on the middle of your foot, then rolling through to the front of your toes before taking off again, using your calves and quads. It may feel unnatural at first, but you can easily teach yourself to run more efficiently.

Get stretching

“Don’t stand still when stretching before your run, get moving,” suggests Thompson. “Active stretching, such as jogging with your knees high, and running strides, is more fun and will activate the muscles you’ll be using when running. Running strides also help you perform with better technique, so you’re less prone to injury, because they replicate the action of running on a smaller scale. Make sure you concentrate and really feel the movement of each step.”

Try this: Walking with high knees while swinging your arms overhead for 60 seconds dynamically flexes your hips and stretches your glutes, quads, lower back and shoulders. When running, a lot of your power comes from your hips, so it’s vital that you keep them flexible.

Go off-road

Description: “Run on grass and woodland paths as often as you can,”

“Run on grass and woodland paths as often as you can,” says Thompson. “It’s the softest option and far less strenuous on your joints as it absorbs most of the energy from your foot strike. The uneven surface also makes the stabilizing muscles in your ankles and knees work harder, requires more balance and increases your overall agility. As a result, when you run on pavement it will seem easier, you’ll be stronger and you’ll be able to run faster.”

Try this: Off-road running is slightly riskier, due to its uneven and unpredictable surfaces, so run a little slower and keep an eye on the trail. Once you’ve run the same route a couple of times you’ll soon remember where the more challenging sections are, so you’ll be less prone to tripping up!

Roll into action

“For a more efficient running style, mobility is key, especially around the hip, knee and lower back area,” says Thompson. “Before you begin pounding the pavement, warm up with three to five minutes of brisk self-massage using a foam roller. This helps create friction, heat and circulation, which will help lengthen stagnant tissues and load the muscles with oxygen-rich blood. This prepares them to be aware and responsive, while relieving tight bands of muscle tissue, which can cause discomfort.”

Try this: Foam roll your IT band (the iliotibial band is a group of rough fibres that run down the outside of your thigh). Lie on your side with a foam roller just below your hip and roll up and down to your mid-thigh 10 to 15 times, rolling all the way from your mid-thigh to the outside of your knee. You can buy a roller for $62 from shop.balancephysio.com.

Daley Thompson is a two-time Olympic champion and a trainer at The Body Holiday’s Well Fit Retreat. See thebodyholiday.com for details.

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