Cross training, running, lifting, yoga, fitness classes- it can be really overwhelming, right?
What should you be doing if you want to become a faster runner?
The system you stress is the system that improves. To run fast, you need to run fast in workouts. To run far, you need to be doing long runs. Just like shooting free throws will not help you become a better football player, doing yoga will not help you build your running endurance.
Practice makes perfect. To become a better runner, you must run more. Running more will increase your running economy and aerobic base. Running economy is the rate at which your body consumes oxygen. Running is aerobic sport. Aerobic means “with oxygen”. The more efficiently you can utilize oxygen while running, the better. Running more = teaching body to utilize oxygen better.
However, there are limits to how much you can safely increase your running mileage per week. Running is a high impact, weight barring exercise, so it is important to use the progressive overload principle. This is the gradual increase of a stress placed on the body overtime. By doing this gradually, you are allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger on a cellular level without increased risk of injury. The general rule is no more than a 10% increase in mileage per week. It is also important to integrate a 25% mileage cut back week 1 time per month.
You can continue to increase until you have found a “sweet spot” of mileage. This might be different for every athlete. I like to hoover in the 65-70 range. My husband like the 55-60 mile range. You might find 45 miles per week works well for you.
When Cross Training Becomes Important:
Cross training can help build your aerobic base (the rate at which your body utilizes oxygen) without the additional stress/impact of running. You can start with 20-40 min sessions of easy effort walking, elliptical, and cycling in addition to the 10% increase in running mileage per week. The goal will be to turn these cross training days into running days eventually with the 10% increase rule.
The best forms of cross training are the activities that make your body mimic the running motions. These activities are biking, walking, elliptical, stairs. Those would be more beneficial for building the muscles you will use while running. While rowing and swimming are also aerobic activities, they are not specific to using the same muscles you utilize while running.
When Lifting Becomes Important:
Lifting is always good to add into your routine to make sure there are not imbalances created in the body. Running is highly repetitive. If you have 1 side or 1 muscle group that is “stronger” or “weaker” than another, you will be susceptible to an injury due to the imbalances causing a change in your natural gait. To work on building stregnth throughout your body, lifting can be prescribed. Once application that is good for finding your “weak spots” is the Saucony Stride Lab. You can also get workouts prescribed by a PT or specialist.
When Yoga Becomes Important:
Yoga can be a strength and balance exercise. This is very similar to the imbalances we explained in the lifting section. Working on balance and engaging those weaker muscle groups will help you have a better stride and be a more efficient runner.