Here are my running fitness tips to keep you in top top shape.
Although running is a great way of keeping shape, as we get older there are certain body changes that also need to be taken care of.
We start to lose muscle mass and function from around the age of 20 onward and that speeds up as we get past 50. However the good news is that endurance runners who continue running into their older years have a much reduced muscle loss compared to sedentary people of the same age.
However to build up muscle and to maintain its strength, you need to do specific strength training or adopt a fitness regime.
Running certainly does strengthen your legs but it is a bit selective and doesn't give you a whole body workout. You might have strong legs but also have weak hamstrings or you might have a weak core (think of your abdomen and lower back) resulting in difficulty maintaining running posture and leading to injuries.
Running is a high impact sport and you are moving only in one plane of direction. This means that imbalances and weak spots can occur which in turn will affect how you run. Hips, shoulders, knees can all be weak spots and if you have a weak spot, then running is just going to exacerbate it.
I learned the hard way. I thought if I just ran for an hour or so then that was my exercise done and dusted for the day. However over time, I started to get injuries. One day it was my knee, the next my ankle or even my shoulder. It took me a while to realize that running was actually showing up the weaknesses in my body and although I was becoming a better runner, those weakness were still there.
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Running fitness is not all about pumping iron in the gym. It is about working your body to improve strength and endurance which in turn will make you a better, healthier and stronger runner. Here are some suggestions:
Whether on your own or with a keep fit swim class, swimming is a great way for working out your whole body. And being non weight bearing, you are not damaging your joints. It is also great for upper body strength which often gets neglected in runners.
Choose the exercise classes that spark your interest. Some are much more physical and intense than others. My local gym offers everything from body pump, bootyliscious, group trampoline (might try that one day) to circuit training. Start off gently as too much too soon can cause injuries.
I wish I liked yoga as I am really un-flexible. However for some reason I find it really boring.
Yoga can be much more intense than a novice might initially think. Yoga helps loosen tight muscles, ligaments and hamstrings and helps you become more flexible which in turn really helps prevent running injuries.
There are so many different dance classes so you have a huge choice. Some are pretty energetic such as Zumba but there is also belly dancing, ballroom, Latin and so on. They are all great for improving balance and coordination and of course for working out your legs and arms.
You could use a stationary bike or get outside and head for the fresh air. Cycling really gets your glutes (thighs) working but without the pounding of your knee and ankle joints. It is also great for hill training or for improving your cadence.
I've lost count of the number of people who I've met who attribute their running efficiency and lack of injuries to hiking or trekking. Hiking is more leisurely and usually on man made roads and trails whereas trekking is more climbing and venturing into more rugged territory. Both are great ways of improving your aerobic capacity, your endurance and for strengthening you body from head to toe.
Bet you never thought of that! In fact gardening is a great way of stretching with all that up and down and reaching movement, not to mention pushing the mower, stacking logs and digging holes. It can really be a great workout.
Just do a simple search on the internet for strength exercices for runners and a ton of results will come up. Pick what suits you and which fits into your daily schedule. I suggest doing a 15-20 minute session at least twice a week if you can.
If you'd rather go for something all planned out for you and with different strength training regimes depending on what you want to achieve, then you might need to buy an online program. I purchased one off Runners Connect and am more than happy with it. It has helped take away the questions of "am I doing enough", "what should I be doing", "how can I stop an injury from recurring" and so on. Here's a link if you are interested. Strength Training for Runners.
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