Improving your running times can bounce between hard fought highs, or stagnant swampy lows. We often feel both ends of the spectrum.
Plateaus are disheartening when we do not break through. But hope is not lost forever!
I made simple, and easy-to-implement changes to my training. My running improved as a result, so maybe a change could improve yours?
Train twice a day. Kettlebell circuits and Runs
Kettlebells are known for being a trusty addition to an athletes tool box. In some part, due to their shape and the instability they cause when lifting. A healthy amount of instability helps your body adapt to different movement patterns. Unlike a stable weight(for example, a weight lifting machine).
This is very applicable to running. Running is largely about your single leg strength,stability and balance. In an Ultra this is important, where most races are conducted over all sorts of unstable terrain!
I began experimenting with kettlebell circuits 3 days a week, alongside my runs. Soreness may be the norm at first, but after a few weeks of adaptation the benefits are worth it:
- Squats, Lunges, Swings, and Glute Bridges. Try these movements in a circuit and you will feel the burn. This strengthens important leg muscles, for example your Hamstrings and Glutes. Why are these muscles important? These muscles engage hip extension, which is a prime force in running.
- You will get used to the feeling of running on tired legs. This can be a valuable psychological asset. You know you can get a run in, even on the days your legs are screaming at you to go easy.
Horrible Hill Sprints – Improve your strength, explosiveness, and reduce injury risk
Raging fire spewing from your lungs… The weight of old Oak tree trunks pulling you painfully up a never ending hill…
That is the well known feeling of Hill Sprints. So if they are filled with such (perilous) joy, why do them?
Hill sprints are known to have a wide range of benefits. A surprising benefit is the reduction in injury risk.
You might think, how could something high impact such as hill sprints, have any benefit in reducing the likelihood of injury? The answer seems to be improvement in areas of muscle weakness. Pile driving your way up hill has been shown to be a competent corrective tool for this.
Former injury prone Olympic Marathoner, Dathan Ritzenhein had suffered multiple injuries before hill sprinting.
“When I first started coaching Olympian Dathan Ritzenhein in 2004, he was fairly susceptible to injury. He had already suffered two stress fractures and a few other breakdowns in his short running career.”
Dathan’s coach, Brad Hudson, decided the inclusion of hill sprints could be what his athlete needed. Hill sprints began improving Dathan’s strength (Something runners often neglect) and in turn saw a reduction in injuries. “To address the problem, I had him do a lot of short, steep hill sprints. His strength has improved quickly, and he’s been free of major injuries for a long time now.”
Add mindfulness into your daily routine
It is a normal response to think… how can mindfulness improve my running times!? After all, sitting in a cross legged position like a Buddhist monk, may not light the flame of motivation we are all seeking.
I am not making the claim that 10 minutes of meditation – followed by a run – will result in that run being quicker. However from my experience, I noticed it is a spillover effect from the benefits of mindfulness itself. And the benefits are well documented:
- Reduction in anxiety and depression
- Improved ability to focus
- Increase in psychological resilience
These are just a few of the scientifically backed benefits. Read more here.
There is also evidence from Sport Psychologist Micheal Gervais, and his use of mindfulness with the Seattle Seahawks.
Micheal’s mindfulness practice with the team, created a group that began paying attention to their internal state more, increasing individual improvement. (If you are interested in Micheal, he has a podcast called FindingMastery).
I noticed mindfulness translated to increased focus and a reduction in negative thoughts while I ran.