As the dates for the London Marathon come closer it's not uncommon for people to feel inspired to pound the pavements to improve their fitness. Running is hands down one of the greatest ways to keep fit. It's the best aerobic exercise for physical conditioning of your heart and lungs, as well as a great way to relieve stress, tone your entire body, lose weight and quite simply, it's convenient.
Whether you're a seasoned running pro or early in your journey, sometimes we all need a bit of encouragement. So grab your running shoes as I give you my top five tips to get you running happily ever after.
1. Find Fitness Motivation
The first hurdle to confront is motivation which, unsurprisingly, is easier said than done. I challenge you to write down some goals. Maybe you’re training for the London Marathon or Great North Run, maybe you want to shift a few pounds or it could be that you want to simply be fit. Write them down and stick them up on your mirror or somewhere you look often, as a daily reminder. On a more immediate note, try keeping your fit kit by the door before you go to bed, as quite often it’s the thought of exercising and lack of preparation that puts us off.
2. Improve Your Flexibility
Tight hamstrings? Sore back? Stiff hips? Loosen up! You don't have to be a bendy yoga bunny but your flexibility is important when it comes to running. During your runs, your flexibility enables your joints to move through their full range of motion, helping your muscles work more effectively and therefore, boosting your performance whilst reducing your risk of injury. Quad, cobra and standing lunge stretches will improve your flexibility greatly and if you can make it to a yoga or pilates class weekly, even better.
3. Boost Your Endurance
Naturally when we fatigue our running form weakens. We curl up our shoulders, hunch our backs, our arms tend to flap by our sides and our breathing pattern becomes irregular. Weakening our technique means our performance suffers whilst putting us at risk of injury. However, improving our stamina reduces all of those side effects, enabling us to run for longer before fatigue kicks in. Try combining strength training with cardio whilst reducing your rest times in between workout sets, in order to boost your endurance.
4. Get Stronger
Running is a high impact workout and high impact exercises aren't always kind to our joints. Luckily, strength training will increase the ability of your bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles to withstand the high impact of running. Weight training dramatically increases the strength of your muscles when done so safely and even adding small amounts of resistance to your workouts with a resistance band will strengthen your muscles. The stronger you are the better you get.
5. Improve your Stability
When running, muscle strength in your hips and glutes are really important for stabilisation and your core strength is important for your posture and so the stronger and more stable you are in these areas, the better your running form and performance. Try push-ups with your feet on a medicine ball, a one-legged squat reach, single leg dead lifts and raising one leg off the ground when planking.
If you want to find out more, I created an entire workout series of workout videos to get you ready to run which can be found by clicking here.
Photographer: Sam Travis