Recreational runners often look at elite runners and think they are living on different planets when it comes to running. After all, recreational runners fit running in around our lives and jobs, whereas for elite and professional runners, running is their life and their job.
But there are tips we can glean from elite runners as to how they approach training that can help our running — no matter the level. We asked a coach and an elite runner for their best tips. Surprisingly, their suggestions aren’t about running more, running faster or training harder. Rather, they have strategic advice about efficiency and ways to help you improve your form.
1. WORK FOR STABILITY
“If your body doesn’t have stability, it spends your entire run looking for it,” says Under Armour running coach Sandra Gallagher Mohler, who is also part of the IRunTons team. She works with runners to help them strengthen their gluteal muscles and learn how to activate those muscles. Ideally, you want your glute muscles to stabilize you when you run and keep you in good alignment (versus letting your hips pop out to the side), so you can run with the most efficient form possible.
How can you make sure you are activating your glutes? You need to teach your body how to use the correct muscles. Mohler spends a lot of time with her athletes teaching them how to do properly aligned single-leg work, such as single-leg squats and lunges. “Start by using a wall,” Mohler says, to provide the stability you lack. “Otherwise, you may do them out of alignment, which only makes what is already weak even weaker and what is already strong even stronger.”
2. WARM UP WITH DRILLS
“Pro-athletes spend 30–60 minutes warming up every time they run, versus recreational runners who only have 45 minutes and just go out the door,” Mohler says. Drills such as calf raises, single-leg squats and running in place with high knees (with the proper form) remind your body how you are supposed to be moving, right before you set out to run.
“Drills are a huge part of my training, and I’ve come to realize [they] are a huge aspect of injury prevention and maximizing running economy,” says Rachel Schneider, a seven-time NCAA Division I All-American, NACAC 1500-meter gold medalist and third-place finisher at the USATF Indoor Track & Field Championships. “Typically I’ll do an hour-long drill session twice a week. I’ll also do some dynamic drills before every workout and every race. A good drill routine will activate all the running muscles and help the body warm up for what’s ahead,” says Schneider
3. CONSIDER A COACH
The difference, of course, is elite runners have built in time for things like pre-run drills and alignment sessions with coaches. Time is at a premium for recreational runners, most of whom are just trying to get in a quick five miles before work.
Mohler is realistic; she understands the time constraints are different. That’s why she urges runners who want to improve their form or reduce their risk of injury to think about working with a running coach to learn some of these alignment tips and helpful running drills — even if it’s only a few times. “Working with a coach is about learning to make less work for your body,” Mohler says.
Ultimately, that’s what we all want.
GEAR UP FOR YOUR NEXT RUN