If you ask most runners what they like to do to work out, it’s no surprise their answer is run, and, well, run. When you’re big on a form of physical fitness that requires little-to-no expenses and can be done at any time (and anywhere!), it’s easy to understand a runner’s lack of desire to want to integrate other things into their routine.
But it’s time to face the facts: There are a slew of workouts that can be beneficial for big-time runners, especially if you’re increasing your mileage for a race like a half- or full-marathon. In fact, mixing up your training routine can help stave off injury (goodbye shin splints, plantar fasciitis and runner’s knee). This can be mega important, as research shows the incidence of running-related injury among amateur runners is as high as 17.8 for every 1,000 hours of running.
Here, the experts weigh in on four great, complementary activities every runner should integrate into their routine.
We’ve heard it time and time again: “All the pounding of running is bad for your knees.” While research actually shows the opposite, proving running can increase knee cartilage, mixing up the way runners get their cardio in can be a nice break in a constant movement pattern, says Jamey Powell, an Ironman triathlete and coach at Swerve, a spin studio in New York City.
“Integrating cycling classes into any training routine is a great low-impact way to stay consistent with cardio, while giving my joints a nice break,” she says. “Plus, if you’re someone who hates speed work on a running track or treadmill, interval-based cycling classes are a great way to spike your heart rate and give you the kind of anaerobic benefits you’d get from sprinting.”
Adding weightlifting to your regular programming can do a whole slew of good. Research shows strength training can help increase both your V02 max and speed. It can also help you stay off the injured list, says Lacee Lazoff, kettlebell specialist and coach at Performix House.
“Making time for strength training will help you avoid injury and also improve your running form,” she says. “Specifically strong glutes and a strong core, which will help avoid overloading your joints as well as hip or back problems.”
For strength-training newbies targeting longer distances, Lazoff recommends adding 2–3 days each week of light strength training. With a moderate weight, try out moves like split squats and lunges. Start with six sets of 6–8 reps, making sure to repeat on both sides.
PILATES ON A MEGAFORMER
More and more boutique studios are offering megaformer (Read: a large machine with a carriage, two stable platforms in the front and back and adjustable springs to increase resistance) workouts, which can be a game changer when it comes to increasing full-body strength.
“The megaformer works to train a different type of muscle fiber than running,” says Melody Davi, an instructor at SLT in New York City. “Running typically recruits both slow- and fast-twitch muscle fibers, which assist in explosive, dynamic movement and stamina. “Pilates and the Megaformer specifically target slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are in charge of building muscular endurance and strength.”
This means the Megaformer challenges runners to recruit the lesser-trained, stabilizer muscles, crucial for injury prevention.
Stretching is super important for any runner, but yoga is more than just lengthening those tired muscles. Instead of sitting around and waiting for the next run, yoga gets you moving, stretching, breathing — which can lead to faster recovery, according to Austin Kapetanakis, an instructor at Lyons Den Power Yoga in New York City and an RRCA certified running coach.
If you’re willing to take it into a heated room, even better, says Kapetanakis. “Heated power vinyasa creates the perfect opportunity for the muscles to loosen up and increases your range of motion to help you get deeper into the poses. Bonus: The heated room makes you sweat, stimulating the lymphatic system which helps flush toxins from your body.”
Not sure where to start? Kapetanakis suggests tackling lizard pose, either before a run or after, for a deep stretch and release to the muscles in the hips, glutes, groin and quadriceps. Note: If you are doing this post-run, hold the stretch on each side for about 20 deep breaths. Before? Switch four times between sides, holding it for less time and keeping the movement dynamic.
How to: From standing, step your right foot forward to a low lunge. Bring your back knee to the ground, place the top of your back foot toward the ground and check to see your right knee is stacked over your ankle (stack the joints). From here, gently press your front knee toward your right pinky toe. Bring both of your hands to the floor on the inside of your right foot. Keep your chest lifted, head up, core and hip muscles engaged, and breathe as deep as you can. To deepen the stretch, you can bring your forearms to the floor. To modify it, you can place your hands on a block or come onto your fingertips.