2017 has arrived, and it’s the perfect time to evaluate 2016 and decide what you can do to keep moving forward this year.
If you want to take your running to the next level, here are five new areas to emphasize in the new year. As with any new habit, start small and don’t get overzealous with what you’re trying to accomplish. Begin by making an easy commitment, and build up gradually over time.
So, what are you waiting for? Implement these small tweaks and watch them turn into habits in 2017.
1. WARM UP. EVERY. SINGLE. TIME.
You know you should do it, but when it’s time to run, all you want to do is head out the door and get started. It may seem trivial, but just 5 minutes of warming up can make a substantial difference in how you feel and perform. While there are lots of options for warmup routines, keep it simple and stick with a few exercises that work for you.
Rather than static stretching, your warmup should include dynamic stretching. This means doing active movements that raise your core body temperature, increase your range of motion and prepare your body to run.
2. RECRUIT THE GLUTES
The largest muscle in your body is often the most underutilized when it comes to running — and that’s your gluteus maximus. The glutes are so important to healthy running because they not only generate a tremendous amount of power, but they also keep our trunk, hips and legs in alignment. When your glutes and hips are weak, your entire body suffers as a result.
Weak glutes make your quads and hip flexors overcompensate and may be the culprit for injuries ranging from shin splints to iliotibial band syndrome, so it pays to keep them strong and healthy. Leading a sedentary lifestyle is a major culprit that results in weak glutes, so it’s essential to incorporate strengthening exercises into your weekly routine.
3. LEARN TO RUN BY FEEL
With so many running gadgets on the market, it’s easy to get wrapped up in examining every possible piece of data about your run. And data can really take your training to the next level. But occasionally, running by feel can be even more beneficial.
Go minimal and try to run by feel at least once a week. This can be beneficial for easy runs, where “easy” can be relative based on weather conditions and fatigue. Workouts like tempo runs can also be done by feel to improve your sense of pacing. How you feel is as important as a number, and knowing when to hold back and when to push will continue to make you a more consistent, competitive runner.
4. LIFT HEAVY
Runners used to shy away from lifting heavy weights, thinking it would be detrimental to their training. But we now know that just the opposite is true: Strength training with heavy weights should be part of every runner’s regimen! Lifting heavy helps your body generate more power with less effort, which can translate into faster running.
While the variety of weight-lifting exercises out there may be daunting, there’s no need to overcomplicate it. A simple, consistent strength routine that focuses on essential compound movements like squats and deadlifts is efficient and beneficial. Learn to do the movements properly so you don’t injure yourself, then aim to get in 20 minutes of strength training twice weekly.
5. ELEVATE YOUR MENTAL GAME
Although running is physically demanding, training and racing well also relies on mental strength and acuity. Just as you train your body to handle faster paces and longer distances, you also need to train your mind to do the same. Building your mental muscle will help you become more focused and resilient in all areas of your training.
Visualization, mantras and trusting your training are powerful tools to develop more mental toughness and resilience. If you struggle with consistency or motivation, develop systems that make exercise easier to accomplish on a weekly basis.
By focusing your efforts on any of these new habits, 2017 will be the year where you truly level-up your running!