Your 3-Step Plan to Improve Athleticism

Jason Fitzgerald
by Jason Fitzgerald
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Your 3-Step Plan to Improve Athleticism

Runners are continually searching for ways to improve. Whether we’re tackling a new distance or working toward a personal best, we thrive off progress and successfully achieving new goals.
While it’s tempting to credit running and racing success to the latest and greatest workout, the answer to improvement and longevity in the sport is likely far more basic: become a better athlete.

PILLARS OF ATHLETICISM

Sure, runners are athletes, and since you run, you’re an athlete, but a broader picture of athleticism includes the following:

  • Strength: the ability to produce force
  • Flexibility: the ability to attain large ranges of motion at the joints
  • Speed: the ability to move the body and its parts rapidly
  • Coordination: the ability to accurately and efficiently move the body and its parts to accomplish a task

While runners may work toward improvement in one or two of those attributes, they are rarely proficient in all four. To run consistently and stay healthy, runners must build a better foundation of athleticism.

Running is a one-dimensional sport that primarily develops your aerobic endurance. To become a more complete athlete, however, your body’s supportive structures (bones, muscles, tendons and ligaments) must be equipped to handle your running workload.

IT TAKES MORE THAN RUNNING

When we want to see the best examples of how to train, elite runners clearly show the rest of us that running alone is not enough. In addition to logging big miles week after week, they also make time for training that complements their running. This may include any or all of the following:

Running is a full-time job for elite athletes, and most recreational runners don’t have the time to commit to a training regimen loaded with complementary workouts. But it’s still possible to become a well-rounded athlete, even on a tight schedule. With a little effort and commitment, runners can add a variety of components to their routine to build athleticism over the short- and long-term.

Here are three steps you can take to make yourself a healthier, more athletic runner:

As a runner, variety is often the key to staving off nagging injuries. Running is a repetitive sport, and this can take its toll over time. Adding variety is a subtle but effective way to make you a more well-rounded athlete.

Be sure to add variety to your routine both in your running and what you do beyond your daily workouts. Over time, small changes can make a big difference.

Running variety: Within your running, include a variety of workouts at different paces. Run on a variety of terrain: hilly, flat, paved and trail. Rotate your shoes and the routes you run. This allows you to work a variety of muscles and lessen the repetitive nature of your runs.

Complementary work: Just like the elites, adding complementary exercises such as form drills, plyometrics and mobility work can improve your athleticism and make your running more efficient. Just 10–15 minutes post-run is enough to see the benefits.

Cross-training can also be a great way to build or maintain fitness in ways that work your body differently than running. The options are endless, whether it’s bikingyogaswimming or even snowshoeing.

The three anatomical planes of movement include the following:

  1. Sagittal (divides the body into right and left)
  2. Frontal (divides the body into anterior and posterior)
  3. Transverse (divides the body into upper and lower)

Running works your body in only one of these three planes of motion: the sagittal plane. Athleticism (and most movements in daily life) require us to be proficient in all three. Fortunately, there are many options to accomplish this goal including drills, trail and hill work, dynamic flexibility and strength workouts

Once again, develop a consistent schedule but don’t feel the need to work endlessly on these routines. Just 10–15 minutes every time you run is far more effective than one hour-long session each week.

Whether you do bodyweight exercises at home or lift heavy at the gym, strength training helps build a more resilient framework to support your running. If you continue to develop aerobically without also developing a strong foundation, your risk of injury skyrockets.

Depending on what type of strength routine you follow, your goals may vary. Strength training always supports the foundation for a powerful engine and helps you become less fragile.

Heavier lifting also helps increase power. Think of running as essentially a series of one-legged squats, and you’ll quickly understand why strength training is so essential to your athleticism!

THE BOTTOM LINE

To perform our best as a runner, we need to go back to the basic foundations of athleticism. When you’re strong, flexible, fast and coordinated, you can run consistently and make ongoing progress.

About the Author

Jason Fitzgerald
Jason Fitzgerald

Jason is the founder of Strength Running, a USA Track & Field certified running coach and 2017’s Men’s Running’s Influencer of the Year. Learn more about how he can help you run faster.

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