Not all exercises are equal, but running is definitely one of the best for the sheer number of health benefits this activity offers. It boosts your heart health, helps fight depression and strengthens your joints, as well as helping to maintain your cognitive abilities fighting natural age-related decline.
There are other benefits to be had from running so there is no doubt that you should add this exercise to your personal fitness plan. However, if you want to be good at it you need to go beyond the activity itself.
This exercise requires additional ‘non-running’ workouts that will help prepare your body for the trial of endurance, which running is. You also need to maintain a healthy diet to enhance your athletic performance.
Best Exercises for Runners: Building Strength, Speed, and Stamina
Running is a fantastic aerobic activity, but in order to be good at it you should also do some strength training.
These two types of exercises are closely connected and you shouldn’t skip on resistance training if you want to get all the health benefits that your daily jog can provide.
The fact is that running well requires endurance, and this is something you build up through strenuous workouts, not unlike a bodybuilder’s regular routine. However, to boost your running performance in particular, you’ll need to stick to specific types of strength-building exercises.
Strength-Building Exercises for Runners: General Rules
- Stick to the most efficient exercises, such as squats and deadlifts, with lunges to boost the legs. Check out the Bodybuilding Exercise Database to find exercises that will offer you the best workout for your legs, back and abs.
- The weight you lift during the aforementioned exercises should be heavy enough to have your muscles fired up by the fifth rep. When you train for endurance, you should stick to sets of 5 reps or less and focus upon maintaining your form perfectly. Do not rush when you build strength for running. You can increase the number of reps for single-leg exercises (read lunges) - do up to 8-10 of these.
- When you master the technique of a weight lifting exercise you need to focus on increasing speed. Perform every rep with “ballistic intent”. Even if you don’t move all that fast at first, your muscles will move differently from a slow-paced lift. Runners benefit from this particular type of strength building technique because it helps train the body for that final push you need to do before finishing a race. In essence, it’s practice for the desperate final burst of speed.
- Fill your strength-building workouts with plyometric exercises. Jump training is most effective for runners because it builds up your stamina like nothing else and also helps increase your speed.
So strength training is a must for runners, regardless of whether you run to lose weight and boost your health or to win a marathon.
However, this doesn’t mean that maintaining a proper workout routine need cost you a small fortune. In fact considering the types of strength-building exercises that are most effective for runners, you won’t need to get a gym membership.
You can do all the best workouts for beginners and more advanced runners at home with minimal equipment. If you are in it to lose weight, setting up a small home gym will be the best plan as it helps you stick to the workout routine and you can’t use the lack of time or money for gym membership as an excuse.
Want to Know What the Best Meal Plan for Runners Is? It’s Not a Meal Plan At All!
There are several specialist meal plans for runners which you can find online. There are even apps that will remind you to stick to them and help calculate your calories and design a perfectly balanced meal. However, there is one thing about structured meal plans that you really should know.
They can do you more harm than good in the long run.
A structured diet, like keto or intermittent fasting 5:2 or any other, is good for a short while. It can help you to lose weight or to achieve some specific goal - for example, increasing muscle mass in preparation for a competition.
However, according to experts, these diets are unsustainable in the long run. Can you imagine living your entire life on a keto diet? If you are all hyped up now, ask yourself this same question after a year of consistently having to stick to this routine.
However, not following some specific ‘perfect meal plan for runners’ doesn’t mean that you can’t influence your athletic performance through your diet. To do this you need to focus not so much upon the specific meals which you eat each day but upon your diet as a whole.
Simply put, the best diet is always a healthy and well-balanced one. You don’t need any special plan if you simply stick to healthy foods and ensure that your body gets all the essential micro and macronutrients every day.
This means that you can (and definitely should) keep your diet versatile. This is the key to sticking to your healthy food choices. Remember how structured meal plans are unsustainable? That’s because they always become boring with time. However, if your diet isn’t really a ‘diet’ but rather a selection of healthier food choices it will work smoothly for years to come.
The best thing about this approach is that you don’t have to restrict yourself too much. Of course you should remember that there is no outrunning a bad diet and therefore you need to make an effort to remove unhealthy foods from your life as much as possible.
But the occasional pizza with friends or a piece of cake at a party are not the devil himself. You can make these small allowances for yourself if your overall diet is healthy and balanced. In this case, your running regime will take care of burning off those few extra calories.
There are a few things which you can do to your diet to enhance your running performance in particular. These aren’t difficult requirements to keep to and they will help boost your healthy eating efforts as a whole.
- Make sure that seeds and nuts are staples in your diet. They help lower bad cholesterol and provide you with energy, which makes them a perfect pre or post-run snack.
- Make eggs one of the main protein sources in your diet. They provide you with rare micronutrients aside from protein and help strengthen your bones.
- Choose ‘natural’ dairy over low-fat and zero-fat variations. If you are concerned about the fat content, stick to cottage cheese and Greek yogurt.
- Increase your intake of omega 3 essential fatty acids. If fish doesn’t agree with you or you can’t afford to eat it very often, consider taking supplements.
Maintaining a healthy diet is easy if you don’t treat it like a diet plan but instead make it a natural part of your lifestyle choices.
Bio: Kate Bregovic is a wife, mother, freelance writer, and fitness enthusiast. She covers many topics – from business management trends to fitness regimes. When she’s not writing, she's planning outdoor activities for her family, cooking, or working out at the gym. Follow her on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/mrs.kate.bregovic