Running can be a transformative activity for many of us. It can certainly help us reach our fitness goals but it can also be limiting to our overall movement goals. But by rethinking our running habits we can maximize running’s benefits and minimize its shortcomings.
8. Carry Something
Grab something moderately heavy right now. Hold it in front of your torso and make note of how that feels. Now hold it over your head. Feel that? Every way that we hold an object requires that we balance and rebalance with a particular set of muscles. When we change the position of what we’re holding we also change the muscles being used.
The same is true for the loads that we carry when we run. Backpacks, ankle weights, wrist weights, weighted vests, even the devices we carry or strap to our arms and wrists change the muscles we are using and how we use them. If you never carry anything when you run, give it a try. If you always carry your phone in your right hand, use your left. If you have access to ankle weights, try doing some short runs or sprints with them on. This isn’t an everyday type of idea but mixing it up occasionally can make us better runners and movers.
9. Vary Your Speed
We touched on this a little bit earlier but not only will running at different speeds widen your cardiovascular response to the run, it will also engage different muscles.
New runners often go out for every single run at what is referred to as a "tempo" effort. They basically try and go as hard as they can, for as long as they can, and as often as they can. Not only is that not a lot of fun and not helpful for becoming a well-rounded runner (or mover), but you will also hit your performance ceiling pretty quickly.
One of the aspects that we avid runners struggle with is the idea of running easy on our easy days and hard on our hard days. Running truly easy seems like a waste of time and running truly hard is—well—truly hard. So, instead, we remain in that middle ground and go stagnant. Don’t let this happen to you. Vary your speed, pace, and cadence during one particular run and also from one run workout to another.
10. Run More Often
If you always run once a day, most days of the week, and then spend the remainder of the day being sedentary, you are limiting your fitness, health, and general well being. Breaking up the repetitive geometry of being sedentary has actually been shown to change things like arterial function, muscle length, and mood. While those extended long runs do bestow some positive health outcomes, there are still more benefits that you are missing out on due to the fact that you are doing all your movement in one go.
Running to a yoga session is a great way to arrive warm and ready to be flexible.
Try breaking up your run into smaller chunks and intersperse them throughout your day. Or try running to your swim class and then jogging home. Running to a yoga session is a great way to arrive warm and ready to be flexible. Also, running is a great way to commute to and from work.
Finding creative ways to both indulge your running habit and also expand its effects on your body is a worthy endeavor.
I hope you are feeling inspired to get out there and mix up your running routine so that you'll enjoy running for many more years to come.
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