There’s no doubting that running is your all-time favourite. Even still, we all know there are more ways to become a better runner that don’t involve pounding the pavement. Yes, that’s the truth. You don’t have to be running to get better at it. Before you start shifting uncomfortably in your sneakers, we’re not saying don’t run, we’re simply saying there may be more to this simple sport, besides simply lacing up. All that said, your other options don’t need to be complicated either. So here are four ways to take your mental and physical game up a notch right now and in the long run.
The Home Stretch
As runners, we know we need to stretch more. We’ve heard the drill. Heck, we probably even know the routine. Hands down, short of being complety sidelined with an injury, stretching is about the last thing we want to do. First and probably foremost, we need to get into the habit gradually. Let’s face it, you didn’t go from the couch to 42K in a week.
“When starting a stretching routine it’s important to be gentle with your muscles,” says Heather Gardner, founder of Toronto’s Tribe Fitness. Gardner says focusing your attention on the body parts that are active during your workout is one way to establish a regular routine. She also recommends starting a regular yoga practice by taking a beginners class.
Create Your Own Training Camp
If you’re not used to it, this much solo running can do a number on your headspace. As anyone who has ever run with a crew, or meets up regularly for long runs with even a friend or two, running is social. Having a social backup can take your mind off the pain of a long run or push you faster in your speed work. So instead of going out of your mind, think of this as a chance to shift your perspective a little. Brittany Moran, a chiropractor at the Runner’s Academy and coach with StrideWise Running in Toronto has been looking at this time as her personal training camp. “When all of this first happened, I started to think of this as giving myself the time to make my runs and my strength training my priority,” says Moran. She also is taking the time to get off her feet when she’s not training, which is an important part of recovery. Moran also reminds runners to come back to why they run. “Any training you do now is never wasted, it will help you be a better runner when you are on that start line again,” she says.
Take the Challenge
Social media is slammed with fitness challenges that go well-beyond that 30-day yoga challenge (although those are still going strong too). Runners are competitive, and having the added incentive of competition is almost as good as crossing a finish line, almost. Fitness studios and coaches have gotten creative by establishing daily and weekly challenges, encouraging members to tag each other and assign a series of exercises with a number of repetitions for each. The team at Tribe have taken the challenge idea one step further creating a 5K Waterfront Fitness Route that keep everyone feeling together even though we are all apart. “It’s a 5K run to a variety of locations with a fitness move assigned to each one,” explains Gardner, “People take photos and tag us at each location, we also have a template you can track your daily workouts and share back.”
With so many studios currently offering online workouts through Facebook, Instagram and Zoom, there are more than enough options for you to try right at home. Whether you’re looking to try your first HIIT class, getting back into a strength training routine or dance class, now is a great time to mix up your routine. “Building strength will help you become a more effective runner, and help you stay injury free, so think of these workouts as your secret weapon to come back even stronger,” says Gardner. Switching up your fitness is also an easy way to make sure that everyday doesn’t have to feel like the same old on repeat. Both Gardner and Moran agree that with this added time in our schedule comes a little added flexibility. We can really make the most of that this time, if we’re willing to get creative and try something new. Fun Fact: Tribe Fitness offers daily fitness classes including yoga with previous workouts saved on their Facebook page.
Anna Lee Boschetto is a regular iRun contributor. She is a freelance writer and also writes about health, wellness and travel.