This past May over 38,000 people ran the Independence Blue Cross Broad Street Run, held every year in Philadelphia. The number of people who begin a running program is increasing every year. As the number of participants increases so do the number of injuries. I want to start by saying that I am a runner. I enjoy lacing up a pair of sneakers and running on a trail just like all of the other runners in Philly. I have suffered my fair share of injuries over the years and I have made every mistake you can make when it comes to training (ie. overtraining, running while in a lot of pain, neglecting my strength training, etc.) I know how a lot of you feel and I am here to share some tips that I believe will help you run faster and stay healthier.
One of the main reasons I believe more and more people are starting to run is because it is easy to get started. By no means am I saying that it’s easy to run but rather all you need is a pair of sneakers and some running shorts. The problem that I see is that most people are running in pain and have no idea where to start in terms of their training. If you talk to any experienced runner I am sure that he/she will have several suggestions on what a “newbie” should do to decrease their chance of injury while improving their fitness.
This week I would like to offer five (5) tips on how to improve your 5k speed and reduce your chances of sustaining an injury. The reason I picked the 5k is because it is a great place to start if you are planning to run longer races in the future. Also, whether or not you are a first time runner or an experienced marathoner your goal should be to run FAST. I know what some of you are saying right now “I just want to run and enjoy my slow jog”. Good for you that’s great but if you can run FASTER you will spend less time pounding your joints and may decrease your chance of injury. Heck you may even win an age group award!
So if you are a runner (or any athlete for that matter) who is looking to improve their speed here are five tips along with some videos for you to enjoy.
Tip No. 1. Use a heart rate monitor: One of the best tools you can use to help you increase your 5k speed is a heart rate monitor. A good monitor will cost between $100-$200 dollars. I think it’s the perfect piece of equipment to use when you are doing track workouts or intervals. The main reason I recommend a heart monitor is to track how well you are recovering both during and after a training session.
Here is a video to show you how to use a monitor: Heart rate training tips for athletes
Tip No. 2. Improve your alignment: Let’s face it, running beats you up. Nobody said it was going to be easy. What if I told you that you could reduce your chance of injury if you did some rather simple self-corrective exercises each day to help you improve your alignment as well as your speed? Would you listen? Would you actually do them? Chances are you are starting your workout in poor alignment. If you have access to a good chiropractor or manual therapist then that is fantastic. However, you must be able to fix yourself. The exercises I am talking about were developed by the Postural Restoration Institute. I was fortunate to take one of their courses last November and it has had a big effect on how I feel. The biggest impact it has had on me is my breathing mechanics as well as my pelvic alignment. I am planning to do a whole blog on this topic but for now I would recommend that you head over to posturalrestoration.com and check out their site. Also, there are several therapists/coaches in this area who are trained in their philosophy. I can tell you first hand that if you have hip or back pain you should look into their corrective exercises.
Tip No. 3. Improve your single leg strength: Whenever I assess a new athlete (runner or field/court athlete) one of the first things I do is look at their single leg strength. The majority of the time there is instability in one or both legs. If you want to increase your 5k time I would recommend that you start to implement some single leg strength training into your routine.
Click here to watch a video: Single leg runners: 5k
Tip No. 4. Strengthen your posterior chain (aka your backside): If you want to be able to have a “kick” at the finish line you had better be able to turn on your “Go” muscles. A lot of runners have strong quads and good looking abs but lack the strength in their hamstrings, glutes, and low back. Watch this video to learn how to do a simple yet effective exercise for your “Go” muscles.
Video: Deadlift for runners
Link to buy bands: https://rbt.infusionsoft.com/go/bd/kevinm/
Tip No. 5. Build real upper body strength: If you want to increase your speed one thing you need to increase your power and strength. Most people who run do some “core work” and may do some strength training 1-2 times per week but have you ever really tried to do a perfect push up? Have you ever set a goal of achieving 100 push-ups in 4 minutes? If not, now is the time to start. If you are a beginner start slow and see how many you can do in 1 minute with perfect form of course. You can rest anytime you want. I guarantee that if you start to do push-ups correctly (3-4 x per week) you will see your 5k time drop.
Video: Push-ups for runners 5 k
Whether you are a new runner or an experienced runner your goal should be to run as fast as possible. Everyone can get faster. Implement some of these tips into your program and I believe you will see your times drop.
Have a question for Union strength coach Kevin Miller? Leave it in the comments below.