My thinking was brought on by a discussion I had recently. A gentleman wanted to become faster, but his time devoted to training could not change. So, what do we do? After further investigation, we found that the amount of time he had would be fine, as long as we were able to shift some priorities around. The first would be to spend less time lifting weights and more time on the act of running, itself! The second change was to incorporate faster paced running into his everyday running. Finally the third was to add form running drills into the routine.
The following is a list, in order of importance, of what I find the most beneficial additions you can make to your training to improve not only your form, but running efficiency, and thereby, performance. I understand that most of you reading this are working and have families, so time is valuable. By even adding one, or two of these variables, it's better than doing nothing and keeping your running status quo. Remember, something is always better than nothing.
1. Add more running, even if it’s only a mile to each of your weekly runs. It’s not a large individual addition, but over time, it becomes a large number. By adding time on our feet we become better at using the fat stored at our bodies and improving our aerobic engines. Also, over time, our body tends to find the optimal form for us, including stride length. (this is probably even more true the longer your races are)
2. Faster running, this can vary from doing a structured repeat or interval workout, to doing a few bursts during the middle of an everyday run. When we run harder, we tend to clean ourselves up, like tuck our arms in, pick our knees up, and land with our feet under our center of gravity. By doing that, our body learns and adapts.
3. Form drills are a great addition if you have already added the mileage you can safely handle and are already doing interval type work. Form drills are a good pre-workout addition which triggers the body to be prepared to use its fast twitch muscles. Long term, your body develops better neuromuscular connections with muscle fibers and improve their ability to fire. Drills exaggerate good running motions and encourage good form. These are good because you are already going to warm up for a workout and these take very little time and only have to be done a couple times a week.
4. Light weight training is another strong encourager for neuromuscular improvement. Performing lifts that incorporate multiple muscle groups saves time, while improving the connection between brain and muscle fiber. This becomes especially important when you are becoming fatigued and form deteriorates quickly. By performing light lifts, you become stronger, but not bigger, which would mean more weight to carry around.
What should be considered is that if you add these components to your training, improvement won’t occur overnight. There is an adaption period for everything. The minimum is 4 weeks to see any kind of improvement, but through experience, I would suggest several weeks to months to make noticeable improvements. In the end, you’ll look better doing something you enjoy and even a small change can yield big improvements!
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