3 Steps to Better Running

This post is by Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running.

Distance running inspires the joy of movement, freedom, and celebration of health. The simple act of putting one foot in front of the other is hypnotic, peaceful, and a powerful form of meditation. Many runners do their best thinking while out running, when they think of nothing but what’s important to them.

Running is what I love to do every day. It makes me feel alive and healthy. Running provides a powerful shot of adrenaline that too many people go without in our modern times. When was the last time you confidently ran over a wooded trail, thinking of nothing but the sounds of nature?

Being able to enjoy running is a precious gift that shouldn’t be taken for granted. It’s true: running can be hard on your joints, as every step shoots impact forces of 1.5–3 times your body weight through your legs. Overuse injuries are common in runners, as more than half of them are injured every year.

It doesn’t have to be this way. You can enjoy running with simple preventative exercises and an approach that emphasizes strength, efficiency, and recovery.

A stronger runner is a better runner

Runners usually have big engines—they need to, in order to run so much! Your engine is your endurance or your aerobic capacity; it’s what enables you to keep running farther than your couch-potato friends.

As you cruise along enjoying the freedom of running, you’re going to need strong legs to help you continue running without injuries. To stay healthy and keep getting as much joy from running as possible, the right strength exercises are a must.

The best strength workouts for runners focus on the basics: compound, multi-joint exercises that train movements (not muscles). Squats, dead lifts, different types of lunges, and hay bales with a medicine ball are my favorites for the lower legs. For your upper body, focus on the bench press, pull ups, military press, chin ups, and dips. Don’t get fancy: get basic.

Run correctly to run easily

There is definitely a right way to run. If you’re over-striding, landing on your heel, or bent too far at the waist then you’re asking for an injury that could prevent you from running for days or weeks. Let’s prevent that—I want you to be able to run every day.

The five best strategies for running effortlessly include having a stride rate of about 180 steps per minute, landing underneath your center of mass, keeping your back tall, running quietly with no foot stomping, and landing on your midfoot.

Don’t try to change your running stride all at once—work on one thing at a time. When you’re comfortable running with a faster cadence, then you can practice another aspect of good running form. Put it together and you’re going to be more efficient and less injury-prone.

Healthy runners are mindful runners

Being mindful of your body is the most important aspect of enjoying the freedom of running. As you run day after day, are you being conscious of how your body is feeling? Take care to avoid the “three toos” of distance running: too much, too soon, too fast.

Increasing your running volume or intensity too quickly can put you at a higher risk for injury that would require you to take time off. Exercise good judgment with introducing a new training stress into your running. Judge how you feel after every run. Take a day off or run more slowly if you need to. Use my motto if you like: “You have to live to run another day.”

Running is a gift—a celebration of vitality that enables us to connect with ourselves on a deep level. By exercising some caution with training increases, skill in running form, and prevention with strength exercises you will virtually injury-proof your body.

Enjoy running for what it is: a powerful expression of what your body is capable of. It’s fun, isn’t it?

Jason Fitzgerald (or Fitz) is the founder of Strength Running, a 2:44 marathoner, and online running coach. He loves running the trails, strong coffee, and cycling. Strength Running unleashes Fitz’s passion for helping runners achieve their best and prevent running injuries. Subscribe to get instant updates from Strength Running.

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  1. Hey thanks a lot Jason!

    I too love running, but it’s something that I’ve been putting off for years.

    This inspired me to get going again 😀

    Thanks for the tips for making sure to not get injuries. Make sure to get a good stretch too!

  2. This is a great article, I had no idea that the way you ran could make you prone to injury. Totally agree that you have the best ideas, the best thoughts and the best connection to yourself when you are running. Such a rush.

  3. Kate and Sean – thank you! I’m glad you liked the article and I hope you put into practice some of the suggestions. Run strong!

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