by Jason a. Fitzgerald in Training Tips, image by M.V. Jantzen

3 Sure-Fire Ways to Become a Better Runner (In 45 Minutes a Week)

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You can become a great runner by doubling your running volume and doing much harder workouts. But if you don’t want to get sidelined by injuries or spend 20 hours a week working out, I want to help you do it with an extra 45 minutes.

In 45 minutes per week, you can take principles of well-rounded training that the elites use to be the best in the world and adapt them to fit your training program. It doesn’t take hours and hours to transform your training. You don’t absolutely need a running coach to prevent injuries (but it would help). All you need is an extra 45 minutes a week.

Let’s assume that you run four days a week with a long run, a fast workout, and two distance runs. You’re smart, so you run strides after one of your typical distance runs. I want to show you three simple tweaks you can make to help you run faster in your next race and become less susceptible to running injuries.

Be a Psuedo-Minimalist

Don’t kick off your shoes and run barefoot every day because you read somewhere it prevents running injuries. That’s exactly how you’ll get hurt. Instead, you want to practice strategic minimalism to strengthen your lower legs and feet while making you a more efficient runner.

Instead of your typical session of 4 x 100m strides after your distance run, take off your shoes and do them barefoot on a nice grass field. This takes an extra minute to lace your shoes back up when you’re finished. The bonus of doing barefoot strides is that they not only strengthen your feet and lower legs (in the most running-specific way possible), but they’ll make your stride more efficient in the process.

Bonus: Rotate your normal running shoes with a pair of minimalist running shoes to help you learn better form. It’s easier to heel-strike in traditional running shoes, so a lower-profile pair of minimalist shoes make it easier to learn better running form.

Warm-up Before Your Long Run and Fast Workout

Before any strenuous run, like a faster workout or long run, it’s important to prepare your body for this effort. Instead of changing into your running gear and heading out the door, spend ten minutes to do a series of flexibility and mobility exercises.

These dynamic stretches help raise your core body temperature, increase your functional range of motion, and lubricate your joints. Static stretching before workouts is becoming less common among runners since it’s shown to not only increase injury risk, but have no impact on enhanced performance.

My favorite exercises to do before you run include hurdle drills, leg swings, A/B/C skip drills, and other flexibility work (see the core and strength routines link below). Done before a warm-up, these exercises can help your body prepare itself for the hard work you’re about to put it through.

Strengthen After Your Runs

We’ve all done it: ended a hard workout and jumped right back in the car. It’s not ideal to abruptly end your workouts by sitting down for a prolonged period of time. Your body needs a gradual reintroduction to being sedentary.

Instead of parking your rear on your couch and sipping that chocolate milk for recovery, you’d be best served to spend 10-15 minutes doing a core and strength routine. A little bit goes a long way and you only need about two of these workouts every week (although the more you run, the more you need).

If you’ve been keeping track of the time requirements of these simple training changes, we’re right around 45 minutes for the entire week. The beauty of these simple additions to your running is that they’re incredible effective at making you a stronger runner who’s less susceptible to injury. Everyone wants that!

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