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Training & advice

Supplement your running with an exercise class

You’re a runner and your training consists of running of course, afterall specificity is important. Well, yes it is - if you want to get better at running you need to spend a good percentage of your training time in running. However, fitness is made up of five main components: endurance, speed, strength, skill and flexibility. Running can certainly improve your endurance and speed but there may be alternative forms of exercise to take care of the other three.

How important are the other three when it comes to improving your running? The answer to that depends on what base level you are starting from in the first place. If you have done other sports or exercise classes you may have adequate levels of strength, skill and flexibility and so only need to maintain those levels but if you are weak in these areas it will eventually catch up with you and affect your running. You will either succumb to injury, find yourself plateauing and unable to improve or find that you don’t recover well in between your running sessions and so can’t do as much as you want to.

How can you take care of these other factors? You could implement a programme to carry out at home and this may be effective if you are motivated to do it. The problem is that most runners love running and lack motivation to do the ‘extras’. One simple way of getting this done is to get yourself along to an exercise class that will give you what you need without having to think about it. Two of the best exercise classes that cover these areas are yoga and pilates.

Both yoga and pilates can help improve your flexibility, strength and skill (probably in that order) and can relax your mind and so can help with improve your mental fitness, increase breathing capacity, encourage you to use muscles that can become neglected through running but are essential for stabilising joints and preventing injury and increase your rate of recovery after a hard training session.

There has been research on healthy subjects that show yoga can help control blood pressure, respiration, heart rate and metabolic rate to improve overall exercise capacity so they could also have an effect on your endurance and speed.

Running is essentially a forward motion and in running training we tend to encourage movement along the sagittal plane (forwards and backwards). However, we do need to strengthen the muscles that stabilise us in the horizontal or frontal planes. Yoga and pilates involve movement forwards, backwards, sideways and in rotation and so give you a more balanced work out. They can also identify if you have any muscle imbalances such as weak glutes or hamstrings. Think about how you run. First you pull the leg forward and up using the hip flexors, then you extend that leg out by extending the knee and using the quadriceps then the tibialis anterior flexes the foot and prepares it to land. Whilst that leg supports the other leg to go through that motion it should fire the glutes and hamstrings. If you have any weakness in these areas you are susceptible to injury. Your exercise class may identify any problems that are lurking.

To find an accredited yoga instructor in your area, contact the British Wheel of Yoga
Tel. 01529 306851

There may be other classes at your local gym or leisure centre that will help improve your fitness for running and give you the 'extras'. Body Pump or Body Sculpt are some of the names we have come across that help with all of the above. Ask the instructor to explain which fitness factors and benefits the class is working on and ,if you think it suits your needs, it may be worth cutting out one of your running sessions to make way for a class that will keep your running healthy.