6 Ways to Improve Your Run
Since the release of the book Born to Run, there has been a surge in people interested in barefoot running. The touted benefits include changing your stride to a more natural one, making it shorter and more compact. Your feet, too, get stronger as they do not rely on a shoe’s cushioning or its stability. Barefoot running is also said to prevent injury, as many who wear heavily padded shoes land on their heels, leading to hamstring or knee injuries.
If you've ever seen the infomercial for the Insanity workout DVD, you've probably heard of interval training, which mixes stretches of moderate intensity exercise with short bursts of high intensity. In terms of your run, try sprinting throughout your jog – pick a stop sign, a traffic light or a tree 50 yards away and sprint to it, then slow your pace back to normal and continue your run. Incorporate as many sprints as you think are appropriate.
Running forward is a much more natural motion then backwards, certainly. But running backwards uses some muscles that you may not be accustomed to working during a jog. In an Italian study on the subject, researchers found that backward runners were more likely to land on the front of the foot, absorbing the impact with a bent knee rather than through the heel as many regular runners experience.
Working out on the treadmill isn't the same as running outdoors – nobody will dispute that. Experts say that, in order to best simulate the way that your legs propel your body forward when running outdoors, treadmill users should use an incline of 1.0% when running. This will definitely make you work harder than non-inclined treadmill use, and your muscles may hate you the next day.
Fartlek is a Swedish term literally meaning "speed play," and the practice can help boost the intensity of your run. It's a type of interval training that involves varying degrees of intensity throughout your workout. Try warming up, then running hard for a short distance, then recovering with a fast-paced walk for about half the distance that you ran.
Let's say that you're used to doing a 3-mile run a few times a week. You run the same path and you generally go about the same speed. That's fine, but you also start to develop muscle memory. Try pushing yourself in different ways – go a little further one day, or try to run a little faster. Lengthen your stride, or focus on your form.