We’ve all been there. Whether it’s an injury, the weather, or our periodization, there have been times when we simply can’t (or really shouldn’t) run. And they’re likely to roll around again.
So, the time has come to discover new ways we can improve our form and become even stronger and faster without putting our running shoes on and hitting the road.
In this article, we’ll look at six ways you can improve your runs without going on a run. However, make sure to also consider your fitness, form, and unique requirements. That’s especially important if you are injured or saving up your energy for a large meet.
Start by Stretching
Stretching has so many benefits it’d be pointless to try and list them all here. It can help you increase your range of motion, prevent injuries, and alleviate post-training soreness. And, well, it just feels fantastic.
Even if you’re not running at all, you can incorporate a stretching routine (or several of them) into your day. Bear in mind that you will need to work around any injury and try not to push yourself too hard. Trying to stretch a cool muscle past its comfort point can only lead to further pain.
Your legs will obviously be your top priority, but don’t neglect your upper body either. Improved blood flow and a general feeling of relaxation will benefit your mind as well. As a result, it will be easier to overcome the periods when the road is no longer in focus, but the soreness is.
Train Your Behind
Glutes are not a muscle you typically associate with running. However, they play a vital role in supporting your hips and your knees. Weak glutes can even impact your posture and gait.
If you are new to glute-focused exercises, you can start with some bodyweight work. Simple bridges will do, and there are countless variations you can try.
You can also do some weighted work, like squats, deadlifts, or hip thrusts. Just make sure to work on your form first before you pack on the weight. All these complex movements recruit your hamstrings and thigh muscles as well, and you don’t want to create any unwanted imbalances or mess with your running form.
It would be best to consult a strength training coach or personal trainer. Find someone who knows how to add an added level of strength to a runner without going for too much muscle bulk.
Go for a Ride
Cycling is a great way to motivate your leg muscles to work hard even when you can’t run. You don’t even have to go off-road – a simple city-wide cycle will do. If you’re looking for more of a challenge, then you will need a specialty bike and an adequate road.
Cycling is a low-impact workout, so it can help you up your stamina and endurance without taxing your cardiovascular system as much. It uses different areas of your leg muscles than running, which can be very useful. Cycling will help you work on correcting any imbalances and further build your technique on a bike.
A stationary bike can do the trick as well, especially if the weather prevents you from outdoor running.
Go Paddle Boarding
Paddle boarding is a fun, relaxing, and surprisingly demanding activity that can take your mind off running. It will provide some much-needed time in the great outdoors on a body of water, enjoying the scenery and the waves.
While all you essentially do is stand up and paddle, this activity is great for improving core strength and balance. As a runner, you’ll benefit from a stronger core, as it helps your hips and pelvis move more efficiently. Improved balance makes you more agile and better at dodging obstacles and staying upright on slippery terrain.
Do Some Targeted Core Work
Speaking of core strength, why not try to also do some core-specific exercises? They’ll get your body moving, but they won’t be as demanding as a strength routine with weights, and you will still enjoy the same benefits.
Start light and work your way up to the more difficult exercises. Also, try not to overdo it. You may feel you are quite able to do many reps but end up paying for it the next day.
Whether you are an amateur runner, competing in local race meets, or training for a major event, you can always benefit from reading up on the sport you love so much.
Read up on the history of running and advice from other runners. Look for books and articles on technique, recovery, and leveling up your form. Even if you spend just an odd hour here and there learning something new, you may find it comes in handy when you hit the track.
Personally, I love to watch entire races and interviews with fellow runners. It motivates me to work harder. That sense of belonging that comes with running a marathon, even though we are all running it at our own pace, is like no other feeling in the world.
In fact, I used to watch Eliud Kipchoge’s runs on repeat while running on the gym treadmill. The way he smiles through the pain has helped me work through my own numerous times (and I’m keeping my fingers crossed for another medal in Tokyo).
There’s more to running than endurance, leg strength, and form. Your mindset plays an equally important role in getting you to the finish line. So, working on de-stressing and improving your overall quality of life can significantly impact your running game too.
When you’re unable to run, for whatever reason, don’t focus on the limitation. Focus on the time you are now able to spend somewhere else. Either work on your body, your technique, or your mindset. It will pay off the next time you slip on your running sneaks.