Are you looking for ways to become a stronger runner? Perhaps the answer isn’t running longer distances or at a faster pace. In fact, the best way to improve your running may not involve running at all. That may sound counterintuitive, but believe it or not, there are alternative workouts that will not only help you develop a healthier and more balanced lifestyle but will have the added benefit of making you a better runner too. Here are five such activities that you may want to add to your fitness repertoire.
It often seems like runners and cyclists are natural adversaries—one speeding down the road on the back of a bike while the other pounds the pavement on foot. But in reality, both sports can complement each other very well. For example, cycling is a great form of active recovery, allowing the muscles in your legs that are used for running to rest while developing others that are more bike-centric. Cycling also puts far less stress on your ankles, knees, and hips, which tend to take a real pounding if you run regularly. Changing up your running routine with energetic bike rides gives those parts of your body time to recover and heal, which will have the added benefit of making you a stronger runner too.
At first glance, it would seem that yoga and running are diametrically opposed to one another in terms of the intensity of their workouts. In reality, however, yoga presents some surprisingly tough physical challenges of its own and can play a significant role in developing a well-balanced workout routine. Runners often find that yoga helps to keep their muscles loose and limber while also building strength in their core. Those qualities can be crucial not only for avoiding injury but also for speeding up recovery times. That alone should make yoga an intriguing option for runners looking to get stronger.
Swimming is another form of exercise that burns a lot of calories and provides a good cardio workout while minimizing the impact on your joints. Additionally, swimming is a great way to work all of the major muscle groups, including the arms, shoulders, abs, and lower back. Runners recovering from an injury will find that hitting the pool is a great way to continue building strength and stamina while giving your body time to heal too.
Whether you use the rowing machine at the gym or join a crew out on the water, this is another activity that can provide a surprisingly great workout that will complement your running routine. Not only does it provide good exercise for the upper body, building strength and lean muscle in the process, but rowing also allows you to work your hips and quads. We all know that strong legs are one of the keys to running better, but the core workout that rowing provides will have a lasting impact too. Although rowers don’t burn quite as many calories as runners, a good steady pace will still help you to work up quite a healthy post-exercise appetite.
Many runners avoid lifting weights as part of their regular fitness routine out of fear of building muscle that could potentially weigh them down and make them less flexible. But initiating a fitness plan that includes lifting lighter weights several times a week can help to tone and strengthen the core, arms, and shoulders. That can lead to increased performance as a runner, particularly over longer distances. Additionally, studies have shown that weight training can help make you a more efficient runner, lowering the amount of oxygen needed by the body to maintain a constant pace.
They say that variety is the spice of life. Any one of these activities can spice up your running workouts, giving you alternative fitness options that can still complement what you are attempting to accomplish with running. They’ll also bring a nice change of pace to your regular workout program and give your legs a much needed break. Rest and recovery are important to improving your performance as well, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend that time doing nothing at all.