Neil Kelford from Versaclimber explains how cross-training could help you shave seconds, or even minutes, off your running PB:
The COVID-19 lockdown has encouraged people of all ages and abilities to go out for a run. After all, it is the perfect solo sport, requires no travel or special equipment, and helps to maintain good physical and mental health. New and seasoned runners have discovered routes from their doorstep over the past few weeks, making the most of their daily exercise allowance during these uncertain times.
Running may be nothing more than a gentle jog around the park for some, but others cannot resist a spot of healthy competition – even in lockdown. While many popular races have been cancelled or postponed, keen runners are still testing themselves with virtual challenges, relays and races. If you’ve got extra time on your hands, it is a chance to improve your fitness, hone your technique and smash your running PB ready for racing (or at least impress your followers on Strava).
But, as we all know, upping your mileage too quickly can lead to injury, especially if you’re only running on the road. Getting a physio appointment is likely to prove tricky and managing your injury at home, or worse still, trying to run through it, may simply store up trouble for the future.
Recently, it was reported that online searches for running-related injuries have increased by more than 470% since COVID-19, as more Brits embraced the sport. Nobody wants to be out with shin splints or calf strains, so we’ve put together these cross-training tips to help you safely build up your fitness, stamina, strength and, of course, speed.
Fast paced sessions
Regular speed training is essential if you want to smash your running PB but with club sessions, park run and races on hold, you may be struggling to motivate yourself.
If you feel like you’re plodding, and want to ramp it up a gear, why not challenge yourself with a virtual race? England Athletics has teamed up with OpenTrack to give clubs the chance to create free-of-charge races, complete with inter-club scoring and charity donations. Recently, we’ve seen the Bannister Virtual Mile and 2.6 Challenge, so head online and see what inspires you.
There are also plenty of ready-made speed sessions available online, with interval, fartlek and hill training exercises.
Change your mindset
Being competitive can take your running to the next level – but remember what the ‘p’ in PB stands for. Rather than feeling annoyed because a clubmate always seems to pip you at the finish line, take this time to reset and think about how far you’ve progressed since you started. Unless you’re Mo Farah or Usain Bolt, there’s always going to be someone faster than you anyway.
Looking ahead, think about the marginal gains you can make by improving sleep, nutrition and hydration. See what works now and you’ll be on top form for racing.
Low impact gains
High intensity, low impact cross-training is a good way to make performance gains without risking a running-related injury. A cross-crawl movement on the Versaclimber, for instance, replicates our natural running motion but is non weight-bearing, so you won’t put pressure on your hips, knees and ankles.
Take it off road
Speed takes a back seat when you are trail running as you navigate hills, obstacles and uneven terrain. Going off-road not only adds variety to your training, it can also make you stronger as you engage more of your muscles, including your core. Add in some challenging fell runs and you are likely to see your endurance and cardio fitness improve.
Don’t neglect strength training
Strength training pays dividends for athletes chasing a running PB. A strong core can improve your running technique, while building muscles in your legs should help you increase power and run more efficiently. Online you’ll find routines aimed at runners with exercises like press-ups and squats, but it is worth investing in a resistance band to improve technique and make your drills tougher.
Kettlebells provide an all-round strength and cardio workout too, although you may want to speak to a coach or PT if you’ve never used them before. The Versaclimber can also be used like a weight-lifting machine to build strength in your lower body when used for isolated leg presses, leg lifts and squats.
With these tips, you should stay motivated during lockdown and be ready to hit your target when racing starts up again.