Aiming for a new personal best? Looking to ramp up your same old running routine for something better, faster, and stronger? Improving running time and performance isn’t a matter of supplements and genes – with these basic steps and important reminders, you may be noticing a difference within weeks:

Cross-Training

Add a little variety to your running schedule by cross-training one or two days a week. What does that mean? Essentially, runners will want to find another sport that helps keep them physically active and also helps strengthen muscles and skills they don’t always use in running.

Lower-impact moderate intensity activities for runners might include hiking, swimming, pool running, rowing, or cycling. Much easier on the joints, these types of sports give runner’s knees and legs a break, and help tone other muscle groups like the shoulders, back, and core. This can boost a runner’s posture and therefore their running form and performance.

Strength Training

Improved running economy and muscle power were the results of a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology which found 5km running times boosted by explosive strength training.

Explosive power exercises may include body weight and high-intensity interval exercises that help strengthen and tone muscles – for example, squats, plyometric jump, sprints, agility drills, stair running, walking lunges holding a medicine ball overhead, and weighted step ups.

Enhanced neuro muscular characteristics derived from this type of explosive strength training can add power and endurance to your run.

Refueling

While slamming back a protein shake might seem like only something bodybuilders do after a weight lifting circuit, this idea of refueling is just as important for runners.

That 30 to the 60-minute window after a run or workout is prime time for the body to intake and circulate nutrients to muscles to begin the process of tissue repair as well as to replenish glycogen stores in the liver and muscles.

Incorporating both complex carbohydrates as well as protein into your recovery diet means going for that bagel, greek yogurt, pretzel, bananas, cereal, cottage cheese, fig bars, oatmeal, hummus and wheat crackers, to name a few ideas. Don’t forget your electrolytes too with low-sugar sports drinks!

Compression Sleeves

Once used only to provide medical aid to people with conditions that affected blood circulation, compression sleeves have been seen more and more on athletes, especially runners. Why?

The nature of compression, whether it’s in a knee sleeve, shorts, tights, or socks, is to enhance blood flow by constricting the walls of blood veins and thus increasing the velocity of blood flow through them.

Sporting a compression sleeve during or after a run is believed to improve muscle recovery and speed up repair. Faster blood flow can flush out built up waste byproducts and lactic acid faster as well as deliver much-needed oxygen and nutrients to starved tissues. For compression knee sleeves, click here.

Varying Terrain

Switching up the terrain and incline you to train on can make a huge difference in strength, agility, coordination, and form, not to mention the energy boost with trying something new!

While trail running does require different shoes from treadmill or road running (shoes with plating and protection for running over rocks, dirt, etc), it can provide spice to any runner’s routine and help them practice balance, coordination, and reflex skills they don’t normally get a chance to.

You can also transform a long distance run into a cardio and strength workout by ending it with hill sprints. Sprinting up a hill with long strides and then jogging or walking down make this drill high intensity but worth the effort.

While a habit of running is a healthy one that helps lower risk of many diseases including heart disease and diabetes, runners also understand the importance of improvement and achieving new goals. Through tactics like cross-training, strength training, and using compression, runners can not only boost their performance but the potentially lower risk for injury too.

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