Wonder Woman Fitness

Improve your running

Posted on: October 29, 2010

Keep on running part 2

Improve your running

So you have completed your first 5k, found the joys of running, or feel ready to push yourself a little further.  Yes you can easily just run further or faster but there are other ways to improve your running training.  From years of training, mostly doomed attempts, I pushed and pushed my body because I was young and I didn’t feel any pain.  I would run and run and I never thought that I was actually overtraining my body.  However this all became apparent when I turned 29!!!! My body fell to bits, it basically told me it had had enough of me.  So after hip, lower back, knee and a major Achilles problem I decided to look at how I train and it was easy I just replaced some of my running with cross training (cardio exercise that isn’t running) lifted some weights (to strengthen and build my muscles) and most importantly I rested my body.  If you take anything from this blog trust me when I say listen to your body.  It is a great piece of machinery.  When it comes to our bodies we really do have to use them or lose them, but it’s how we use them that counts.  If we let them go to waste, we’ll wake up one day wanting to do something and realise that we can’t.  By not pushing and challenging ourselves we are going to lose mobility and our bodies will decline.  So if your goal is to stay fit, lose weight, or run a marathon understand that your body is a marvellous machine, make it your best friend and most importantly treat it well.  For example if there is pain there is normally something wrong.  If you feel tired, no energy or no strength then don’t train, simples…….

 So lets look at how you can improve your running:

 Fartlek training: This running technique is similar to interval training however the sprints and recovery are not as measured it really depends on how you are feeling at the time.  When you are out running or on the treadmill you might warm up for 5 minutes at a brisk jog, then increase the speed for 3 minutes, then increase it further for another 2 minutes, then decrease your speed for 5 minutes so you can recover and so on.  So the interval times are sometimes just made up.  The good thing about fartlek training is it is up to the individual as to how long and how hard you run.  A good fartlek session would last no more than 30 minutes and you should feel like you have worked hard by the end of it.  Remember you can take it down to a walk if need be in the recovery or slower phase.

Try these sessions:


Fartlek Workout

Warm up

5 minutes – walk/slow jog at 3.5 MPH, at a 7% incline.

One mile

Run at 6.0 MPH.

Rest Set

Slow it down to 5.0 MPH and run for 3 minutes.

Work Set

Speed up to 6.8 MPH for 30 seconds.

Rest Set

Go back to 5.0 MPH for 3 minutes.

Rest/Work Sets

Keep repeating the 3 minute/30 seconds intervals until the clock reaches 25 minutes.

One mile

Run at 6.0 MPH for another mile.

Cool down

Slowly jog for 5 minutes at 3.5 MPH at a slight incline (5% to 7%).

 Or try this beginners one:

Difficulty: Easy

Time Required: 30-45 minutes

Here’s How:

  1. After a 5 to 10-minute warm up, speed up to faster than your comfortable pace.
  2. Run at this pace to a nearby landmark, such as a parked car, a telephone pole, or a stop sign.
  3. Once you’ve reached your landmark, slow your pace to below your normal running pace, until you’ve fully recovered and your breathing has returned to normal.

Then return to running at your normal pace, and repeat the same pattern of fast segment, short recovery, normal pace, until you’ve completed four to six fast segments

Hills:  This is exactly what it says on the tin, running up hills for a period of time.  Hill training is a great way to strengthen the larger muscles of your legs plus with the incline it becomes more challenging so therefore burns more calories.  Try this very simple training program: find a steep hill roughly 40 – 80 m long.  Run up and jog/walk back down to recover.  Try these drills: start with 10 reps building up to 20, 5 runs at 50% max speed, 2 to 3 runs at 80% max speed and 1 sprint at max speed.  Phew, however, I can tell you that hill training really works and it doesn’t take long.  Down side to it though it is hard work but on the plus side its great for your butt!!!!

 Cross – Training: This is a great way to recover and have a day off from running.  However there are people who think that the best way to train for runs is to run and I do agree with that to some extent.  I think that cross training is great when you are not weeks away from a run or an event as you really want to be running and it is also great when you are injured.  Cross training was my saviour when I couldn’t run for nearly 3 months with an Achilles injury, I mainly did cycling and swimming and some weights.  So cross training does have its benefits.  If you are doing a cross training session try and use exercises that use the same muscles as running for example cycling, X trainer, rowing, swimming and weight exercises that use full body movements.  So why not skip a running session with 15 minutes hard push on the X Trainer with 15 minutes on the bike and maybe 10 minutes on the rower.  Make sure that when you have finished on these machines that you feel you have worked hard.  Full body movements with weights can include squats, squat and press, lunge and raise and press ups.  I use my cross training days to do whatever I fancy as long as it does not involve running and it usually always ends with a good relaxing stretch session.

 Strength Training:  This training is ideal for strengthening your bones and your muscles, however to run and run over a good distance and in a good time, you do not want to be carrying extra weight or bulk that can be added with weights.  So there are mixed views on strength training and running.  Personally I love weight training, I get to train indoors in the warmth and I like to be strong.  The best way to look at it is that weight training will give you a nice toned look and change your shape.  You can use weight machines (which are safer for beginners) or use hand weights (which use more muscle = burn more calories) to do your training.  If you spend most of your time running and you are entering runs then the best option would be to lift weights but to lift a lighter weight over higher reps.  This will give your muscles more endurance.  A good tip is to try and cover all the muscles in your body to achieve a balanced look.

A beginner’s weight training session would include something like this:






Bench press (FW), chest press machine, press ups, chest flies (FW)

10 – 20

1 – 2



Lateral pulldown machine, seated cable row (FW), one arm row (FW)

10 – 20

1 – 2



Lateral raise, shoulder press machine, seated shoulder press, front raise

10 – 20

1 – 2



Bicep curls, hammer curls both FW

10 – 20

1 – 2



Tricep extensions, tricep dips, tricep kickbacks, cambered French press all FW

10 – 20

1 – 2


Lower Body:

Squats, lunges, leg press machine, leg extension machine, leg curl machine, calf raise

10 – 20

1 – 2



Ab curls, oblique twists, reverse curls, leg drops, swiss ball curls, back extensions, plank, superman

10 – 20

1 – 2


 If you are unsure of these exercises please ask a qualified instructor at your gym or contact me via email and I will explain them in more detail

FW = Free weights or dumbbells

When doing weights it is important to find the right weight for you.  If you are doing 10 reps the last 2 should be difficult but you can still manage the exercise correctly.  If you feel that is getting easy, either increase the weight or the reps but you don’t really have to go above 20 reps.  If you end up doing 2 x 20 best to increase the weight then drop the reps to 2 x 10 again.

 Remember to Stretch:  Stretching is a good way to loosen off your muscles, improve flexibility and keep them healthy.  It should be part of your routine after every workout to have a good stretch.  The best way to do this is to stretch at the end if the workout.  The reason that you don’t stretch at the beginning of a workout is because stretching lengthens your muscles into a rested state.  When you are exercising you want your muscles short ready for action.  You can do mobility work before a workout for example high knees, arm swings, walking lunge, hip twists etc these will help loosen off the joints and make you feel ready for your workout.  Static stretching (where you don’t move) should be done at the end of your work out to relax your muscles and return then to their rested state.  Here are some stretches that I find great after a hard session in the gym or after a run.

Calf Stretch: Hold for 20 – 30 seconds each leg.  Put your weight into a wall and you will feel a further stretch.  Make sure the back leg is straight and keep your heel down 

running stretches

Calf stretch

Quad Stretch: Hold for 20 – 30 seconds each leg.  Balance on one leg use wall for support if needed.  Keep your knees together and push your hip forward slightly, hold foot at your laces.

running stretches

Quad Stretch

Hip Flexor Stretch:  Hold for 20 – 30 seconds on each leg.  Kneel on one knee and bring the other foot forward, a good distance between the front and back foot.  Push forward with the hips.  I find that if I place my hands on the inside of my front foot I get a further stretch.

Running Stretches

Hip Flexor Stretch

Glute Stretch: Hold for 20 – 30 seconds each leg.  Place one ankle on the other knee.  Lift one leg up and hold behind the thigh, you should feel a stretch in your butt.  Try and keep your head and shoulders relaxed on the floor

Running stretches

Glute Stretch

Hamstring Stretch:  Hold for 20 – 30 seconds on each leg.  Lying on the floor hold one straight leg behind the thigh.  You should feel a stretch in the back of your thigh.  With the other leg you can either leave it lying on the floor straight or bend in and keep your foot flat on the floor.  For a further stretch hold behind the calf of the straight leg.

Running stretches

Hamstring stretch



One for the ladies!!!! Keep on running.....


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