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How to become a bullet proof runner

Over a decade as a personal trainer in chiswick, I’ve had the pleasure of training clients with varied fitness abilities, some of them would tell me about their exercise history and would tell me stories of their hay day of how they used to be able to sprint as fast as possible and then throw weighted punches or being able to run 80+ miles a week for their marathon training.

During the last few months I started training with a client who had always been a runner and had picked up a few injuries along the way and this prompted me to write this article as I thought it could help a few others out there.

Improve your running with the correct strength exercises

One of my clients used to run marathons but never did any strength work, they came to me looking to see if I could help with their performance but also the confessed to having a few injuries from running, she had read before in a magazine or the internet that running more mileage would make her legs stronger and be able to run faster. In actual fact over time she would develop a semitendinosus strain when she ran. The incorrect running style and lack of muscle development in the posterior chain had caused chronic on-off hamstring strain!

Over the next few months, we worked on developing her muscle strength. Runners have it in their head that because they run they don’t need to do any strength work. I know what it’s like to get the running bug, you don’t feel like doing anything else but running!

However if you’re looking for longevity in your running training then you need to be able to mix up your training with some strength work.

Below are excellent examples of exercises that work for running –

Squats – Make sure you sit back and keep your torso upright. 

To perform this exercise correctly make sure you push your hips back to activate the hamstring and glute.

Nordic Curl – This is a brutal exercise for the hamstring. Use a partner to anchor you down and slowly drop your body to the ground. Keep your arms out so you don’t land on your face! Once stronger you’ll be able to lift yourself up from the ground! 


Hamstring Curl

Straight Legged Deadlifts – Make sure you keep your shoulders back and down, try not to collapse the upper back and make sure you stick your butt back.

The above exercises when performed correctly will help you bullet proof your knees against the impact of running making you stronger and faster!

Periodise your training

Periodisation is a fancy word they use in the fitness industry when developing a structured and progressive plan for an athlete.

This would take into account the cardiovascular training as well as the strength training that an athlete should do over the coming months. As a beginner to running, it’s recommended that you start with no more than 20 mins run/walk, this helps to condition your knees and legs to the impact of the ground.

When I first started running I remembered being so excited to run that I did it for 6 days straight, however after only the second week I started developing shin splints.

Alot of people say it could be due to the muscular imbalance of the calf complex or the ankle mobility itself, however I’d have to say that it was most likely due to an overly keen teenager running too fast and too much! Of course running style and the incorrect footwear could have also played a part in developing shin splints.

Romanian sport scientist, Tudor Bompa, refers to this start phase of the training plan as the   anatomical adaptation. This is low-intensity and the longest part of the plan for the purpose of “adapting the anatomy of the athlete.”

They also call this base building, in this first stage a runner would be building their time and intensity to gain better cardiovascular endurance and aerobic metabolism, i.e., the consumption of oxygen to drive the oxidation of carbohydrates and fatty acids.

If there is a higher number of mitochondrial content in the muscle fibers there is a increased performance in the energy conversion of fatty acids and carbohydrate oxidation.

What this means is, if you build a good base you’ll get an efficient engine to burn the body fat and a increase your overall performance.

Where should you start?

I would start off by brisk walking where your arms are swinging but you’re still able to hold a conversation. This part of the plan is the longest and ideally you would to build this up to at least an hour.

Over the next 4-6 weeks, you could try adding 30 seconds of jogging intervals into your walk. Eventually you’ll be able to increase the amount of intervals and then maintain the jog for a longer duration.

This could take 2-3 months overall due to the adaptation phase and I understand most people are keen to get running straight away, but if you have the patience and planned your training correctly the risk of injury during this process would decrease greatly.

Flexibility and mobility

There’s of a lot of chatter in the fitness industry of whether you should should or not, strength coaches believe that if you are doing exercises to the correct range of motions there shouldn’t be any need for static stretching.

I’d have to say that this is probably true….but what if you’re already tight?

There are only two main stretches that I would recommend for running.

Wall Ankle Mobilization Drill

This drill helps with dorsi flexion of the foot. Limited range of motion can affect jumping, squatting and stepping down activities. These movements are the building blocks of our functional movement patterns so the importance of having good ankle mobility/dorsi flexion shouldn’t be ignored.

Ankle Mobility Wall Drill

Band Assisted Hip Flexor Stretch

Due the long duration sat at a desk the hip flexor muscle or psoas major can shorten leading to the lack of R.O.M, if this continues over the years there’s a possibility that you develop something called an anterior pelvic tilt. As the pelvis is out of normal alignment this could change your running mechanics and cause lower back pain.

You’ll need to source a band for this stretch. I’ll put an amazon link to show you where to get the band.

Attach one end of the band to a secure pointPlace one leg through the loop of the bandPlace the knee of the leg that you’ve put through the band on the floorPlace the other foot in front at a 90 degree angle for stability Squeeze the glute so that the hip lengthens

In this article we looked at improving your strength, flexibility and mobility and how to run according to the plan.

Yes okay you’re not actually bullet proof but I hope this helped :)

Please share to anyone you feel could use the help of the above article. Thanks for reading!

If you’ve still not got enough below are links to running articles that should be worth reading. Enjoy!!

Some I have found particularly useful

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