Running With Purpose

Ever feel stuck with your running? You had made a bunch of improvements, maybe had a massive couple of Personal Bests yet all of the sudden you've hit a plateau and aren't getting any faster?  Plateaus can be very frustrating because we as a society always want to improve.  We want results and we want them now.  We are a very instant gratification species and while that means we are often successful it also means we often give up when the going gets tough, or we aren't seeing the results we envision in our minds.

This little article is not all about the barriers of training that may be affecting your running, that is a whole different set of tips.  Today I wanted to share with you some tips to run a little bit faster and break through that feeling of you've hit a wall with your training.


Run with purpose The whole idea of quality vs. quantity.  Now depending on your goals then you may want quantity as well but the idea behind the quantity is also to ensure that they are quality miles. Run with purpose.   Most runners spend a lot of time somewhere in between recovery miles and pushing themselves, that endurance mileage pace, which is great when you are first starting out but will get you stuck quickly.  To learn to run faster you need to learn to run outside of your comfort zone.  That comes from including workouts that will push you outside of your comfort zone, such as doing a fartlek pyramid, or 800s on the track.

The easiest way to run with purpose to come up with a schedule, or hire a coach to help keep you accountable, that you follow that includes a mixture of long endurance runs, easy recovery runs, and intervals at your goal race pace.  Write this schedule down on a computer, app, piece of paper, or a journal if it is written down you are more likely to follow. Once you are done with your workout write a few notes down about how it went, this will allow you to track your progress and when you are feeling like you are getting no where look back to see how far you’ve come.

Running with purpose also includes the idea of staying present in the run you are in. It is easy to get caught up in the outside world and let that distract from what you are trying to focus on. Staying present, or being in the zone, not only helps you keep focused but allows you to bring awareness to your body and acceptance to what it is that you are going through.

Pay Attention to Your Form If you have made the change to your training to include more interval, speed, hill, and etc work you are also at a risk of injury if you are not running properly.  May not think that your form can really give you that much of a boost when it comes to running but if you are wasting a lot of energy with your running you are wasting time.  Running is a forward movement and many of us have running dynamics that cause you to rotate, send movement sideways, and all over the place.  To run efficiently you want all your power and energy to move forwards.

Here are some quick running form tips to help you improve your form and focus your energy forwards:

1. Run tall, slouching or leaning from the waist is very common with new runners and comes often from runners trying to perfect the idea of the forward lean.  The forward lean comes from the ankles rather your waist and will come fairly naturally if you have good posture.  So rather than focusing on leaning forward focus on maintaining good, tall posture.  This will also help you engage your core.

2. Look straight ahead at the horizon, not down at your feet.  When you stare down at your feet you will project your energy down into the ground rather than forward where you are headed.
3. Elbows at about 90 degrees or less and think about driving them forward in a straight line verses across your body.  You drive your arms forward the rest of your body will follow you.
4. Making contact with the ground through your feet underneath your body rather than reaching or stretching your leg out in front of your body.

Strength Training**
When you run your body functions like a spring, when your foot hits the ground all of your muscles and tendons contract and stretch in order to absorb the energy of the impact from hitting the ground.  Then as you take off into the next stride they release allowing you to continue forward.  The stronger you’ve conditioned your muscles and tendons to more power you will get out that release, propelling you forward in a much more explosive movement.  On top of that the stability and strength you gain from strength training will help protect your body from injury as it absorbs the impact of running.

You don't have to be crazy with your strength training for it to be effective, in fact the simpler you keep it the easier it will be for you to get it done.  You also don't need to strength train for hours and hours every day a week, just two to three days a week for 30 to 40 minutes can be very beneficial.  In your strength training program make sure to include a mixture of compound and static lifting such as squats, dead lifts, and overhead press with plyometric moves such as the box jump or lateral bounds.  Compound and static lifts such as the ones mentioned above improve your inter-muscular coordination, and range of motion of your joints. Where as plyometrics improve your explosive power.  Both aspects are essential in improving your run power.

Run Faster, and Slow Down
This sounds like a complete contradictory statement how do you run fast but also slow down? What this really comes down to is being able to vary your intensities. A lot of runners who are just learning all they do is go out and run, they have one speed. But in order to improve and grow you need to be able to run different paces from getting out of your comfort zone to also being able to recover. You want to get faster? You need to actually run faster. That means pushing yourself to be outside your comfort zone when you have intervals that are geared towards that and then allowing yourself to hold back when it is time to recover. Not only will these different paces allow you to grow and recover but also to learn how your body responds to those different paces, and through that you learn more about your body than you ever do when you just run one speed.

Lastly, have fun with it!! Remember, we get to do this, we have the choice to go outside and enjoy running so have fun with it.

Have fun!!
Kayla Bowker

**Disclaimer:  This article is for educational and informational purposes only. Kayla is not a certified nutritionist, registered dietician, or certified strength coach. The information provide is based on personal experience, studies of biology and human anatomy at Gonzaga University and experience as a college athlete, triathlete, physical therapy aid and USAT Level 1 certified triathlon coach in which we are educated on both strength training and nutrition. Any recommendations made about weight training, nutrition, supplements, or lifestyle or information provided to you in person or on this website should be discussed between you and your physician, coach, personal trainer, and/or nutritionist or dietician prior to any action taken.