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Lindsey Parry

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Hang around any running club long enough and the talk will invariably turn to running shoes. Much of the banter will be about whether or not you need cushioned shoes or if custom orthotics are the way to go…

…But all the talk revolves around one term and that is pronation.

On that note, let’s have a detailed look at pronation, overpronation and supination.

What Is Pronation?

Pronation refers to the natural movement of the foot rolling inwards when you walk or run.

Your gait determines whether you have a neutral pronation if you overpronate or underpronate (also known as supination).

If you overpronate or supinate it puts more stress on certain areas in the feet & leg, which increases your risk of injury.

Different types of shoes can help support your feet if you find that you are overpronating or supinating and it’s causing you pain.

Neutral Pronation

Neutral pronation defines the natural inward roll of the foot when it strikes the ground. 

Pronation helps absorb the shock of landing on the ground when you walk or run and keeps the ankles and legs aligned. 

If your foot doesn’t pronate, the shock of every step would impact the mechanisms of your lower legs.

During neutral/normal pronation, the arch of your foot will flatten as the heel lands on the ground. Your weight is then shifted to the outer side of the foot and then transfers to the big toe.

Your foot will then roll outward, the arch will lift and stiffen and all of the toes will push off and provide stability. 

With a neutral pronation, the sole of the foot will directly face backwards and is not tilted inward or outward.

Pronation also helps to stabilise the body on different types of terrain by adjusting the way the foot lands on different terrain.

If you have neutral pronation you can generally run in any neutral running shoes which provide support and cushioning specifically designed for a neutral gait.

Overpronation

This occurs when the foot rolls excessively inward when you walk or run. 

Overpronation puts more weight on the inner side of the foot and also puts a greater strain on the big toe and the second toe. 

This distribution of weight destabilizes the foot and in turn, affects other biomechanics of the leg.

The excessive twisting or rotating happening in the foot and ankle when you overpronate causes the tibia also rotates more than it should. This causes knee pain and shin splints (medial tibial stress syndrome).

One of the most successful ways of preventing overpronation is to wear stability running shoes. These motion control shoes offer a lot of support and structured cushioning.

Stability running shoes generally have firm cushioning along the inner side of the shoe where the foot arches to provide extra arch support. This cushioning helps to prevent the excessive inward rolling of the foot that occurs with overpronation.

Supination (Underpronation)

Supination, or underpronation, occurs when the foot rolls along the outer side of the foot when you walk or run. 

With neutral pronation, the foot naturally supinates as the heel lifts off the ground and the pressure is then rolled across the toes before the foot lifts.

However, when supination occurs, more pressure is put on the outer, smaller toes instead of the big toe and the second toe.

People who supinate usually have higher arches that don’t flatten sufficiently when the heel strikes the ground. 

It also correlates with certain running injuries, such as plantar fasciitis, ankle injuries, Achilles tendonitis, and iliotibial band syndrome.

Runners with supination should choose a pair of neutral running shoes with lots of cushioning as supinators are particularly susceptible to shock-related injuries and commonly get stress fractures. 

Extra cushioning in the running shoes will help absorb some of the impact from running or walking.

How To Choose Running Shoes

Whether you pronate, overpronate or supinate, making sure you run in the correct running shoes is important if you’d like to stay injury-free. 

This is how to make sure you’re in the right shoe:

How To Determine Your Level Of Pronation

Figuring out whether you overpronate, supinate or have a neutral pronation is essential for choosing the right pair of running or walking shoes. 

There are four ways to self diagnose your level of pronation but if you are unsure you can get assessed at a speciality running store.

  1. The wear test

The most common method of determining your level of pronation is the wear test. If you have a look at the soles of your old or current running shoes, you should be able to identify the way your foot is landing.

Overpronators will find more wear on the inner side of the foot and the ball of your feet towards the big toe. Supinators will see more wear down on the outer side of the shoe and people with neutral pronation should see an even distribution of wear along the centre of the shoe.

  1. The wet foot test 

You can analyze your footprint by doing the wet foot test. Wet your foot in some water and then step onto a piece of cardboard. You should be able to tell how your foot lands by the thickness level of the area in between the ball and the heel of the foot. If the line is very thin, it’s a sign of supination, whereas if it’s very thick, you are overpronating.

  1. Shoe tilt

Take a pair of shoes that you wear regularly, they can be running shoes, trainers, or boots, and put them on a flat surface with the heels facing you. If you notice the heels tilt inward as a result of wear along the inner side of the shoe, you are likely an overpronator. If they tilt outwards due to wear along the outer edges of the shoe, you are more likely to be a supinator.

  1. Professional assessment

If you go to a good quality running shoe store, or a specialist practitioner such as a podiatrist you can ask for a foot or assessment from an expert. Someone who’s been trained to identify the different levels of pronation and recommend the best shoes for that type and level.

You can bring your old pair of running shoes with you so that they can analyze the wear themselves and make a more informed diagnosis. They will also usually ask you to walk or run so that they can see how you move for themselves and that they can do an extensive gait analysis.

Is It Overkill To Run With a Stability Shoe & Orthotics?

While cases are always individual and hard to comment on without seeing the client in person, there are common mistakes that are made…

Say, for example, you’ve always run with orthotics in a neural shoe as you’re a flat-footed pronator. 

Then you changed to a stability shoe and continue to insert the orthotics, coupled with extensive strength training as a desperate attempt to curb your ITB. 

Now you’re asking yourself if it is overkill to run with a stability shoe and orthotics…

The fact that this is an injury that is not clearing up and sounds like it’s potentially gotten worse by the latest change. 

Taking all those things into account and obviously, the experience that I have gained over the last decade in terms of dealing with ITB, I see a lot of common mistakes here.

So, probably the last place I would look for a causal relationship with ITB is foot mechanics. 

The last thing that will cause ITB is pronation. 

So, ITB is actually a supination injury. 

To try to simplify it a little bit, if you pronate and much more important than that if you pronate excessively because pronation is normal, it is our body’s first line of defence, it’s our first line of shock absorption.

Pronation would create pain on the inside not outside of the foot/leg.

If you go and stick an orthotic or put on a shoe that is going to disrupt that pronation, you’re actually disrupting your body’s first line of defence against the impact of running.

So, we really need to be clear that we are excessively pronating and that that excessive pronation is causing us problems.

If we excessively pronate, we are far more likely to get pain or discomfort on the inside of the knee, not on the outside of the lateral aspect where we get ITB. 

That’s the first and very important thing to establish. Similarly, being flat-footed, particularly if you spent a youth without shoes, is quite normal and it’s very normal for our ancestors to have extremely flat feet.

Again, for me, putting in anything or wearing shoes to compensate for flat feet is really,’ a crazy notion and if your feet are so flat-footed that they’re causing you problems, you will have foot pain on the inside of the foot or ankle and on the inside of the knee, not the outside.

I think it’s really important to be absolutely 100% sure that we need orthotics – full stop. 

Orthotics are pushing you to the outside, and motion control shoes are pushing you to the outside. You should pretty much never have a situation where you have orthotics and a motion control shoe. 

Orthotics should only ever be in a neutral shoe and only when it’s really, really required.

Tight muscles, not orthotics causing your ITB problem…

In my opinion, ITB, almost always, is something that is causing stress on the outside. Adding orthotic in motion control shoe increases stress to the outside, so I don’t see a solution to the problem there.

More often than not, the problem lies with tight hip flexes, weak glutes and potentially tight glutes, but because of modern lifestyles, people driving so much, people sitting at their desks. I always look at numbers one and two, tight hip flexes, and weak glutes because of how much we sit.

Unfortunately, that often presents as a tight glute. This is because if you have very tight hip flexes, when you stand up, you don’t walk around bent over like you’re bowing to everybody you see. 

The pressure of that tight hip flexor has to go somewhere and it normally goes into the femur, we have a slight internal rotation of that femur which then tightens up the glute and then people go, oh, tight glute.

So we stretch the glute, but by overstretching the glute we make them even weaker. This means that there’s an even more of an internal rotation from the femur. 

If you really stretch those hip flexors, do a lot of strengthening on the glute and then do some stretching on the glute, but don’t overdo it, if you tackle those things, then you normally will take care of ITB.

Plantar fasciitis can be extremely debilitating for a runner!

I mean… nothing can disrupt normal daily living or your exercise routine quite as much as a pain that keeps you from literally moving around…

Known as one of the most common orthopedic complaints… Plantar fasciitis causes pain in the bottom of your heel or on other parts underneath your feet. The plantar fascia is a thick, weblike ligament that connects your heel to the front of your foot. It acts as a shock absorber and supports the arch of your foot to help you run and walk.

Let’s have a look at how you can treat an inflamed plantar fascia and prevent painful feet when running, as well as exercises that you can do at home that will help you heal and prevent plantar fasciitis.

Symptoms Of Plantar Fasciitis

The main symptom of plantar fasciitis is pain at the bottom of your heel or sometimes at the bottom midfoot area. It usually affects just one foot, but it can affect both of your feet.

Symptoms also include pain that is worse in the morning or when you stand after sitting for a long time or a swollen heel.

What Causes Plantar Fasciitis?

Like with most injuries, it’s very seldom that there is one specific cause of that injury…

A few known causes of Plantar Fasciitis include:

Running shoes that have run their course & don’t provide enough support.
– Running long distances on beach sand.
– Tightness in calf muscles (soleus).
– Being overweight is a risk factor.
– Extreme inflexibility in the plantar fascia.
– Tight Achilles’ tendons and structural abnormalities, like having flat feet.

So… What do we do once we have it?

How Do You Fix Plantar Fasciitis?

We recommend rolling your plantar fasciitis gently with ice, you could freeze a bottle of water and just gently roll that on the bottom of your foot – where the pain is. You could then use a golf/cricket ball and actually massage under your feet.

Strengthening exercises will also help with plantar fasciitis.

Put a towel underneath your feet on a tiled floor. Then use your toes to pull that towel and scrunch it up under your feet. So you’re almost doing “bicep curls” with your toes to strengthen your plantar fascia.

If the pain doesn’t improve after doing these things, you should make an appointment with a sports doctor – to ensure it isn’t more serious than you might think.

How to Treat & Prevent Plantar Fasciitis in Runners (Plus Exercises To Do At Home For Pain Relief)

Being runners ourselves… We understand how difficult it is to take a break…

Does Running With Plantar Fasciitis Make It Worse?

YES! Running with plantar fasciitis will make it worse.

If you continue to run with plantar fasciitis, you will cause additional damage to the plantar fasciitis ligament, worsening the condition and causing more pain that could make even walking difficult. 

As we always say…. REST is a four-letter word no runners want to hear….

How To Keep Up Your Training When You Have Plantar Fasciitis?

Stop! 

This really depends on where on the foot it’s sore and whether it’s getting worse or not while you are exercising. 

If it’s getting worse, then don’t carry on with your training, otherwise, it’s going to get worse and worse until you can’t run even if you wanted to.

Cross-training is advisable, like stationary cycling, or perhaps some work on the elliptical, or even swimming. These are things you can do to maintain your fitness.

Note: It is possible to figure out what is causing the pain. It could even be a lack of support in your shoes…

Make Plantar Fasciitis Disappear For Good!

As we mentioned above, the pain could be coming from your shoes or there could even be a  problem with actual weakness in the underside of your foot. 

A little muscle, the fascia that connects your heel to your toes, is responsible for curling your toes.

To strengthen that, do the towel method as we said above but also get your shoes checked out, the shoes may also be allowing a little bit too much play. 

They could also be a little bit hard, in which case your foot is going to be sliding too much across the top of the shoe. Because the foot is not able to settle into the shoe nicely.

Orthotic Inserts To Help With Plantar Fasciitis

Supporting your arch with orthotics is a good way to protect your plantar fascia while it heals.

I wouldn’t use orthotic inserts as a preventative measure but they could certainly help with the healing process.

Let’s have a look at an ultimate plantar fasciitis checklist...

Checklist For Sorting Out Plantar Fasciitis

  1. Make sure you are in the correct shoes.
  1. Strength exercises.
  • Tennis Ball Roll

Place a tennis ball, rolling pin, frozen water bottle, or other cylindrical objects under your foot and gently roll.

  • Towel Stretch 

As explained earlier.

  • Toe Stretch

In a seated position, push your leg out so that just your heel is on the floor. Bend down and grab your big toe, bending it backward (Gently). Flex your ankle.

  • Calf Stretch

Stand facing a wall or something to lean onto, with one foot in front of the other (the back foot is the one with plantar fasciitis). Keeping the back leg straight, lean your weight forward, bending into the front knee. (Make sure your back heel stays on the ground).

  1. If 1 & 2 don’t help then visit a Podiatrist.
  1. Take anti-inflammatories such as Ibuprofen to help reduce pain and swelling.
  1. Regular icing to help reduce pain and swelling. 
  1. Stretching of the calf muscles, and when less painful introduce stretching of the plantar fascia.
  1. Reduce training volume and include cross-training.

Download one of our free, world-famous strength training plans: Here

Are you unsure of how to pace your training runs? Or looking to find out how to train to run at a specific pace in a race?

There are a lot of different factors that need to be taken into consideration when pacing your training runs, especially when training to heart rate. 

First things first. 

One needs to make a decision, whether you’re going to train according to pace or whether you’re going to train to heart rate. 

Training According To Pace

At Coach Parry, we wouldn’t recommend training on pace if you’re NOT getting advice from someone who is very experienced in calculating proper pace-related training zones.

This is because what typically happens when we train according to pace or a target pace is that we often end up running too fast. Pushing ourselves too hard and therefore we don’t develop at the rate that we should be developing at.

Which leads you to train on heart rate. 

While it is still challenging to calculate HR training zones, HR is a reflection of the physiological effort, while pacing is a calculated estimate of what should be easy.

Calculating running zones in terms of pace takes A LOT of experience.

So, how do you do it…

A Formula For Working Out Training Effort

We’ve found that the most useful heart rate method for the layperson is the MAF method developed by Dr. Phil Maffetone.

Dr. Phil Maffetone’s MAF method requires you to run at a strict Heart Rate of 180-age or slower.

But … what that tells us is that we are almost certain that by running at 180 minus your age, you are running aerobically. 

If you’re new to running, if you’re returning from an illness, or if you are returning from an injury, you will then take further amounts off the value. 

If you have all three, if you’re brand new to running, returning from illness and injury, then you would take a further 15 beats per second off of that.

In the case of most people, if you’re repeatedly getting injured or repeatedly getting sick. We would do 180 minus your age,  minus 5.

In extreme circumstances, it would be 180 minus your age, minus 10 and that would effectively set the intensity that you are running at.

There are limitations to the MAF method, particularly as you age and so for athletes older than 50 we recommend 190-age as the starting point.

If you want to work out your maximum heart rate…

How To Calculate Your Heart Rate Maximum

I can assure you that Dr. Phil Maffetone’s method works. 

We’ve used it on many clients where it’s obvious that they’ve got an over-developed anaerobic system. It’s worked very, very well. 

If you do want to go a little bit more detailed, a bit more scientific, then you could determine your heart rate maximum.

We do not recommend you to calculate your heart rate maximum by saying 220 minus your age… you should go out and measure it. 

Provided you’ve been exercising fairly regularly and been cleared by a health care practitioner, you can head to a track or onto a hill (preferable) and do between three to four minutes of all-out efforts with a long recovery in between. (Five minutes between three-minute efforts.)

You should get very close to your maximum heart rate on effort three or four.

You can use Maximum Heart Rate to calculate your easy and hard runs. 

Your easy runs should be done at 70-75% of whatever your maximum heart rate value is and your hard runs in a range from 80% and higher depending on the session.

When you start training on heart rate it’s frustrating and it seems ridiculous, it seems like you can’t run this slowly. 

There are times when you’re forced into a walk. 

Trust us though, if you stick to it and you persevere with it, over six to twelve weeks, you will see very significant improvements in your running speeds at those heart rates.

So, for the vast majority of the population 220 minus your age gives only a very rough idea of what your max heart rate is. 

In this video, we show you how to get to your maximum heart rate, what tests can be done and how often you should do them…

Watch the video here.

Training To Heart Rate 

Most watches or products use a very simple measure to predict heart rate max, which we covered how to calculate above. (220 minus your age)

As we get older your max heart rate decreases, the more active you have been, and the higher the fitness level that you have maintained throughout your life, the slower your heart rate max will decrease. 

For this reason, we’ve never been huge fans of training off of a calculated maximum value. But this method can work and it is a better way of controlling intensity than having no control. 

Coach Parry’s Recommendation For Training To Heart Rate

What we find much more useful, particularly when you start getting to a point where you are starting to take your training seriously and your fitness gains are getting a little bit harder to come by… then it is much better to peg your heart rate training on your THRESHOLD HEART RATE. 

On that note, let’s cover what threshold heart rate is, how to calculate it and how to use it…

EVERYTHING You Need To Know About Threshold Heart Rate

The gist of threshold heart rate is that it is the highest intensity that you can sustain for an extended period (35-40min).

At Coach Parry, we prefer to use threshold heart rate as opposed to calculated maximum heart rate.

Essentially, when we use calculated maximum heart rate, there are so many different variances that make it unreliable.  

When you don’t have a true, reliable max heart rate reading, you’re not going to get true variables when putting it into your prescription.

When using threshold heart rate, it is more relevant and specific to you as an individual.

Now that we know what threshold heart rate is and why we at Coach Parry prefer it, let’s have a look at how we would test you outside a lab to get your specific threshold heart rate…

How To Get Your Threshold Heart Rate

You need to warm up well and then run a time trial effort, all-out for 35 to 40 minutes. This will give you a good indication of what your threshold heart rate would be.

The reason for this is depicted in the graph below.

As you can see above, you need a little bit of time for your heart rate to climb and get up to a steady effort/ state (warm-up), and then you will be able to sustain a threshold for 35-40min.

In the 35 to 40 mins, we will see the heart rate plateau and where your heart rate is quite stable. That will be your average heart rate which is a good estimation of your heart rate threshold.  

Anything longer than 45min, we generally will start to see a drop off in heart rate, due to you not being able to sustain the threshold for longer than 40min.  Anything shorter and you are able to maintain too high a Heart Rate for the duration. 

Once calculated correctly as explained above, you would then use your heart rate threshold to determine your different zones based on percentage calculations of that threshold heart rate. 

The accuracy of this measurement is absolutely vital. 

The preferred or more accurate measurement device to measure your heart rate is to use a chest belt. This is because it is a more stable and accurate reading compared to wrist devices, where readings tend to fluctuate.

What does this all mean to your training… let’s find out.

How To Train Using Threshold Heart Rate

In the graph above, the grey line represents heart rate and how it increases over time as the intensity increases.

We can see the different zones we train are represented by Z2, Z4, and Z5.

Z2 Heart Rate: Based on the threshold value that you determined, we would look at 80-85% as the upper limit of your zone 2 heart rate. This is where all of your easy runs and your long runs get done from a heart rate point of view. 

On the graph, if you were to look at the second green line in your zone 2, that would be the upper limit of your zone 2. Whether you’re training in the upper limit or the lower limit of your zone 2 heart rate for your easy runs, physiologically you will be getting the EXACT same benefit.

So, whether you are training in the upper limit of zone two or the lower limit you are still gaining the same benefits. 

By training in the upper end… it is more taxing on your body, so the eccentric load that you are putting into your legs on a run at the upper limit is going to be higher than if you were training at the lower end of that zone. It will be more costly on the body and will require a longer recovery time. 

In this video sports scientists, Shona Hendricks and Devlin Eyden walk you through exactly how to train using threshold heart rate and how much training should be done in each zone…

Check it out here!

This is exactly how to keep your heart rate down while running… 

Have you ever felt a sharp pain or ache on the outside of your knee, which even spreads up or down your leg, and occasionally up towards your hip.

The pain sometimes starts when you begin to run and then stops when you stop running…

Well, if the outside of your knee is tender to the touch and you have some swelling… chances are VERY high that you are suffering from Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITB).

The IT band is a ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh, from the top of the hip to the outside of the knee. IT band syndrome happens when that ligament that runs along the outside of the thigh thickens and rubs the knee bone, causing inflammation and pain.

Let’s have a deeper look into what IT Band Syndrome is…

IT Band Syndrome

Your iliotibial band commonly referred to as your IT band, is a long piece of connective tissue that runs from your outer hip to your knee.

The purpose of your IT band is to help stabilize your knee when you’re walking or running.

ITB is common in runners due to tension in the ITB due to tight hip flexors, tight quads, weak glutes, weak abdominals, and weak hips.

Now that we know what it is… How do we prevent getting it in the first place?

How To Prevent Getting IT Band Syndrome

One can prevent getting ITB by maintaining a really good range of motion in the hips, by maintaining flexibility in the hamstrings, quads, and hip flexors. 

Flexibility in the hip flexors needs to be maintained in particular because we spend a lot of our time sitting at desks and driving cars. 

ITB often starts from us just sitting too often for too long periods. What we notice is that there is a slight turning in of the femur (which is the thigh bone) and that causes tightening up of the glutes and the glute medius as well as the tensor fascia lata (which goes straight into the Iliotibial Band) and that is what tightens that system up and causes it to catch on the Bursa.

  • Having nice, strong glutes will help to pull that femur back into the position it is supposed to be in. 
  • Stretching your hip flexors will help you to have a good range of motion and take pressure off that whole system. 

This FREE STRENGTH TRAINING PROGRAM will definitely help you strengthen those glutes and stretch your hip flexors. 

What To Do If You Experience Iliotibial Band Syndrome While Training

If you’re in the middle of a big training block and say for example you’re training for a marathon coming up… and all of sudden you start showing symptoms of ITB…

This is what you need to do:

Firstly, the good news is that ITB is hardly ever solved with rest.

ITB is what we call a low-level inflammatory disease, basically… you only feel it when you are running. 

The fact that you only feel ITB when you are running means that your body doesn’t see it as a priority because it’s actually not that debilitating.

Even when you are running and feel the pain, it’s more irritating than too painful to stop running. 

If you experience ITB while training we recommend cutting back on your running mileage and the intensity you are running your runs at. 

The most important thing to do with Iliotibial Band Syndrome is that if you DON’T treat it then you WILL struggle with it for months and months.

On that note… let’s see how you can treat ITB

If ITB is stopping you from running then Brad and Shona have the strength training solution for you:

IT Band Syndrome Treatment

  • Hip flexor stretches
  • Glute strengthening
  • Visit a physiotherapist to help with the inflammation and to assess if it is the actual cause. 

We would go as far as to say that 9 out of 10 Iliotibial Band Syndrome cases are caused by a combination of overuse and very tight hip flexors.

The initial treatment for ITB syndrome should aim to reduce your pain and inflammation. 

Further treatment includes physiotherapy to gradually get you back to your usual activities.

Most people recover and can go back to sports or running within four to six weeks.

IT Band Syndrome & Foam Rolling

A lot of people have asked us if foam rolling can help treat ITB and the jury is out…

Massage does work and foam rolling is a type of massage, although using a foam roller while your ITB is inflamed will actually worsen the pain.

For this type of injury and particularly where it’s hard to get the right kind of pressure on it, we recommend using a golf ball or a good old baking rolling pin to get in there. 

As we mentioned above, to REALLY release your hip flexors we recommend physiotherapy.

Exercises That Cure ITB Super Fast

As we touched on earlier, the causes of ITB essentially stem from a lack of strength, which would then cause biomechanical issues. 

The aim of these exercises is to strengthen the pelvic area (being the glutes and hip area) as well as your posterior chain (being your hamstrings and glutes).

What happens when you have ITB is that your hips start to become internally rotated, so if you can keep your hips open, it will keep your whole running gait in check.

Running is catabolic and is a repetitive motion, so you need to ensure that you have the strength to sustain that repetitive motion.

An inflamed ITB is uncomfortable, annoying, and can be painful… let’s have a look at some of the things you can do to alleviate the pain

What To Do If You Have ITB Syndrome

From a strength and conditioning point of view… There are a couple of things one can do but first, we need to remember that ITB can become chronic really quickly.

You should not try to run through Iliotibial Band Syndrome. We know runners tend to run through pain …  and that is just not ideal. 

You need to try and prevent it from becoming chronic because then it becomes really difficult to get rid of ITB Syndrome.

Firstly, we suggest a little bit of extra Rest, although unfortunately in this situation it’s not like shin splints, where the rest will fix it…

A little bit of rest will help relieve that compounding effect.

Secondly, in strength training, specifically, while you are strengthening your posterior chain, you should aim to loosen up or stretch your hip flexors. 

The combination of stretching your hip flexors and strengthening your glutes & hips will make a HUGE difference.

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…

I think, if you’re reading this article then you will agree with me that two fundamental goals of runners of all ages and levels are running faster and running farther.

If you’ve been running for a while you’ll know the good ol’ running plateau…

Whether you’re looking to increase your running speed for race day or your own workouts, there are many proven ways that you can build running endurance and learn how to run faster without getting tired and staying injury-free. 

Before we cover how to run faster, let’s have a look at the root problem…

8 Reasons Why You’re Running Slow

  1. You do all your training runs at the same pace.
  2. You run your easy runs too fast or too hard.
  3. Your training is inconsistent.
  4. How much you are training.
  5. You’re training too much.
  6. Your nutrition intake is all wrong.
  7. You don’t have the physical strength to sustain the running.
  8. You aren’t getting enough good quality sleep.

Let’s dive into these in a bit more detail…

You do all your training runs at the same pace.

Never forget the 80/20 principle, you should do 80% of your training at a low intensity and 20% or less at a high intensity. 

The smaller the gap between your easy run intensity and your hard run intensity the more likely you are to plateau. 

You run your easy runs too fast or too hard.

The reason why we suggest running your easy runs EASY is that by running too hard your eccentric loading on your muscles is causing a lot of damage. 

That damage takes a lot longer to recover, which means you would need to extend your recovery time which will affect the quality of your running session the next day. 

By running nice and easy you will still be giving your body the same physiological benefits but ensuring you recover quicker for the next run.

Pro Tip: Slowing your easy runs down improves aerobic capacity.

An improved aerobic capacity means that you will be able to recover faster, and it improves your running economy by allowing you to metabolize fuel better.

Your training is inconsistent.

This is normally regarded as the most important aspect of your training. This is because if you don’t have a consistent training plan then your training will fall apart. 

Lack of consistency impacts improvements over time. 

A great way to think of consistency is as if it were a financial investment.
The small little bits over time lead to big amounts and that’s the same thing as fitness. 

You should aim to stick to your training plan as well as possible. 

*Remember that rest is considered a session.

How much you are training. 

The more frequently you run, the better your aerobic base becomes. The better your aerobic base, the more your running pace increases. 

There is a fine line between training enough and training too much. 

You’re training too much. 

A lot of people fall into the trap of doing too much volume. What will happen is that you’ll find yourself feeling tired ALL the time. 

This is something we should get away from.

We do not improve fitness in every training session. During recovery is where the adaptation occurs. 

The only training session you’ll get the most benefit from is the one you recover properly from. 

Your nutrition intake is all wrong.

It’s crucial to understand that if you don’t put enough fuel into your body or if you’re putting the wrong fuel into your body then you will compromise your recovery and the amount of energy that is available for you to do the training that you want to do. 

You need to eat ENOUGH good quality food (fats, carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins) and they need to be eaten at the correct TIME in relation to exercise. 

Find out when the correct time is to eat nutritious food in relation to your exercise in this video:  

You don’t have the physical strength to sustain the running. 

Strength training is absolutely vital.

When you are doing any exercise, running in particular, you are recruiting muscle fibers that need to contract. If you can’t do that enough, then you won’t get any faster. 

It has been proven that strength training can improve your running performance by up to 5%. 

If strength training is what you’re after, grab a free-running strength plan here.

You aren’t getting enough good quality sleep.

You need to prioritize getting as much sleep as you can, as consistently as possible. 

Life is chaotic and busy. We get that.  

Avoid inconsistency by getting one night of 8 hours of sleep a week, and the rest is all over the place. For the rest of the week, you should try to get 30-60min per night more than you normally do and try to get as much as possible as consistently as possible. 

A good night’s sleep will help build and repair muscles balance your hormones and improve your overall athletic performance. 

In this article we cover the benefits of a good night’s sleep on your running in a lot more detail: Here.

Now that you know why you may be running slow, let’s dive into how to speed right up!

4 Steps To Running Faster 

  1. Recovery

Most people think that you only get the benefits of what you’re doing while you are doing the exercise.  

This is false.

You don’t get fitter and faster while you are running, it all happens during the time that you recover. 

It’s not about doing more all the time, it’s all about HOW you recover.

By neglecting your recovery time, you will arrive at your next run feeling tired, not fresh, and have a higher chance of getting injured. 

How do you know if you’ve recovered enough?

We like to use 3 simple processes:

  • Ask yourself if you’re feeling stiff or if you’re feeling pain anywhere?

Muscle soreness is an indication that you haven’t recovered properly.

  • Take your resting heart rate every morning after you have emptied your bladder.

That number should stay consistent over time. When it starts to go up then you are not recovered properly.

  • Modern wearables.

With modern wearables now, you can use something very useful called heart rate variability. If you are tracking your heart rate variability, particularly while sleeping, over time that allows you to compare if you are recovering well

2. Pacing

This is the number 1 mistake that amateur athletes make…

We’re all guilty of it, if we feel that we’re not smashing ourselves in our training sessions then it’s not good enough. 

It is key to slow down and to run in particular our slow/ easy runs & long runs at the correct slow pace to improve our aerobic efficiency.

Why is it so important to run our training runs at the correct pace?

To improve endurance we need to run in the correct “zone”. This refers to the intensity we run at. That’s where the body becomes more efficient (You become a better runner). 

This range is very wide though. You can run in the faster end of the range = lots more eccentric stress and load on the body or you can run on the slower end = with much less stress on the body. 

Training at the correct pace is so important because when we are running in the correct zone, that essentially is when we are getting all the physiological adaptation that we need. 

Essentially, zones are bands of intensity, with zone 1 typically referring to recovery, zone 2 aerobic endurance, zone 3 anaerobic threshold. For endurance training, we are referring to zone 2.

When you’re running within zone 2, you can run towards the top end of that zone (but the closer you get to the top, the more likely you are to move into zone 3, moving away from the intended workout and increasing the physical stress on your muscles.), which is a little bit faster, or the bottom end. When you’re running at the top end of that zone, you’re putting a lot of eccentric stress on your muscles. 

You can run at the bottom end of the zone and then there will be less of that load of eccentric contraction and less wear and tear on the body. You’re going to be getting exactly the same benefits as if you were running towards the top end of that zone. 

How To Monitor Pacing

A very simple tool that we love at Coach Parry is…

To be able to hold a conversation with the person you are running with or to be able to break out into song.

You should be able to breathe quite easily, have a light sweat at the end of your training run, and feel like you can go a bit further.

We’re not saying all your training runs need to be this easy, just remember the 80/20 rule. The majority of your runs need to be easy so that the ones that need to be hard, can be really hard.

3. Strength Training

You may be sick of hearing this from us but this is going to CHANGE your running!

Strength training helps keep you injury-free.

As we discussed earlier, running is a compounding sport, it places that eccentric strain on your muscles.

Strength training helps build the structures around the joints and helps make the joints stronger, allowing your body to sustain the load from running so much better. 

Strength training has massive effects on your running performance.

You will improve your running performance (needing less fuel to run longer distances) by not even running at all.

Strength training doesn’t yield instant improvements, in fact, in the short term, it makes you a little sore and takes you right out of your comfort zone.  – This is why so few people do strength training. 

When we say strength training, we mean resistance training – pushing your body against any form of resistance.

Any form of resistance training could be bodyweight, weight training, or even resistance bands. 

Ideally, you should be doing resistance training once or twice a week, as this is when you will reap the most benefits in your running. 

5 Minute, 5 Exercise Strength Training For Busy Runners That is Shockingly Simple To Do.

4. Consistency

We’re not talking about consistency in a way that you might think.

You will notice if you look back at your running career that every time you have had a successful race it has come off the back of your most consistent training block. 

The consistency we are talking about comes from doing the right stuff day after day, week after week, and month after month. 

To achieve this type of consistency, you need to get the first 3 steps correct. 

This will allow you to achieve successful training block after successful training block to build on your past successes and improve into the future.

How to run faster without getting tired ->> Here

So, we’ve had a look at pace, consistency, recovery, and strength training… Let’s see if there are any other ways to increase your running speed. 

Will Changing Your Running Form To Run Faster Work?

We have all seen those runners who just seem to float and glide along. They seem to have perfect form. 

Certain runner forms are more efficient and people who run faster tend to have better running form. BUT, In terms of being able to manipulate and change the running form, that is extremely hard to do. 

In terms of having an ideal way of running, that is also very hard to do. 

This is because, even at the top end of the sport, two runners that don’t look at all alike (not the same height & build) can’t be expected to squeeze into a specific way of running. 

We are all unique and we are all an ongoing experiment.

If you run intelligently, build a program that allows you to train consistently and helps you avoid injury, then your body will find its most efficient way of moving. 

The “Ideal” Running Posture

We do know that certain factors will get you the closest you can get to an ideal running posture, like a slightly forward lean, having a straight posture so that you can almost draw a line from your ear to your shoulder to your hips, to your heel that’s pushing off the ground.  

For example, if we try to force a bigger, taller runner to move into these positions, particularly on their easier runs, then we will be shifting the stress from perhaps their knees straight down into their calves and Achilles. 

The point is that there is going to be stress placed on the body, and depending on how you’ve been running over the years, your body will be adapted to absorb that stress, so if we go and make changes, we have to make the changes REALLY slowly. 

Why We Don’t Spend Loads Of Time Getting People To Change Their Posture

Over the years we have watched many … many… many elite athletes in competition and what we have noticed is that when the chips are really down when they are tight and fall under immense pressure. They revert to TYPE.

By type we mean, what their body is best adapted for, what their body was built for, the physics that their very own body has got.  

What if you were born with really bad biomechanics and just want to run faster?

Is It Worth Manipulating Your Form To Run Faster?

Find out here!

The next section is often spoken about in whispers and with much trepidation. Should I do track training? 

Track training has its place and is nothing to be feared.

Are Speed Sessions On The Track Necessary To Run Fast?

Speed sessions on a track are necessary for the final phases of the preparation, but it’s not really the “thing” that makes you faster. 

There is some debate about how much aerobic vs anaerobic is contributed during and 800 meters, but certainly from 1500 meters and up, is very aerobic dominated, and in the market that we deal with, which is 5k’s to 100 milers, then the aerobic component is the most important.

You will only improve using speed work if you sort out that aerobic component first, and that’s why at Coach Parry we are always so hardcore about … Run easy, run easy, run easy!

There are lots of good things about doing track work (once you have built up your aerobic strength), some of them are physiological, some are around coordination and some are around the range of motion.

The ratio between the easy runs and the speed work depends on your level of running. 

Dangers To Speed Work

The obvious danger to speed work on a track is the increased risk of injury. 

This comes down to the fact that most people when they do get down to the track, they just don’t do it properly.

Anyone can go down and run 400s as fast as they can. But that’s just going to leave you sore, possibly injured, and will compromise your training going forward. 

If you are going to head to a track, ensure that you are doing the appropriate type of session at the appropriate intensity and volume. 

When Should You Not Run On Track?

If you have just started running, are new to running, haven’t developed your aerobic capacity, or are recovering from an injury then you should avoid the track.

It’s important to remember that if you want to run fast, for a long time then you need to have a highly developed aerobic system and if you develop that aerobic system, what will happen is that you will be able to run faster… And faster… And faster at or just below the threshold.

If you overdevelop your anaerobic system by running too much speed work or by running your easy runs too hard then you will push that threshold down. 

That pretty much sums up how you can run faster… 

If you’re looking to run a sub 4 hour Marathon then here is your answer: Click here!

Or

If you’re looking to run a sun 45 minute 10K, we’ve got you covered: Here.

What does this all mean for the runners over 50 who want to run faster?

How To Run Faster & Longer As You Get Older

While there is still a notable physiological decline as we get older, the body still shows great aptitude for adaptation if provided with the right stimulus. 

If the correct training intensities and volume of training are followed and complemented with good strength training at least twice a week you can run better as you get older.

There is a saying that children are not small adults and so we shouldn’t train them as such, the same should ring true for runners over 50. 

Of course, the basic training principles still apply but it is key to manipulate the volume and intensity of the program to run fast as you age.

Save your seat at our next Faster Beyond Fifty Masterclass below!

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…

Let’s tackle the biggest objection to running we hear: Running is bad for your knees. 

The truth may surprise you …

Running is NOT bad for your knees. Research shows us that doing nothing is bad for your knees. 

If you are not doing any kind of activity- that is essentially what is going to be bad for your knees. If you are running & including strength training, then you are looking after your knees.  

There are some contrary indications around this…

If you do struggle with things like Osteoarthritis or arthritis in your knees, or if you’ve had knee surgeries then you need to be very specific about these things and not just dive into the deep end. 

Strength Training

A lot of new science is indicating that you need to incorporate strength training into your workouts if you struggle with things like arthritis. This is because strength training will place a load on your bones, which will help your bones to maintain that little bit of strength that’s already there, therefore helping you manage the running load. 

Free Strength Training Program HERE!

At Coach Parry, if you do struggle with arthritis in your knees or Osteoarthritis then we can adapt your training program to include some more cross-training sessions, for example, swapping out a running day for a swimming session. This will ensure that you are still building your aerobic capacity, but not with the load of running.

Non- negotiable: If you are a runner with Osteoarthritis then strength training is a MUST.

So now that we know that running is safe and not bad for your knees, let’s cover the factors that can potentially lead to some problems…

What Causes Damage In Your Knees While You Are Running

  1. The Equipment That You Are Using

By equipment, we are referring to your running shoes. 

Regardless of who you are as a runner and at what level of running you are at, all your running shoes will have a life span. (The amount of mileage you put into your running shoes)

Your running shoe mileage depends on the surfaces you run on, the event you are training for, as well as your body size. (The heavier you are, the less mileage your shoes will get out of them)

It’s important to make sure that your shoes are in good condition so that you can get all the supportive properties that the shoes are supposed to be providing. 

We suggest going to a specialist running store where they can have a look at the wear patterns on your shoes, what kind of running you are doing and your gait to suggest what shoes are best for you. 

Here are some telltale signs you need new running shoes.

  1. The Potential Of Instability & Weakness Around Any Of Your Joints

In particular, your feet (Knee pain is usually caused by a problem lower down or higher up in the chain of the leg). 

In your feet, the weak muscles could be in the intrinsic muscles of the foot, which means that your arches are collapsing every time you take a step or try and push off. This weakness leads to instability in the ankles, the ankle might be rolling in. All of this causes a misalignment which results in your knees diving inwards or outwards. 

For the situation above we recommend putting preventative steps to stop that instability from happening, this can be done with strength training. 

How To Prevent Knee Injuries While Running

Strength training and working on your balance are key. 

Your hamstrings and quads work together in symbiosis when you run.

It is important to have a good relationship between your hamstrings and your quads. If your quads are too strong for your weak hamstrings, you will find that you’ll start to get knee issues in the back or front of the knee. 

With a lot of runners, it is the hamstrings and glutes that are just far too weak for the strength of the quads.

Knee Valgus

In particular with females, but very common in men as well is that if your glutes are too weak then you tend to have an internally rotated pelvis (pelvis rotates inwards) and this causes knee valgus/ bending inwards at the knees. The bending at the knee with the repetition of running will cause strain and pain while you are running. 

So, strengthening the glutes will rotate your pelvis outwards and give you strong pelvic control, which will take the strain off the knees. 

Hamstring Strength

Every time you land and your foot strikes when running, if your hamstrings are not strong enough, what’s going to happen is that there might be some hyperextension at the knee because the hamstring is not strong enough to pull your leg back in time, after your foot strike. This will place a lot of pressure on the posterior knee.

You need to have good strength, in the quads and specifically where people suffer from Patellofemoral pain. 

Patellofemoral Pain Syndrome

This type of pain is on the knee cap, it’s a condition in which the cartilage under the kneecap is damaged due to injury or overuse. 

Your knee cap and lower bone are held in place by your quadricep, the 3 muscles of the quadricep hold the patella (knee cap) in place.   

You need to make sure that you have a good balance in strength on the outside of the quad and the inside of the quad. 

In most runners, the inside of their quads is weaker and this causes the patella to slide across the bones, which causes the pain.  

Help With Patellofemoral Pain

Loosening up your quads with some static stretching, some mobility, and some physio if need be will help. 

If you do have tight quads, while doing any strength exercises, any squat movements or any movements where you load weight on the front should be avoided to take pressure off the knees.

Strength Training With Coach Parry

We are absolute sticklers for technique. 

We don’t like pushing your knees over your toes, it puts a lot of pressure on your knees because essentially your entire weight is now leaning over your knees.

But, think about when you do normal things in your daily life… like walking downstairs…

Your knees obviously do go over your toes. So to be functional and to have the strength to have your knees going over your toes you need to train safely and build up strength in the safest way possible. 

Join us for a free online presentation of the…

The Faster Beyond 50 Masterclass

…and discover how you can run well (and faster) as you get olderwithout training more or harder than you currently are, all while avoiding injury. 

If it feels like you’re training harder than ever but not running the paces you’d like to be running or if you’re constantly tired, fatigued or running in some sort of pain, then this is specifically for you.

Save your seat in this training now…

You woke up feeling energetic, grabbed your running shoes, embraced your feeling of motivation, decided to hit your favorite 10km route, and finished an incredible run. Expecting to feel fantastic, as you do after all your runs… all of a sudden you feel completely exhausted…

Running fatigue is a physical state of exhaustion that occurs when one runs too hard or runs long distances regularly. Without the body recovering fully, causing fatigue that is carried over to the next training session. It takes time for the body to repair the muscle fibers and make improvements after sessions.

Every time you go for a run, your body has to adapt to get stronger…

When you run, you aren’t just building your stamina and strength; you’re also breaking your body down, causing a tiny amount of tissue damage with every step.

So, allowing yourself time to recover after your runs is what makes it possible for you to come back better adapted for your next run. 

Why Is Rest As Important As Running?

As runners, we all love running, but we neglect one BIG part of our training… RECOVERY.

We can’t stress the importance of recovery enough. It is as important as your training. 

Without recovery, you won’t reach your full running potential. On top of that, by not recovering you increase your chances of getting sick and injured. 

What happens when we exercise and push ourselves is that we do damage to our system.  (We hurt ourselves on a very, very low – healthy & stimulating level.)

When we recover the body repairs the damage that was made and makes improvements.
In other words, it improves the system, so that the system can withstand more next time you exercise.  

These small improvements are why we get fitter, faster and stronger.

When we train too hard and do not include enough recovery, we are not allowing the full repair and compensational reaction to that damage.

Let’s dive into how to tell if you have given your body enough time to repair the damage.

How Do You Know If You Are Not Recovering Properly?

Fatigue

Fatigue is the first and most obvious sign. SOME fatigue is normal, if we are training hard, we can’t expect to never be tired and to feel a bit flat on some runs. 

You shouldn’t feel tired and exhausted all the time. 

When you are tired, your alarm bells should ring, but you may not necessarily need to act just yet.  

If you’ve got normal recovery cycles built into each week, or if you know that you’ve got an easy run ahead of you then you can recover before you run again. 

Inability To Fall Asleep

Inability to fall asleep (when you don’t usually have sleep issues) is a second sign that you aren’t recovering properly.

If you find that you are struggling to fall asleep and are feeling fatigued then you need to add more time to your recovery sessions. 

If fatigue, inability to fall asleep and low appetite are what you are feeling then this is a DEFINITE sign that you need to make a change to your training program and include a lot more recovery time.   

The combination of fatigue, loss of appetite, and inability to fall asleep tells us that your body is releasing high levels of cortisol to help you cope. 

Should You Be Taking An Entire Day Off For Recovery?

At Coach Parry we advocate taking one full day off a week to recover, this is because it has less to do with physical recovery and a lot more to do with mental recovery. 

For example: If you put a swim on your rest day, it’s probably going to be helpful to recovery. 

But…

What we have found over the years is that, if you can have one day where you don’t have to think about training and you don’t have to plan your life around training, then you will recover mentally and physically. 

Check out this video where Brad and Lindsey talk about the importance of both physical and mental recovery as a runner.

The 2 Big Recovery Run Mistakes You’re Making

Recovery runs versus easy runs… do you know the difference between the two?

Recovery run: This is a run that means you are still doing some exercise but are doing it at a low enough intensity so that you are still allowing yourself some time for recovery.

In a recovery run, you are supposed to be doing just enough to get the heart rate up and effectively circulate the blood through those working muscles. If there is pain and stiffness in your muscles then we recommend not doing a recovery run and rather doing a recovery spin on a bicycle or swimming with extremely low resistance. 

Biggest Mistakes Made When Doing a Recovery Run

Running too hard and too long. It’s very easy to run too hard on a recovery run because you can still run a long, easy run.

A recovery run should never be longer than 45 minutes and should be a super easy, super slow, little shuffle.

If you would like to know more about your recovery runs, then this video is for you.

Did you know that there are 3 simple things you can do after every run to make sure you lower your risk of getting injured, recover quickly and make sure you’re feeling your best by the time your next run comes around?

What You Should Be Doing After Every Run

  1. Cool Down
  2. Muscle Recovery
  3. Correct Nutritional Intake

Cool Down

By ‘cool down’, we mean slowing down, dropping your heart rate, and flushing the body.

You can do this by walking to lower the heart rate slowly right after your run. Bringing your Heart Rate down slowly, allows your blood vessels to also contract so that you do have a sudden drop in blood pressure, feel dizzy and risk falling post-exercise.  

If you skip your cool-down sessions, on your next run you will take longer to warm up and longer to get into your running rhythm. You will also start to feel that stiffness in your muscles. 

Muscle Recovery

Muscle recovery can be done with some static stretching or even some foam rolling. 

Foam rolling is effective because it helps create more blood flow to your muscles, which will aid your recovery a lot quicker and may get you ready for your run a lot faster. (Just remember to be gentle with the foam rolling as you don’t want to bruise any of your muscles)

For foam rolling to be effective, you need to make sure you are rolling all the prime movers from running: glutes, hamstrings, and quads (your lower limbs especially.) 

Static stretching is very much a subjective kind of feeling. If you enjoy it, then go ahead. 

If you prefer static stretching, we recommend doing them post and not pre-workout (See why Here) & holding those stretches for up to 30 seconds, anything less is not worth your time. Aim to stretch all the muscle groups that were involved in your run, in particular the glutes and hip flexors. 

Nutrition Intake

This varies depending on the type of run you’re doing, whether it’s a long run, a high-intensity run, or an easy run. 

Let’s have a look at a high-intensity session and a long run. 

After both of these run’s, you should try to intake 1 gram of carbs per kg of body mass per hour that you have exercised and if you can put some protein in with the carbs, then you’ll be kickstarting the process of rebuilding the muscle that was broken down during exercise. 

So, you know why you need to recover, you know how to recover… Let’s have a look at ways to speed up your recovery time.

How To Speed Up Recovery

The harder you train, the more important your cool down becomes. 

When you do high-intensity runs, then your cool down should be some very light jogging/walking. If you have done a longer run, then your cool down should be a walk to slow down your heart rate. 

Consume good quality recovery products.

Within 30 minutes after your training, you should consume the correct sugars and protein. As we get older this becomes even more important. You should also drink enough as keeping hydrated will also contribute to speeding up your recovery time. 

Why should it be within 30 minutes?

During exercise, we have what are called gated channels. These are channels through which the body takes sugar out of the blood, through the membranes, and then pushes them into the muscles where they are needed most. 

The gated channels are very sensitive during exercise, but they close down and draw that sugar into the muscles much slower once you get out of the 30-minute window.

So, essentially, every 15 minutes, our body’s ability to replace the muscle glycogen, in particular, decreases by roughly a multiplier of 50. (50% less efficient as we go). Therefore 45 to 60 minutes after our exercise it becomes difficult for our bodies to reload that muscle glycogen.

Coach Parry’s Best Kept Recovery Drink Secret: Chocolate Milk.    

Chocolate milk contains milk, which has a particular amino acid (Leucine), which is important in aiding recovery – especially in older athletes and the chocolate has plenty of sugar. 

Stretch or foam roll.

As we discussed above, static stretching or foam rolling will increase the blood flow to those muscles which will aid in speeding up your recovery time. 

Recovery is all-important, especially after an intensive training session. The quicker you recover, the sooner you see the benefits and the sooner you can take on your next intense training session. 

This video covers the 3 methods to speeding up your recovery above… in a bit more detail.

Click here.

The fact is, not running is just as important as fitting in a run. Rest days provide all the benefits you need to reinvigorate your athletic spirit so that you will want to continue training.

Everyone has their personal stories about how they had that beautiful experience that made them realize how much they love running…  

When you ask a trail runner what that beautiful experience was they will probably tell you some crazy story that involves wildlife, rocky cliffs, thick mud, river crossings, and maybe even a 4000-foot climb, all in one morning… the best part is that the trail runner will tell you this story with the biggest smile on their face. 

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to have mountains for trail running. Trail running can be done everywhere. It is considered a “trial run” when you are not on surfaced roads. 

Ultra Trail Running events cover distances that are longer than the 42.195k or 26.2 miles (marathon distance). So, anything longer than the traditional marathon is an ultra.

Research shows that just 14 years ago there were only about 60 Ultra Trail Races in the world… now there are over 10 000!    

We’ve narrowed down a list containing 20 of the most INSANE Ultra Trail Running Races in the World, all happening in 2022.

P.S. Trail running is highly addictive. Once you’ve been bitten by the bug, expect your life to change forever!

20 Ultra Trail Running Races Happening Around The World in 2022

  1. Hardrock 100 in Silverton, Colorado
  2. Promise Land in Virginia
  3. Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in Japan
  4. Vibram Ultra Trail in Hong Kong
  5. Dragons Back Race in Wales, United Kingdom
  6. Jungle Marathon in the Amazon Rainforest
  7. Transgrancanaria HG in Las Palmas De Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, Spain
  8. Marathon des Sables (MDS) in the Sahara Desert, Morocco
  9. West Highland Way Race in Scotland
  10. Lavaredo Ultra Trail in Italy
  11. Silver State 50/50 in Nevada 
  12. Western States 100 in California
  13. Spartathlon in Greece
  14. The Grand Raid in La Reunion Island, Indian Ocean
  15. Barkley Marathons in Tennessee
  16. Tor Des Geants in Aosta Valley, Italy
  17. Ultra Trail Capetown
  18. Madeira Island Ultra Trail 
  19. Patagonian Expedition Race
  20. Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), France

Ready to start adding some of these to your bucket list? 

I sure am!

Let’s have a deeper look into what each of these races entails…

Hardrock 100 In Silverton, Colorado (15 July)

“Wild & Tough” is what they say…

With a cut-off time of 48 hours, the Hardrock Hundred Mile Endurance Run is an ultramarathon of 100.5 miles in length, plus 33,050 feet of climb and 33,050 feet of descent for a total elevation change of 66,100 feet, at an average elevation of over 11,000 feet. 

The run is held on a loop course on 4WD roads, dirt trails, and cross country in Southern Colorado’s San Juan Range. 

This year the run will be in the clockwise direction. The run offers a graduate-level challenge for endurance runs. The course provides extreme challenges in altitude, steepness, and remoteness. Mountaineering, wilderness survival, and wilderness navigation skills are important in this event.

Enter the Hardrock 100 here.

Promise Land in Virginia (23 April)

The Promise Land 50K+ is a well-respected ultra trail run in the Jefferson National Forest near Lynchburg, Virginia. In 19 years of the Promise Land 50K, there have never been any changes. So runners know the course and hardly anyone ever gets lost.

The race starts at an elevation of 1,200 feet and then goes up to 4,000 feet, down to 1,100 feet, back up to 3,800 feet, and then down to 1,200 feet. The trail consists of a large variety of surfaces, which keeps the trail exciting and keeps runners fascinated by waterfalls, forests, and green hills!

Enter the promise land ultra here.

Ultra-Trail Mount Fuji in Japan (22 April)

Japan’s Mt. Fuji is an active volcano and commonly called “Fuji-san,” it’s the country’s tallest peak, at 3,776 meters. A pilgrimage site for centuries, it’s considered one of Japan’s sacred mountains. 

165.4km’s circulating Mount Fuji, cumulatively gaining about 9,500m of altitude. The ultra race starts and ends at the Yagizaki Park in Fuji-Kawaguchi-ko town in Yamanashi Prefecture. This race aims to communicate the importance of challenging the human spirit through trail running and to provide the opportunity for people to enjoy and discover the natural beauty and culture of the Mt.Fuji region. 

The trail connects mountain trails, local footpaths, and forest roads.

The time limit is 46 hours and participants need to submit proof of earning sufficient points by finishing other trial races.

Enter to race around Japans highest peak here.

Vibram Ultra Trail in Hong Kong (29 January)

A challenging but unforgettable 103km’s of running through pristine beaches, ancient forests, reservoirs, and steep hills. 

Most of the race follows Hong Kong’s scenic Maclehose Trail whilst achieving an elevation gain of over 5300 meters and ends by descending Mount Tai Mo Shan, Hong Kong’s highest peak.

The cut-off time for this race is 30 hours and it is said that to complete this race you’ve got to have that real trail running “passion”.

Enter this scenic ultra trail race for next year here.

Dragons Back Race in Wales, United Kingdom (5th September)

Known as one of the world’s toughest mountain races, the Dragons Back Race is 6 days, 380km’s and has an elevation gain of 17,400m (almost double Everest). 

For those of you brave enough to traverse the mountainous spine of Wales, where the terrain is extreme, then this race is for you!

Many runners who have completed this race struggle to find experiences that can rival the Dragons back.
The route is inspired by that of the 1992 race, in which the inaugural Dragons tackled Wales’ uniquely wild, trackless, and remote mountainous terrain.

The organizers reiterate that the race is not a trail running event but a mountain running event.

Ready to tackle the Dragons Back? Enter here.

Jungle Ultra Marathon In The Amazon Rainforest (5th June)

This race was set up in response to so many ultra trail runners wanting a new challenge in an extreme environment. 
Jungle Ultra Marathon is an extreme foot race that takes place in the Amazon Rainforest in Brazil, in the protected Tapajos National Forest.

This race is said to test your physical strength but more importantly your mental strength.

Known as the world’s TOUGHEST ENDURANCE race, taking place in a very remote and dangerous environment with many swamps and river crossings. 

Competitors need to consider that they will be exposed to snakes, wild animals, poisonous plants, and extreme humidity.

There are two distances runners can choose from:  A 4 stage 127km race and a 6 stage 254km race. 

Enter this insane trail running event here. 

Transgrancanaria HG in Las Palmas De Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, Spain (4th March)

The Transgrancanaria HG is a 123 kilometer heavily trafficked point-to-point trail located near Las Palmas De Gran Canaria, Gran Canaria, Spain.

This race is only recommended for very experienced adventurers, with an elevation gain of 6,625m and a cut-off time of 30 hours. 

In the race, competitors must cross the island, passing through several aid stations where they can replenish their supplies.

The first edition of Transgrancanaria in October 2003 had a total of 65 participants, and over the years has grown to more than 1400 athletes.

Enter this stunning Spanish race here.

Marathon des Sables (MDS) in the Sahara Desert, Morocco (25 March)

In 1984 Patrick BAUER alone in the Sahara at 28 years of age decided to make for the Sahara to try to traverse a 350km expanse of uninhabited desert, on foot, alone, where he wouldn’t come across a watering-place. Self-sufficient, with a rucksack weighing 35kg, containing supplies, he set off on a journey that was to last 12 days.

It was the starting point of what was to become the MARATHON DES SABLES.

Coach Parry Training Plan for Marathon des Sables: Here

Enter this legendary race here.

West Highland Way Race in Scotland (18 June)

The race tracks along the West Highland Way route to the Nevis Centre in Fort William, finishing within a time limit of 35 hours.  The 95-mile race includes 14,760ft of ascent.

The West Highland Way Race is one of the world’s longest established ultra-marathons, first taking place in 1985 and is known to be an incredible ‘classic’ race.

Enter Scotland’s longest-standing Ultra Race here.

Lavaredo Ultra Trail In Italy (23 June) 

Starting in Cortina d’Ampezzo, in the Dolomites in northern Italy, The Lavaredo Ultra Trail circulates the Dolomites for 120 km with a cut-off time of 30 hours. 

What makes this race unique is that it starts at 11 pm. With steep climbs and beautiful Italian mountains, this race is by far one of the most scenic ones in the world.

Enter this unforgettable European race here.

Silver State 50/50 In Nevada (21 May)

The 50/50 offers a wide variety of terrain for all types of runners, with plenty of climbing and descending. The race trail is made up of dirt, rock, pine trees, and stunning views of the Sierra Nevada and the Truckee Meadows. 

Offering a choice of a 50-mile or a 50-kilometer race. Runners will climb 6,100 feet and descend 6,100 feet in the 50K and  9,500 feet and descend 9,500 feet in the 50M. 

Enter this rugged race here.

Western States 100 in California (25 June)

Welcome to the world’s oldest 100-mile trail race!

While running this race, you will traverse the traditional lands of the Nisenan, Washoe, and other neighboring Indigenous Peoples, the Western States Trail climbs more than 18,000 feet and descends nearly 23,000 feet before runners reach the finish at Placer High School in Auburn. 

Runners should expect to experience the majestic high country of Emigrant Pass and the Granite Chief Wilderness, the crucible of the canyons of the California gold country, a crossing of the ice-cold waters of the Middle Fork of the American River, and the historic reddish-brown trails that led many travelers, including gold prospectors, to Auburn.

Enter this historic race here.

P.s Entry into this event should not be taken lightly. 

Spartathlon in Greece (30 September)

Spartathlon’s creation belongs to John Foden, a British RAF Wing Commander. As a lover of Greece and student of ancient Greek history, Foden stopped his reading of Herodotus’ narration regarding Pheidippides, puzzled and wondering if a modern man could cover the distance from Athens to Sparta…. Say hello to 250km in 36 hours. 

The Spartathlon revives the footsteps of Pheidippides, an ancient Athenian long-distance runner, who in 490 BC, before the battle of Marathon, was sent to Sparta to seek help in the war between the Greeks and the Persians.

Race in the footsteps of Pheidippides over road, trail, and mountain footpath’s here.

The Grand Raid in La Reunion Island, Indian Ocean (20 October)

42% of this gorgeous island is listed as World Heritage by Unesco. Run 166 km, with 9,600 meters of uphill climbs, departing from Saint-Pierre, and ending at Saint-Denis.

It is said that you have to be a madman/woman to run across Reunion Island, from south to north.

Ready to push yourself to your ultimate limits? Enter here.

The Barkley in Tennessee

The Barkley is considered one of the toughest 100-mile races in the world. It has 67,000 feet of climb (and 67,000 feet of descent), more than any other 100-mile race.

Since the race began in 1986, only 15 runners out of about 1000 have finished within the 60-hour cutoff. 

Mark Williams from the UK finished first in 1995 in 59:28. In 2001, after several failed attempts, Blake Wood, 42, and David Horton, 50, finished together in 58:21, only to be disqualified for inadvertently leaving the course to follow a parallel route for about 200 yards. 

It’s safe to say that this race provides one of the most grueling ultramarathons ever created.

What makes this race even more interesting is that the application process is not your typical race sign-up. 

The information that exists says that mailing in an application, which is subject to change each year, and a registration fee of $1.60 is all it takes to enter. 

WHEN & HOW is a well-kept secret as there is not a race website.

If you are accepted into the race, you receive a letter of condolences as well as the next registration steps.

Tor Des Geants in Aosta Valley, Italy (11 September)

Here we have the LONGEST trail running race in the world! Trails of the Giants.

330 kilometers at 24,000 meters in 150 hours. The race makes a giant loop around the Aoste Valley. It starts and finishes in Courmayeur and takes runners over 25 passes. 

Along the course, the participants can sleep in 7 different locations and eat in 43 dedicated stops. The race is along spectacular paths at the foot of the highest Four-Thousanders in the Alps and through the Gran Paradiso Natural Park and the Mont Avic Regional Park.

Run this unique and inimitable race here.

Ultra-Trail Cape Town, South Africa (25 November) 

Traverse the beautiful mountain trails of the Cape Peninsula in this unforgettable race in a world-class destination. 

The 100 miler takes participants from the northern mountain range of the Mother City to the more remote southern mountains, taking in additional trails from Silvermine to Kalk Bay, Kommetjie, Simonstown, and beyond, covering 8 500m of vertical gain in under 45 hours. 

Coach Parry 100 mile training program.

Ready to race through Cape Town on technical terrain?  Enter here.

Madeira Island Ultra Trail (23 April)

There is a place, 900km from mainland Portugal and 600km from the coast of Morocco…. Madeira. 

Madeira Island Ultra Trail (115km) provides an exciting challenge, across the island, from sea to sea, in the Northwest-Southeast direction, starting in Porto Moniz, at sea level, with passages by the highest points of the island, then again to sea level, in Machico. 

Enter this life-changing ultra trail event here.

Patagonian Expedition Race (November)

This one is for the runners who find doing just a “normal” Ultra Trail boring…

The Patagonia Expedition is completed in mixed teams of four members that must remain together throughout its duration, covering distances greater than 500 km while facing sections of mountaineering, trekking, trail running, mountain biking, and kayaking. 

The Patagonian Expedition Race offers every type of terrain a hardcore trekker could ever want: glaciers, forest, rivers & swampland.

Teams won’t know the route until 24 hours prior to the start.

Race amongst granite giants and glaciers: Enter if you dare…

Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), France (22 August)

We’ve saved the most well-known Ultra Trail event for last. The UTMB. 

A mythical race… A unique experience…

The UTMB is known as the most incredible trail-running event in the world! 

UTMB starts in Chamonix and it’s important to know that getting a place to participate is not easy – you need to first earn qualifying points and then enter a ballot.

Participants race around Mont Blanc for 170km’s passing through Italy and Switzerland, where they have to push their mental and physical limits to make it to the finish line. 

Enter one of the most famous races in the world here.

… and now, after this fantastic journey around the world… it’s time to book the races and start your training.

If race day is in just four weeks… there are probably a couple of things going through your mind right now. 

“How can it be so SOON?”

“How long before I get to taper?”

“What on earth am I meant to be doing in these four weeks?!”

The last four weeks leading into any race are the most difficult time psychologically as they are critical to the achievement of your goal. Train too much or too hard and you will line up fatigued and struggle on race day. Take your foot off the accelerator too much and you will lose fitness and gain weight. It is also during this time we are physically at our peak that our immune systems are most susceptible to infection.

So, with that said… let’s dive right into what exactly you should be doing.

What You Should Be Doing 4 Weeks Before Race Day

  1. Reduce your mileage
  2. Increase SOME intensity
  3. Adjust your diet
  4. Manage your portion size
  5. Maintain a low infection risk
  6. Get an extra hour of sleep each night
  1. A good formula to follow over the last 4 weeks, provided you have done the hard yards, is to reduce your mileage weekly by 25% in the 3rd week, then to 50% in the 2nd week, and in the last week keep the running volume very low. 
  1. During this time you will also want to increase the intensity of SOME of your sessions, however, you need to base this increase relative to your ability and goal or risk injury just before the race. 
  1. An important consideration when tapering is that your energy demand will go down, if you do not adjust your diet accordingly you will put on a few kilograms. 
    While some may advocate this as stored energy, excess weight is a killer for running efficiency, and particularly in shorter distances, you do not want to reduce your efficiency. Again this is a fine line; you do not want to starve yourself as this will reduce muscle mass, decrease motivation, and further impact immunity.
  1. Follow largely the same eating plan, cutting down on the energy/recovery drinks and managing portion size.
  1. Ensure that you maintain as low an infection risk as possible. Where possible, avoid large gatherings where exposure to infection is increased. 
  1. Try to get an hour per night of extra sleep as this will help to boost the immune system. Increase your vitamin intake – particularly vitamin C to improve your chances of fighting off infections.

Tapering

Tapering involves reducing the amount of running you do to be fresh for race day so that you can take full advantage of the training that you have done. 

The length of a taper does depend on the volume of training done. For a half marathon, 10 days of tapering should be fine, but for a full marathon or ultra-marathon – where the training volume is a lot more, the length of the taper will be longer too.

This study found that tapering can speed up your time by 5.6%.  If we look at this percent in terms of a marathon, that is the difference between a 3:20 and a 3:31! 

As mentioned above, the ideal taper would be you eventually cutting down total volume by 50% by the final week, including speed workouts. It would involve you running as many days a week as you normally do, but reducing volume in everything from workouts to long runs, as well as your weekly total mileage.

This video covers tapering specifically for a half marathon, check it out: 

Can You Taper Too Much?

Tapering is one of the most important parts of any training plan, but in many cases, it’s also one of the hardest to implement.

If we have a look at Peter Gilmore’s story, his tapering in the build-up to the 2006 Boston Half Marathon was so LITTLE.

It all started with the Houston Half Marathon 3 months prior…

Throughout the Houston Half Marathon Gilmore was feeling sluggish and slow… So after the 21km, he compared tapering notes with another athlete who pointed out that maybe Gilmore was changing his natural state by cutting his miles too drastically (Gilmore was cutting his miles by 55% in the lead up to the Houston Half Marathon)    

So, 3 weeks leading up to Boston, Gilmore cut his weekly mileage by only 35%. (Not the usual 55%) 

Boston Half Marathon results: 2:12:45. (Gilmore managed to trim 17 seconds off of his record!)

So, the point that I’m trying to make with Gilmore’s story is that, yes, you can taper too much…too fast and you can lead your body into believing it’s on “holiday”. 

By not tapering slowly your body will start to feel uncomfortable, everything will shorten and tighten up and your running stride will feel troublesome. There needs to be a balance of keeping enough stress so that your body still feels like it’s in the zone.

This is why it’s so important to reduce your mileage incrementally (25% to 50%) over the four weeks. 

Benefits Of Tapering

Based on this research study published in the Journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise:

The Benefits Of Tapering:

  • Reductions in training volume appear to induce positive physiological, psychological, and performance responses in highly trained athletes.
  • Positive physiological and performance adaptations can be expected as a result of tapers lasting 4–28 days, yet the negative effects of complete inactivity are readily apparent in athletes.
  • A realistic performance improvement of about 3%.

Now that you know how you should physically be preparing for race day, it’s important to remember that there are other race day preparations that need to take place…

11 Preparation Tips For Race Day 

  1. Enjoy The Taper
  2. Fuel Up
  3. Don’t Overdo It
  4. Plan
  5. Make Sleep a Priority
  6. Set a Goal 
  7. Hydrate
  8. Enjoy The Expo…But Resist The Freebie’s
  9. Pre Race Workout
  10. Running Kit Prep
  11. Slow Down

Enjoy The Taper

For a lot of runners, tapering can be very disconcerting. The taper is there to give your body time to freshen up, recuperate and rebuild before race day. This is the perfect time to mentally prepare for the race, so enjoy it and allow your body do what it needs to do.

Fuel Up

#1 Rule, You should not experiment with any new foods or venture too far from your normal diet. NO matter how many times your friend has recommended that brand new energy gel!

You should however be increasing your total carbohydrate intake by adding more pasta and starches (low glycemic index foods) to your diet.

Make sure to consume a higher percentage of your total daily calories as carbohydrates, but remember that you’re not running as much as you have been, so eating more than you normally do will make you feel lethargic. (Don’t overdo it)

Don’t Overdo It

At this stage, you need to trust that you have trained properly and that you’re not going to lose your fitness by resting the day before the race. 

Some people find that they benefit more from a rest day the day before the race and some people prefer to go for a slow short-jog. Just remember that this is not the time to overdo things. 

Plan

The nerves are going to be kicking in and you may find yourself feeling a bit frazzled. Why not create a proper plan to ensure things aren’t forgotten, missed, or miscommunicated. 

Organize every detail like race fuels, tags, anti-chafe products, GPS watches, and transport for before and after the race, so that you don’t have to think or stress about anything come race day.

Make Sleep a Priority

It’s been said that sleeping well two nights before an event is more important than sleeping well the night before… so I decided to look into that statement and…

It’s been proven to be true. 

A study published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology found that athletes who ran after staying up for 30 hours experienced decreased endurance performance, but that their sleep deprivation had a limited effect on pacing, cardiorespiratory, or thermoregulatory function.

So, from that study, we can conclude that one sleepless night altered the subjects’ perception of effort, not their physical abilities.

Another study published in the Journal of Sleep Research examined the effects of a single night of sleep deprivation on two hormones thought to influence the muscles’ ability to use glucose. 

It was found that one entirely sleepless night did adversely affect metabolism compared to getting seven hours of sleep.

So, from both studies, the key takeaway is that as long as you’re not chronically sleep deprived, getting less sleep than usual the night before a race won’t likely harm your performance.

Set a Goal

Technically your goal should have been set before your training even began, but if you haven’t set one yet, you definitely should. 

Setting a goal is super important because by running within your limits, every workout can be a pleasure. However, if you don’t have a goal and you start even a few seconds per mile too fast, you’ll experience excess fatigue, loss of motivation, and even injury.

By controlling your pace and your heart rate early on, you might even be able to set a PR. 

Hydrate

Hydration can make or break your race. 

A good tip is to keep a water bottle handy about a week before the race and drink throughout the day

Your urine color should be light yellow. Once it gets too dark, you’re dehydrated.

If you chug an entire liter of water just before your run, your kidneys will flush it out, causing frequent midrun bathroom breaks. 

Enjoy The Expo…But Resist The Freebie’s

Expo day is such a hype! The vibe is unexplainable and everyone can’t wait to pick up their race packets.

Try not to waste hours standing on your feet, eating free food samples (that your tummy isn’t used to), and attending all the clinics…. This will wear you out and leave you exhausted by the end of the day. 

Pre Race Workout

We recommend a pre-race (as in the day before) workout- if you are feeling up to it, if not – and you’re used to taking a rest day before the race day then that’s great too. 

It involves:

5 to 10 minutes of easy jogging, with 3 to 5 thirty-second bursts at your planned race pace, with thirty seconds of very easy jogging in between, and then a 2 or 3-minute cooldown.

Running kit Prep

This may sound like an obvious one but you’d be surprised by how many people manage to forget about it…

To avoid a panicked, chaotic race-day morning, lay out your shorts, shirt (with your race number pinned on), socks, running shoes, hydration vest, ID, and anything else you’ll be wearing in the race.

Slow Down

Finally, there isn’t much else that you can do at this point, when the race starts just remember that it’s extremely easy to get caught up in the excitement of the start… Before you know it, you’re running 1 min faster than your set race pace. 

Take it all in, but ignore the lightning McQueen’s around you and focus on yourself.

Being prepared correctly for race day will leave you feeling at ease and ready to tackle the challenge with no unexpected surprises.  

Stretching is instinctive, we all do it. We all know that amazing feeling of stretching while yawning… it feels so good!

There are two main types of stretches: Static stretches and Dynamic stretches.

Static stretches are done by standing still and holding a single position for a period of time, up to about 45 seconds. 
Dynamic stretches are controlled movements that prepare your muscles, ligaments, and other soft tissues for your run.

According to experts, the action of static stretching is in essence stretching a cold muscle, which is not good for the muscle, and depending on the nature of the stretch can have the opposite to the desired effect.

Static Stretching & Running

Static stretching doesn’t help you warm up in a way that people used to think it does. 

Static stretching is essentially stretching your muscle fibers, holding that stretch for a few seconds and then letting those muscle fibers pull back together. 

We do not favor static stretching before heading out on a run for 3 main reasons:

  1. There is very little correlation between static stretching and injury prevention. Even though we have always been taught to do this, there is no proof that static stretching can actually prevent injuries. 
  1. When you are static stretching and pulling those muscle fibers apart, you are not allowing your body to achieve an increase in power production when you are running, this is because those muscle fibers won’t have that elasticity needed to bounce back as much as you would need them to.
  1. Stretching after exercise is what causes an improvement in flexibility and reduction in injury risk over time. Stretching before exercise reduces the likelihood of post-exercise stretching.

It is a known fact that runners are creatures of habit and if you have been stretching before running throughout your career then we would encourage a warm-up before stretching.

Impact Of Static Stretching On Running Performance

We see it all the time, runners gathered with their mates in a circle practically STANDING STILL “Loosening up” by doing the good old runners quad stretch up…to run faster and prevent muscle strain. When you think about it, it does sound counteractive right?  

That’s because it is!

Runners don’t actually need that much flexibility. 

The ability to do a split or even touch your toes is not an indication that you’re resilient to injuries or have a better running aptitude.

The majority of running injuries occur within one’s normal range of motion of running. A study conducted by the CDC found that static stretching has zero effect on injury rates.

When you are running you need muscle tension to use your legs as ‘springs’. Static stretching will result in a weaker ‘spring’ and therefore a less efficient run. In other words, static stretching reduces your power output on your run.

There is one word that runners need to live by when it comes to stretching…

Mobility

If your goal is to sprint, run gracefully over rugged trails, tackle some obstacles and break PB’s then mobility is your new best friend. 

If your muscles and joints can’t move through the entire range of motion required with each stride, you won’t run as well as you would like and your risk of injury will increase.

Dynamic stretching and mobility are like two peas in a pod. Dynamic stretching increases joint and muscle mobility.

Dynamic Stretching & Running

Dynamic stretching is when your muscle fibers are lengthening, contracting, and expanding over a repetitive movement. It has been recently proven that dynamic stretching increases your power output during your run.

In this video, Brad Brown catches up with our strength & conditioning Coach Shona Hendricks to talk about whether or not stretching will make you a better runner and if so… what should you be doing?

Dynamic stretches are meant to get the body moving and aren’t held for any length of time. 

According to this study done by the International Journal Of Sports Physical Therapy, runners will reap more benefits from dynamic stretching compared to static stretching during their run.

We aren’t saying that you should never do static stretches. The best time to do static stretches would be after your run, during your cool down. 

How To Stretch Before & After A Run – Safely

A warm-up should consist of some easy running, a few builds, strides, and/or running drills. 

When doing hard training sessions such as intervals, hills, track, or time trials it is important to do a good 15-20min warm-up and to include some dynamic stretching.

For easy, recovery and long runs it is sufficient to start nice and easy for 5-10min before settling into your stride for the rest of the session.

It is still important to maintain flexibility and as such you should aim to spend at least 10min static stretching at the END of each session.

Aim to hold each stretch for a minimum of 30seconds and try to repeat each stretch twice per limb. Focus muscles should be glutes, hip flexors, hamstrings, and quads. Calf stretches should be gentle stretches.

Regular stretching post-exercise will help to reduce injury risk, particularly to the lower back, ITB and hamstrings.

Now that you know how, what stretches you should be doing & when you should be doing them, let’s have a closer look at some dynamic stretches…

Dynamic Stretches For Runners

  1. Leg Swings
  2. Activating Glutes
  3. Calf stretching
  4. Groin & Glutes
  5. Hip Flexors

Leg Swings

We recommend doing two types of leg swings.

First Type:
What: Forward and back leg swings, this is to activate your hips, quads, hamstrings, and glutes.

How:  Start gently, swing your leg forward and back, try to keep your knee as straight as possible. Then, gently increase your range of motion and the tempo at which you are swinging your leg.

Volume:  Minimum of 10 swings on each leg, but importantly – listen to your body and do as many as you feel you need. (If your legs are feeling a bit stiff then do more)

Second Type:
What: Leg swings side to side, this is to focus on the abductors, so be gentle with yourself.

How: Gently swing your leg from side to side, across your body, and slowly increase that range of motion as well as the tempo as you go along.

Volume: Minimum of 10 swings on each leg, but importantly – listen to your body and do as many as you feel you need. (If your legs are feeling a bit stiff then do more)

Remember that these are warm-up stretches so while you are doing them you should have good intentions.

Activating Glutes

Your glutes are vital for running, they play a massive role in stabilizing the hips.

What: Cross one foot over the other knee and sit yourself down in that position.

How: Hold onto something next to you to help you balance, place your left foot on top of your right knee, now bend into that right knee onto an imaginary chair.  Stand up, swap sides and do the same thing on the other side. 

Volume: Try not to hold this position into a long static stretch, feel the stretch then move on to the next side. Again, if you feel that your body needs this stretch then spend a bit more time doing it.

(This stretch can be amplified by placing your hand on your knee and applying a gentle push.)

Calf Stretching

What: Reciprocated movement of pushing down onto the heel and then forward onto the toes of each foot. 

How: Get into the position of leaning slightly forward against a wall or cabinet, your aim should be to get a good range of motion so push up onto the toes of one foot and down onto the heel of the opposite foot, and then reciprocating that movement. Increase the tempo as you do more.

Volume: 15 to 20 on each leg, depending on how your calves are feeling.

Groin & Glutes

What: Knee up to your chest.

How: Stand with your feet hip-distance apart, and bring your right knee up to your chest, whilst doing this motion go up onto your toe on the left foot and vice versa.

Volume: Again, try not to hold this position into a long static stretch, feel the stretch then move on to the next side. 

Hip Flexors

We recommend that if you do struggle with your knees then you should leave this one out.

What: Warming up the hip flexors with a high knee and lunge.

How: Pull your knee up and into your chest, take a big step forward and lunge down into that position with the leg you pulled into your chest in front of you.  Stand up straight and repeat on the other side. 

(Be aware: You do not want your front knee to be pushing over your toes)

Volume: 5 lunges on each leg, but importantly – listen to your body and stop if you feel any discomfort in your knees.

View a video demonstration of all the dynamic stretches above here.

If you need some help with stretching, strength, and conditioning, you’ll be pleased to know we’ve got a free masterclass….  Just for you!