Good running form reduces injury and will improve your performance by optimising your strength and energy. These exercises encourage good joint alignment and proprioception (the body’s ability to sense movement and joint position). Core stability work will also help you develop a good running posture. A stable core while running also allows muscles to work together more freely and efficiently. For exercises where dumbbells are used, choose a weight that allows you to do 15-30 easy repetitions.
HOW Walk forwards by raising your knee in front of you to 90 degrees, keeping the foot in a toes-up position. Roll up onto the toes of the standing foot, keeping this leg straight. Hold this position for a couple of seconds, before placing the front foot on the ground in a heel-strike position, then roll up onto the toes to repeat the action on the other leg. Focus on keeping the hips high and the spine in neutral. Take 10 steps, rest for a minute, then repeat.
WHY Promotes good hip posture, balance and strong calf muscles.
HOW Stand near the edge of a step. Move one leg out in front at about 45 degrees. Slowly squat down, making sure you keep your knee in alignment. Do eight reps on each leg, recover for one minute, then repeat.
WHY It requires balance and stability, and encourages the correct alignment of the hip and knee.
Dumbbell bench press
HOW Lie on a bench, keeping your back flat against it. Holding a dumbbell in each hand level with your chest, push upwards and straighten each arm, then return. Do two sets of 10 reps with two minutes’ recovery.
WHY Develops strength and control in the arms to encourage a good plane of motion for running.
HOW Stand parallel to a bench, putting your closest knee and hand on it. Hold a dumbbell in your other hand. Starting with the arm straight beneath you, pull the dumbbell up towards your shoulder, then lower. Do two sets of 10 reps with two minutes’ recovery.
WHY Encourages upper-body control and arm alignment.
HOW Take a step forward with one leg, landing on the heel and rolling weight onto the forefoot (but not going up onto your toes). Lower the body by bending at the knee and hip of this front leg, ensuring that the knee does not go beyond the toes. The rear knee should bend until it is almost in contact with the floor. Rise back up as you proceed to step forward leading with the other leg. Take 10 steps, rest for a minute, then turn and repeat.
WHY This move encourages correct alignment and control of the hip and knee. It works on the propulsion phase of running, therefore helping to develop good forward motion. The muscles are worked through a large range of movement, so a good stride length is also encouraged.
HOW In a face-down position, rest your weight on your forearms and toes. Engage your core by drawing in your pelvic and lower stomach muscles. Keep your body in alignment and hold the position for a count of 10, then recover for 30 seconds. Perform three times. A more difficult progression of the exercise is to do the move while lifting alternate legs.
WHY This is a great way to build endurance in your core muscles, which means you’ll be able to maintain your form better in races.
HOW Lie on your side with your feet on a small step. Keeping your elbow under your shoulder, raise your hips up until your body is in alignment. Then move the top leg up and down while maintaining this position. Perform eight lifts on each leg, rest for a minute, then repeat the exercise on the other side.
WHY Improves core stability and control of the pelvis. It helps to reduce the pelvis ‘dropping down’ to the side on footstrike, making your running more efficient.
HOW Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Rest your arms by your sides. Engage your core by imagining you are drawing your belly button towards the floor. Keeping your shoulders on the floor, push your hips up into the air so that your knees, hips and shoulders are in a straight line. Hold for a couple of seconds, then lower slowly. Do two sets of 10 reps with two minutes’ recovery. The exercise can be made more difficult by doing it with one leg extended.
WHY Develops core stability and control around the pelvis. It also encourages recruitment of the gluteus maximus muscles (your behind).