When it comes to running, there's more to it than just pounding the pavement. In order to avoid injury and stay strong, you need to cross train to keep your muscles and joints healthy. Follow our runner's winter workout to give you the base you need to succeed.
Indoor Winter Workout For Runners
Hold onto a wall or bar for support, and swing one leg in front and behind you 10 times. Repeat on the other leg. Make sure you feel the stretch in the hamstring as the leg comes forward, and the stretch in the hip as it goes behind you.
Lateral Leg Swings
This is the same thing, but now you swing the leg from side to side in front of you. Feel the stretch in the inner thigh (adductor) as the leg swings out to the side.
For this warm up, you imagine you are stepping over invisible hurdles. Lift up your left leg and step it sideways over an invisible hurdle, making sure as the right leg comes over it steps over too. Do 3-4 steps one way and repeat going back the other.
Banded Back Squats
Back squats are a great exercise for runners as they target all of the muscle groups in the legs. By using a resistance band round your knees, you will train your hips to stay open and encourage perfect form. This will also help to strengthen your IT band which is a common cause of injury for runners.
Place the resistance band just above your knees and keep your knees pushing outwards for the duration of the lift. Place a bar on your back and drop into a squat. Make sure your hips drop below your knees and then use your glutes to squeeze you back up. Complete 3 sets of 10 on a fairly light weight.
Banded Front Squats
Front squats also work all of the muscles in the legs, but they also encourage you to keep your chest up because the bar is on your front. Front squats will work your glutes harder as you can't cheat!
Place the resistance band just above your knees again but this time place the bar on your front, supporting it with your hands. Keep your elbows high. Keep your chest proud and drop into a squat. Make sure you really squeeze your glutes so that you can shoot back up without leaning forwards and dropping the bar. Complete 3 sets of 10 on a light weight.
Deadlifts are another important exercise for runners as they will strengthen your back and core so that you can stay strong throughout the race and not suffer from any aches as the miles rack up.
With the bar on the floor, place your feet under the bar so that it touches your shins and bend your knees so that you can grab the bar. Keep your bum down and your chest high, squeeze your shoulder blades together and pick the bar up off the floor. Lock out at the top by pushing your hips slightly forward and then bend back down to place the bar back on the floor. Do 3 sets of 10 on a fairly heavy weight. Make sure you keep your back dead straight throughout the lift and squeeze your core tight to protect your spine.
KB Single Leg Deadlifts
This is a fantastic exercise, especially if you suffer with pain in your feet and ankles when you run. It will correct any strength imbalances between your legs and help with your balance as well as leg strength.
Start with the right side: Find your balance on your right leg and hold the kettlebell in your right hand. Slow lean forward so that the kettlebell lowers to the floor while simultaneously lifting your left leg behind you. Squeeze your glutes so that your left leg lifts nice and high and see if you can lean all the way forward so that the kettlebell touches the floor. Slowly pivot back to centre. Repeat 10 times then switch to the other side.
KB Side Leans
Time to target the abs. Hold the kettlebell in your right hand and keep it by your side. Lean to the right, moving only your waist. Slide the kettlebell down your right leg and then squeeze your abs to come back up. Repeat 10 times then swap to the left side.
Talk to anyone in the fitness industry and they'll tell you that training your core is vital for your health and well-being. Follow this abs workout to get the stomach you've always wanted while strengthening your core.
Our workout starts with a truly classic abs exercise for toning your stomach. This exercise will target the entire abdonimal area and work deep into the core. To perform crunches properly and with good technique, start by lying flat on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Place your fingers by your temples with your elbows kept back. Keep your chin tucked in to protect your spine and prevent you from over-stretching your neck. Using your stomach muscles (not your shoulders or back) lift your shoulders and upper back off the floor.
The difference between crunches and sit-ups is that crunches are a much smaller movement. With sit-ups, you fully sit up so that your entire back is off the floor. With crunches, you are just doing micro movements for a more intense burn. For an added benefit, pause at the top of the movement and then lower back down very slowly.
Perform continuous reps for 30 seconds as a beginner, 45 for an intermediate exerciser, and 60 seconds if you're more advanced.
Plank Shoulder Taps
This exercise truly targets deep into the core to strengthen your abs muscles and improve your overall fitness and conditioning. Start in a press up position with your hands directly underneath your shoulders and your back flat and straight. Slowly pick up one hand and touch it to the opposite shoulder. Squeeze your abs as you put it back down and then do the same with the other hand. As you swap hands be sure not to rock your hips; keep them as still as possible. This exercise should be quite challenging so take it slow and make it count.
Beginners should do this movement continuously for 30 seconds, 45 for the intermediate, and 60 seconds for the more advanced.
If you thought you'd be able to make it through this workout without having to do the dreaded plank, you'd be wrong! This exercise is a classic for a reason as it works the core and abs very effectively and is a great way to test your core strength. To perform the plank properly and with best technique, place your forearms flat on the floor with your hands flat, palms facing up. Keep your elbows directly under your shoulders at all times and place your feet hip-width apart. Keep your head in line with your spine but allow your eyes to look at the floor (or close your eyes if it helps!) Squeeze your belly button upwards towards your spine to keep your core tight.
Hold for as long as you can! 60 seconds is an excellent milestone.
This cardio exercise is not one many people would associate with being a core exercise, but when done correctly it can really work your abs and help you target this area effectively.
To perform kettlebell swings, start with your feet wider than hip width, holding the kettlebell by the horns with both hands. Bend your knees and start to swing the kettlebell between your legs. As you straighten your legs, swing the kettlebell up to shoulder height. You can swing it higher than this, but this is a safe and effective height for most exercisers. As the bell swings up, squeeze your core as tight as you can. As it starts to swing back down, don't let it drag your shoulders down with it. Instead, keep your shoulders up and your chest proud, looking up and ahead of you.
A beginner will do well to perform this exercise for 30 seconds, intermediate 45, advanced 60 seconds. 4kg-8kg is a good weight range for a beginner.
Read more about the benefits of the kettlebell swing
Getting in cold, open water can hold fear or confusion for many athletes, or others just simply don’t enjoy it. Whatever happens, it’s good to be prepared; follow these tips for preparing for the open water.
When you get in open water, take time to familiarise yourself and if you can't get comfortable, at least get acclimatised. The number one issue for panic is people setting off too quickly, either just to get on or to get warm. This spikes your heart rate and your breathing and will likely set off any anxiety that will become more difficult to control. Let your wetsuit float you up in the water and try to relax back so you can float on your back – and then on your front too.
Identify the struggles of swimming in open water
Going off course. Panicking. Swimming into people. Letting your form collapse. Maybe you’re not being used to swimming in a wetsuit. Unforeseen conditions like strong currents and surf/chop.
The number one remedy to the majority if not all of the above is practice, practice, practice.
It's true that it is hard to get a lot of practice in open water because of schedules, weather conditions, and other commitments. So continue to swim your regular sessions every week. But as the race approaches take one or two of those swims into open water, whether it be a lake, estuary, or ocean. Make it as high a priority as possible.
Swimming in the pool is not completely different from swimming in the open water – but it does have its own vagaries. So to get faster at the latter, you need to do it more. And not just on race day.
Use these swims to test your wetsuit, practice sighting, get used to not seeing the bottom, and practice with others. Also, work on longer intervals at race pace. Some people will benefit from maintaining a more constant rhythm – others will need to readjust from having a rest and a push off at the end of every length!
Prepare as much as you can in the pool
Swimming in the pool still has its place. Even though you race in the open water, you should still keep up your regular weekly pool sessions, especially if your form is still weak. Of course, you can work on technique in the lake or sea, but it becomes more challenging. Pool swims are important to develop speed and improve technique without the distractions that open water provides. Use the pool to focus on your form and drill work as well as a few race pace speed sets for time so that you can monitor your splits.
If open water is simply out of the question, simulate the chop, surf, and congestion by trying to swim in a lane with three to four other people at the same time. It is tough but it will mimic that race start well. Also, close your eyes while swimming to mimic losing your ability to guide yourself with the black line (obviously only do this if you have an empty lane!) Turning before the wall is also a great way to simulate the stop-go of open water swimming, and not resting between lengths.
Swimming in open water – at least with a wetsuit – should be quicker than swimming in the pool. So make sure that you are prepared for swimming in open water. Practise putting your wetsuit on so that it fits properly over your shoulders. Get yourself comfortable entering the water so that your heart rate doesn’t take such a shock to the system come race day.
Read more: Tips For Swimming In Open Water
About the author: John Wood is a triathlete, triathlon coach, and Sundried ambassador.
If you are training for a marathon or are just an avid runner, you would have heard that cross training workouts are a must as part of your training regime. Try adding this gym cross training workout for runners into your weekly training plan and enjoy the results!
Before you begin, it's important to do dynamic stretches to prepare your body for exercise. Complete 10 leg swings forwards and backwards on each leg and then perform 10 side to side on each leg. Perform a few torso twists to warm up your body and then you're ready to start!
After completing your dynamic stretches, walk for 5 minutes on the treadmill at a brisk pace to get your heart rate rising and your muscles warm. After 5 minutes, jog steadily for 5 minutes and then walk again at a brisk pace with a low gradient of around 2%.
Your main workout is a Tabata workout. Tabata is a type of HIIT which is intensive and will condition your body well. This is the perfect type of cross training to do when training for an event like a marathon as it increases your fitness as well as your stamina and will target the full body so that you can tackle any challenge the race throws at you.
Tabata training consists of 8 rounds of exercises, each of which are completed for 20 seconds with 10 seconds rest in between. As such, the workout only lasts 4 minutes but is done at almost 100% intensity. If you are more advanced, you can complete this workout twice with a longer rest in between.
Click or tap on an exercise to learn how to do it and what benefits it has.
Each of these exercises will target a different part of the body and will improve your cardiovascular fitness, power, and strength.
Once you’re comfortable in the water and swimming further and easier than before, the next challenge is to get quicker! Either because you want to beat your friends, set personal bests, finish further up the results, or potentially even qualify for age group teams.
There are three keys to getting faster at swimming:
- Reducing frontal resistance to the water
- Pulling/kicking with purpose
- Not rushing your stroke
Reducing your resistance to the water
This will mean that you can move faster and further with the same level of effort and this is a real foundation to strong and fast swimming. If you are able to focus on good posture in the water – i.e. looking down, lengthening your spine and engaging your core, then you’ll be in a really good place.
A simple trick to focus this is to streamline when you push off the wall every time. This is not cheating – a comment that I get from many athletes! This is a skill that will help you travel faster and with better form, improving the quality of your swims. Imagine it like a squat jump. When you push off the wall, if possible, squeeze your ears between your biceps with your hands together above your head. If shoulder mobility doesn’t allow this, just keep your arms in front of you but still aiming to tuck your chin down toward your chest.
All this will help lengthen your spine and keep your head in the right position – it’s your reset point every length. Finally, when you push off, you will automatically engage your core – meaning that your first few strokes will be among your best ever. Your challenge is then to try and maintain that as far down each length as you can!
Pulling and kicking with purpose
With resistance reduced, you can look to engage with the water more rather than moving your arms and legs just for the sake of moving them. Kick drills can teach you to kick smoothly rather than panic splashing your legs around. You can kick streamlined (see above), on your front or on your back, or do side kick to work on body roll – in any case, make sure that your legs are pushing against the water.
With your arms, you can do sculling drills to get used to feeling pressure of the water against your hands and forearms – and transferring this into doing your full stroke. Swimming with fists can have the same effect. Whatever drills you end up doing, mix them into doing full stroke so that you can feel where the drill is trying to work on in your stroke. Focus on each kick or pull having some purpose rather than trying to just do things for the sake of doing them!
Not rushing your stroke
Finally, with regards to swimming faster I like to think of the phrase "less haste, more speed". If you look at the top athletes in most sports – Jonny Wilkinson or Dan Carter in rugby, Messi or Ronaldo in football, rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover, swimmer Katie Ledecky etc – they never look like they are rushing, even though they are doing things at incredibly high speed.
Some of this comes down to the fact that they are very well practised. On top of this though, they know that they have all the time that they need to undertake the skills that they are doing. There is no rush. In the case of Glover & Stanning, or Katie Ledecky, their stroke rates are incredibly high – but they don’t look like they are rushing things. Again, think about connecting with the water and pushing – rather than just trying to throw your arms and legs around aimlessly to go quicker. Effort does not necessarily equal speed!
About the author: John Wood is a triathlete, triathlon coach, and Sundried ambassador.