Andrew Cheong, coach of the Shape Run pacers, shares the best exercises for runners (other than running, that is).
Cycling is a good cross-training activity for runners to build up endurance. (Photo: skeeze / www.pixabay.com)
1. Best exercises to improve running: Cross-training
Non-load bearing aerobic endurance exercises like swimming, cycling, machine rowing are highly recommended. These activities increase the heart rate without putting more stress on your knees, ankles or hips. In my opinion, training on elliptical machines and stair machines as well as walking or hiking are not as ideal because these aerobic exercises tend to put weight on the same joints that running does.
If you’re keen on trying Crossfit or aerobics classes, be mindful: These are good for core strength and aerobic workouts, but runners who are not used to the movements may get injured. So go slow!
Yoga, in general, not aerobic in nature, but it might be good on a rest day to stretch, relax and recharge.
2. Best exercises to improve running: Functional exercises
Functional exercises that simultaneously use a combination of muscles and joints to improve muscular endurance, overall strength, coordination, balance, posture and agility, are best. In contrast, isolated weight lifting moves, such as bicep curls and tricep extensions, are easy to do but not very useful for runners.
Functional exercise using your body weight (and free weights, optional) might also be more effective than machines. Using standing squats with a barbell and leg presses with a machine as an example: Both work the quadriceps in the thighs, but standing squats also activate smaller muscles that help with balance and running form. Good exercises to include in your routine are squats, hamstring curls, calf raises, push-ups, sit-ups and planks.
An experienced runner, Andrew Cheong has taken part in more than 30 endurance races locally and overseas, including the Boston Marathon and various Ironman races. He is a certified running coach from Road Runners Clubs of America (RRCA).