The human body likes routine and predictability, it also likes to save calories (correct form costs more energy), which makes it very easy to fall into bad habits when it comes to running mechanics.
My suggestion is to dedicate at least one of your conditioning sessions to a more athletic approach. Speed, power, and athleticism are qualities that we lose quickly and unfortunately the traditional approach to jogging that most people use can actually make things worse.
A few things to know:
- Speed will carry over to improved performance at distance
- Speed will help you hold onto power and quickness
- Speed work gets the job done in a fraction of the repetitions of regular jogging
- Speed work elevates growth hormone, testosterone, and other hormones that decline with age
- Your heart rate will be elevated between repeats, so even though you aren’t going as far, you’ll still be breathing hard for almost the entire time
First, spend a few minutes doing mobility and glute activation. A mini-band will easily fit into a pocket.
Then do hill sprints. These should be short bursts between 10 to 20 seconds of all out work followed by up to two minutes of rest. Part of that can include easy jogging for active recovery.
Sprinting demands a lot from your nervous system, so it makes the most sense to do these at the beginning. As you get fitter and stronger, decrease the amount of rest.
Hill sprints fix a lot of problems with mechanics, provide more benefits (increased growth hormone, testosterone, etc.), and are easier on the joints which is why I think they’re a priority.
Second, right after sprinting, go to a field or running track and do a mix of the following drills for 15 – 30 minutes. You can do these, changing from one drill to another, resting briefly as needed and/or interspersing some easy jogging for active recovery.
- Power Skips (for height and/or distance)
- Carioca (if you played football or soccer these should be familiar)
- Run Backwards
- High Knee Running
Years ago I coached a young woman who was on her college rowing crew. She needed to improve her time in a three mile run in order to keep a spot on the varsity eight boat. This approach (hill sprints followed by a mix of drills) helped her get faster and secure her place on the boat.
Another great approach is to work on short distance repeats. Because many people are working against deeply ingrained running mechanics, I suggest keeping the distances at no more than 200 meters. Much beyond that and you’re more likely to reinforce bad habits.
Do a YouTube search for Olympic or NCAA Division 1 track and field. Watch sports whether that’s football, soccer, baseball, or rugby. That’s a completely different way of moving than what you typically see. That’s running.
It’s also a lot harder, which is why it’s important to keep the distances short so that you can do it well.
Super Short (10-40 meter)
Use this distance primarily for increased in leg strength, power, and hormone production. Repeat up to 10 times with full recovery in-between, twice per week.
Medium (40-100 meter)
This distance is an extension of super short distance, which can be used for repeats to improve conditioning, or for building muscular endurance in the legs. Repeat up to 8 times with near full recovery.
Long (100-200 meter)
This distance is an anaerobic nightmare. It’ll challenge your mental toughness. It has similar benefits to the shorter distances listed above but it emphasizes conditioning and anaerobic endurance over power and strength. Repeating this distance 4 to 6 times is plenty for most people.
Move well, then move often!