Whether or not you’ve been hitting the pavement your whole life, chances are there’s been a point in your running journey where you’ve felt you could improve. It might hearten you to know then that, yes, even seasoned runners need to up their game from time to time. So we spoke to adidas Runners coach and five-time Guinness World Record holder Lee Ryan, to give us a few tips on how to improve our gait, or maybe even shave a few seconds off our personal bests.
Fun fact: Lee’s most recent record-breaking feat was the “fastest marathon pushing a double stroller,” which he achieved at the 2018 Dubai Marathon with a pram carrying his two daughters. Better yet, the time he completed it in – 3 hours 27 minutes, which is fast even without the stroller – was 33 minutes faster than the previous record, which he held too.
Lee’s basic mantra is sticking with “simplicity and a positive attitude.” He says while there’s a lot of noise and tips bandied around by experts, they all say, in essence, the same thing, and it’s just packaged up to sound “different and revolutionary.” Here’s how he says we can all get better.
1. Stop saying “I’m not a runner”
This will be one of your biggest downfalls. It gives people an excuse to stop before even starting. It is not the speed or the distance that makes you a runner. If you are out there running, you are a runner. Embrace it, as it will be the best decision you have ever made.
2. Enjoy the process
Let your body get used to running. There is no such thing as a bad run. Some will find it easy, some will find it hard. Not every run is “Instagram perfect.” Have a goal. Be patient. Keep going and good things will happen.
3. Learn how to stand on one leg
Yes, I know this sound crazy, but hear me out. If you were to break down the running stride into a single frame, you are basically learning how to stand on one leg and have the coordination to propel your body forward with efficiency and speed. With every step, your body has to be strong enough to move in to the next stride while standing on one leg. Here’s something to try:
While you’re waiting by the water cooler, cooking at home or brushing your teeth, try and stand on one leg for 30 seconds. If this is relatively easy for you, then try it for a minute. If this is still simple, try and do it again with your eyes closed. Train the body and nervous system to become stronger.
4. Set a goal
This doesn’t have to be huge when you start. Set a simple target. Run for 10 minutes, three days a week, and then build on that. Afterwards, set a goal that will kick your butt in the morning when the alarm goes.
5. Train your posterior chain
It’s too easy to go to the gym and to look in the mirror and say, “this needs to be bigger” or “I need to tone my legs.” Don’t forget the muscles we can’t see. The back, glutes, hamstrings, calves and feet (aka the posterior chain) all play a massive part in how we can train better. It tends to be that these muscles are so weak they can cause injuries. Here are a few quick strengthening tips and techniques to add to your gym session, or post-run, to build strength:
20 standing lunges
2 x 10 high step ups
2 x 20 glute bridges
2 x 10 crab walks
2 x elevated calf raises
Ashleigh Stewart is a New Zealand journalist, who has spent much of her career on the health beat, focusing most recently on mental health and wellbeing. She has worked in Japan, Indonesia, America, and has spent the last two years in Abu Dhabi and Dubai. She's also an avid outdoorswoman and runner, having completed her first marathon in Dubai in 2017.