Even a little strength training can convey major improvements. There is a wide range of strength training activities and exercises that can be done with no equipment at all. Weights and exercise equipment can be helpful but are not necessary.
Dynamic stretching can be accomplished by including short distances or periods of your workout executing flex runs or flex skipping exercises. (See Guilford, Running and FitNews, November, 1998.) After each exercise is completed the runner simply returns to his light jog until the heart rate has returned to normal. At that point, another exercise is completed.
More: The Dynamic Warm-Up
When you're finished, you have had a shorter run, but you have raised your heat rate and recovered number of times, and improved your range of motion not to mention your agility. This "twofer" principle is a great way to hit several training objectives at once.
Light days can also provide the opportunity to work on running form. Training to improve running form is very important for two reasons. It can help you to move more efficiently and therefore improve your times right away. Even the most advanced runner can improve his form. While improving your running times may not be important to you, improving running form still has important benefits.
If your form is more linear and more stable, it can help prevent injuries. Start out by jogging for a short distance or complete some other activity that will thoroughly warm your body up. Then continue for short distances concentrating on one element of running form that will improve your efficiency. You may need to consult a trainer or strength and conditioning coach for an analysis of your form and constructive criticism for means to improve it.
A similar procedure can be followed while executing hill runs. Hill runs are great for developing strength as well as adding variety to cardiovascular training. Bleachers or stadium steps can be used if there are no hills where you live. However, it is important to remember to concentrate on running form when running hills and stairs. Many runners will sacrifice form for what they think is speed when they are making an all-out effort. An all-out effort is not necessary when executing hill runs. Run as slowly as necessary to maintain good running form. Increased strength and, as a result, speed will come naturally.
Sprint build ups or interval work can be incorporated into your light day running workout in a similar way. Start out with a light jog. After you warm up, gradually build up speed until you don't feel like running fast any more. Then slow down to a comfortable pace until fully recovered. Repeat this build up and recovery procedure until you have completed the amount of running or the amount of time you have planned for running that day. You can get a lot of conditioning done in a short period of time.
Overall, training must be approached intelligently. One of the best favors you can do for your body and your running performance is to respect the need for rest and recovery. However, that doesn't mean becoming a sloth. It is that misconception that leads some runners to avoid rest and recovery and just train-hard, harder, and hardest. That won't work in the long run. A better approach is to understand recovery as a training tool and use it well. Remain active on rest days and use light days to address training objectives directly. This is a winning way to train.
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