The best way to train for running is to run of course, but other types of training can help to improve your performance and reduce the risk of injury. As the forward propulsion in running is a single leg movement, it makes sense to do single leg strengthening exercises in training. This helps with balance and coordination and ensures that both sides are trained equally, rather than one side taking more of the work load.
Here are a few one leg exercises to try – you can download a printable of them at the end. Make sure you’ve warmed up before you do these exercises, to avoid muscle and joint injury.
Hopping is a good way to develop ankle strength and improve balance. Any kind of hopping is good, try:
- On the spot
- Single hops backwards and forwards
- Hopping forwards for 5-10 hops and then back
- One leg skipping
The calf muscles (gastrocnemius and soleus) work very hard in running. Doing a one-leg calf raise helps to strengthen them, as well as challenging the core and glute muscles that keep us balanced on one leg. Focus on keeping your core muscles engaged.
Side to side leaps
Although we don’t move directly to the side in running, we don’t always run in a straight line either, so a bit of lateral training is good. This one is also good for coordination and core strength.
Lunge into hop
This one is good for glute strength as well as ankle strength, balance and coordination. Make an effort to contract your glutes strongly as you extend your leg behind
Lateral lift step
Finally, this is a similar action to the calf raise, but the calves are working in a different way. Here, they work to keep the foot and ankle stable as the heel lowers to the step. If you don’t have a fitness step, just use your bottom stair or any other solid, stable platform.