It's been said that the best kind of exercise is the one you'll stick with. So whatever you're into, we won't judge you (unless it's prancercise). Rather, we want to help you do it to the best of your ability. We looked at the most popular methods guys use to get in shape, from weight training to pickup basketball, and drew up a plan to help you excel at them.
Remember the cues: When people stop running, it’s usually because of injury. The pounding your joints take with repeated footstrikes will always pose risks, but keeping good running form can keep you in the game a lot longer. “Think ‘high knees,’ ” says Lee Boyce, a trainer and track coach in Toronto. “You don’t want to shuffle along the ground. Run tall and ensure that your knees are always directing you.” You must also avoid twisting your torso during a run. This will keep your core engaged and reduce the risk of injury to the hips and lower back. “And pay attention to your foot strike,” Boyce says. “Focus on landing on your mid-foot. There should be very little friction,” as opposed to if you landed on your heel first. Finally, learn to relax. “Tension held in the face, arms, and neck is the enemy. Breathe deeply to avoid cramping.
Attack your weaknesses: Running causes muscle tightness throughout the lower body, so you need to work on it regularly with a foam roller. Key areas to hit are the quads, hip flexors (the muscles at the top of your pelvis), and IT bands (along the sides of your thighs). Roll these parts with the foam and hold any particularly ten- der areas until you feel them begin to release—do this before and/or after runs. You can also take preventive measures to protect your knees. The vastus medialis, the muscle on the inner side of your quads, acts as the main stabilizer for the knee joint. You canstrengthen it with the Peterson stepup. Set up a small box or step that’s about eight inches off the floor and stand to the left of it. Bend your right knee and place the ball of your right foot on the step (heel raised). It’s OK for your knee to be in front of your toes. Extend your knee to step up onto the box as you lower your heel to the surface, but let your left foot dangle. Perform three sets of 8–10 reps on each leg and work to raise the height of the step over time.Lastly, run outside instead of on a treadmill whenever possible. Running on a moving belt pulls your legs behind you, doing the work that your posterior chain muscles should be taking on, and that leads to muscle imbalances, Boyce says. “Let the glutes and hams play their role.”
Change tempo: Running is progressed by reaching a total weekly mileage. This should include runs done at different tempos, or paces. Day 1 can be a slower-paced jog for a longer distance—perhaps up to five miles. The next day can be faster, where you look to complete your distance—say 21⁄2 miles—in a shorter time. The combo of endurance and speed wins races.