16 Easy Strength Exercises & Stretches to Help You Run Faster & Injury-Free

Maybe you’re plagued by injuries.

Maybe it’s too cold/icy/windy/[insert excuse here] to run outdoors today.

Maybe you’re burned out and want to shake up your routine a little bit.

Or maybe you want to finally break past a plateau to become a stronger, faster, more efficient runner.

While there’s certainly something to be said for hill repeats, speedwork, and long runs, there’s more to running than … well, just running. Strength training and stretching have not only been found to improve overall running performance, they can also help you prevent injury.

Yes, I know it’s time-consuming. It’s boring. You have places to go and people to see. But if you can take fifteen to thirty minutes after each run to perform some simple exercises and stretches, you’ll reap the benefits faster than you might expect. It also may prevent you from being forced to stop running (injuries beat stubbornness every single time).

And before you say you “can’t” because you can’t afford a gym membership or fancy equipment, I’ll tell you that none of that is required. You have no more excuses.

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A Tale of Two No Meat Athlete Shirts

Without a doubt, my favorite part of this gig is hearing stories like this one, from first-time marathoner Scott. We posted it on Facebook earlier, but I wanted to share it here too.

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Scott and Felipe

Matt,

On Sunday I ran my first marathon, and I wanted to thank you. 15 miles in, my knee started hurting; by 20 miles I thought I was never going to finish. Somehow I dug deep and hobbled my way to mile 25.

As I was half running, half limping, I came upon a fellow runner wearing a No Meat Athlete shirt named Felipe. He was walking, so I slowed down to compliment him on his shirt. As soon as he saw my shirt, he stopped walking and started running with me, and explained he had tweaked his knee a few miles back and couldn’t find the motivation to start running again, until we met. We ran the last mile all out together and crossed the finish line with arms raised and proud of our shirts and accomplishment.

Thank you for bringing together runners that share a common thread, your shirts helped me and Felipe share the last push across the finish line together.

-Scott

If you’ve got a story or photo to share, post it on our Facebook page!

P.S. — Did you hear Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona is offering a discount on registration for No Meat Athlete readers? We’ll have a tent at the finish, too, with vegan treats for anyone who shows up in their NMA shirt. Check it out here.

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How Most People Fail (Before They Even Start)

A few days ago, I got an email from a woman named Lynita. It’s what today’s post is about.

Here’s what Lynita wrote to me:

I’m four weeks into the Marathon Roadmap training!! I felt the need to tell someone…but preferably someone who has no vested interest in my life in case it turns out to be an epic bust!! icon smile

I ran my first and only half marathon August of last year. I’ve been running regularly since but haven’t had anything to train for until now and my running, even though enjoyable, had been stagnant. So, I decided I needed a goal, and if you’re going to set one, set one BIG, right??

I thought [the half marathon] would suffice! But, apparently I was mistaken. Something inside me desired to do so much more. I’ve set my sights on running a full 26.2 miles. I haven’t had meat in four weeks and am continually trying to clean up my diet. I feel the foods I eat affect me possibly even more than the typical person.

So, we’ll keep this on the down low for now – you know, in case of that epic failure thing. However if these crazy joints carry me 26.2 miles across a marathon finish line, you’ll be one of the first to know.

Thanks for the inspiration! Keep it up…please icon smile

Lynita

On the surface, these look like the words of someone destined for success. But if Lynita doesn’t change something, I’d bet against her.

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How to Get Started (or Re-Started) with Running

Podcast Radio2A few months ago, I wrote a post called How I’ve Begun Changing My Life, One Habit at a Time.

Surprisingly, that post ended up getting more links from other sites than just about anything else I’ve written here, and generated tons of emails from readers excited about creating their own habits.

The ideas in that post spawned my own running streak, where I ran for 70 consecutive days. And my podcast co-host Doug, since starting his own streak, has crossed the 100-day mark and is shooting for 400 (!) days.

But I know how hard it is to start a fitness habit; I’ve been there often after taking breaks that last a little longer than planned. And though it’s much easier to get back into it after a break than it is to start from scratch, the principles for getting started or re-started aren’t so different.

Since “How do I get started with running?” is a question we constantly get in the 1-800-Flowers.com Inbox, Doug and I figured it’s a subject worthy of a podcast episode. (Note: we don’t really have a sponsored inbox, just a disorganized and overflowing gmail account.)

This episode is a long one, and it’s packed with info — so packed that after listening to it, we decided we need to lighten it up next time! But it’s an important topic, and if you’re struggling with getting started, then I think you’ll find a lot of helpful stuff here.

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An Introduction to Energy Gels: The Who, What, When, Where, and Why

Post written by Doug Hay.

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Peanut butter? Mint chocolate? Espresso love? And that’s just one brand!

I will never forget my first energy gel.

It was junior year of high school, 10 miles into my first half marathon. I was a complete distance running novice, clueless as to what I was getting myself into. The entire race was spent mimicking the more experienced looking runners around me to figure out things like when to drink, when to make a move, and of course, when to grab this weird goo from one of the volunteers.

After watching others do the same, I grabbed the unusual packet and squeezed it into my mouth. It felt like I had just inhaled a mouth full of Nickelodeon’s green slime, and it didn’t taste much better.

Since then, gels have come a long way, and while they’re still pretty slimy, the taste and variety of flavors have certainly improved. But if you’re a new runner, the wide array of options and guidelines can be confusing. (And if you’re vegan, even more so.)

To understand anything, I like to start with the basics. Today that means covering the 5 W’s — who, what, when, where, and why — of energy gels, so that you can decide if they’re right for you and, if they are, understand a  little more about how to use them.

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10 Delicious Ways to Eat More Kale

emklogoI know: you know all about kale.

If you’ve been to a Whole Foods recently, you probably already know that kale scores a perfect 1000 on Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Aggregate Nutrition Density Index (ANDI).

And if you’re a fan of No Meat Athlete on Facebook and saw the infographic we shared a few weeks ago, then you know that per calorie, kale has more iron than red meat and more calcium than milk!

I’ll bet you’ve even heard about those great Eat More Kale shirts, and the fight with Chick-fil-A.

But here’s the real question: are you actually eating kale?

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Today, Go Read Something Else

One of the things I fear most when I hit “Publish” on a new No Meat Athlete post is that what I’m writing will come off as preaching.

I don’t think this is a bad thing to fear. Some will argue that I could have a much bigger impact and convince a lot more people to try being vegetarian or vegan if I weren’t so afraid to tout the benefits of a plant-based diet, but I don’t believe that’s true.

Instead, I think the choice not to write that stuff — to resist the temptation to write about animal cruelty or even the health benefits of a plant-based diet over a traditional one — and instead provide readers with tools (and hopefully some inspiration) to make the transition, is what has made No Meat Athlete popular with a pretty decent-sized and growing audience. And more important, it’s what has helped No Meat Athlete help a lot of people go vegetarian or vegan.

It works well. People who already on board get something they like reading and sharing (thank you, btw!), and people who aren’t yet convinced often stick around and continue to pay attention over time until they’re ready to give it a try. Without being turned off by preaching, or equating going vegan with joining a cult.

But …

It turns out there is a way to argue for a plant-based diet in a manner that’s tasteful, non-preachy and appealing to a wide audience, not just the proverbial choir.

Here it is. It’s a post from my friend Leo at Zen Habits, called A Guide to Eating a Plant-Based Diet.

Leo’s post is long, which is why this one short. I hope you’ll check out Leo’s post, and more than that, I hope you’ll share it, so that the message travels far and wide.

If it’s not a post I could have written, the next best thing is to help it spread, right?

PS — Leo’s post has tons of links to studies and supporting evidence, which is a testament to the amount of time he spends researching what he writes. I’ve learned a lot from following links on Zen Habits. His post on soy is another great example, and one of my favorites.

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28 Ideas to Help You Afford Those Pesky Running and Triathlon Habits

Post written by Susan Lacke.

New York marathon 2011

#1: Skip the big city, big brand races and go for smaller, local ones.

“Running is becoming so … elitist.” sighed a friend recently. “It used to be so cheap to just put on a pair of shoes and do a 5K, but now it’s ridiculously expensive. And triathlon, ha! Don’t even get me started on triathlon.”

The statement gave me pause. Is it really that expensive? In my head, I did the math:

A marathon entry fee can be pricey, sure. According to FindMyMarathon.com, at least 41 marathons in the United States charge more than $100 to enter. The New York City Marathon, for example, has a $255 entry fee.

Of course, you’d need the proper running shoes, socks, shorts, shirts … let’s throw in a hat, too. We’ll say, ballpark … $200. And a watch, for $35 — unless you want GPS, then we’re looking at a couple hundred dollars. You eat more, too, so there’s an increase in your everyday food budget. Speaking of food, I need to go buy a box of gels ($34).

That’s just for running. My friend was right – don’t even get me started on triathlon.

But is it elitist? I’m not quite buying what she’s selling. It really doesn’t have to be that expensive. Over the past few years, I’ve found a few tricks for saving cash as a runner and triathlete. Here are 28 tips that will have you paying like a pauper, but running like a prince.

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