The BIG “Little” Things

I often hear runners talk about “the little things.”


Usually it’s in the context of “I don’t have time for the little things, but I’m getting my training in,” or something similar — which of course means that the “little” things are everything but the running.


I’m not sure how or why we started to call things like foam rolling and strength work “the little things” because they can have a BIG impact on your running. These “little things” are what keep you healthy, allow you to train consistently, help you run faster and recover better. Really the only thing about them that is “little” is the amount of time you need for them!


If you want to enjoy your running more, if you want to reduce your risk of injury (and not have to STOP running), and if you want to run faster, make the time in your schedule for these components. Even if you have to cut the mileage of your run a bit to fit these in, you’ll be a better runner for it.


In order, here are the BIGGEST of the “little” things …



#1) FOAM ROLLING (and stretching) — 4 minutes a day


I put the focus on foam rolling here because I think it’s an important part of the recovery process and I think you want to be a bit more strategic about how / what you stretch — always good to consult with a medical professional on that.


For foam rolling, I think 30 seconds a day on each foot, calf, quad, and glute goes a long way towards keeping you healthy and running your best!




#2) POST-RUN STRENGTH — 4 minutes on running days


Working on running-specific strength in a fatigued state is a great way to get a good return on the time you spend doing the exercises. Start with these to hit a variety of important running muscles:


Eccentric calf raises (30 seconds on each leg)

Great way to strengthen calves and help protect against Achilles issues



Lunges (60 seconds, alternating legs)

Hits a variety of “primary movers” including the glutes, hamstrings, and quads



Balance drill (30 seconds on each leg)

Good balance and proprioception are vital for efficient running and reducing stress on lower leg muscles



1-leg bridge (30 seconds on each leg)

Isolates the glute muscles and doing it in a single-leg variation makes sure it’s as running-specific as possible




#3) PRE-RUN WARM UP — 90 seconds on running days


You can certainly add more exercises here and get good results, but at a minimum I think you need to do:


Body-weight squats (30 seconds)

These help fire up the big muscles in your legs (including your glutes) so that they’re ready to help on the run. They also help get your heart rate up a bit and get the blood flowing through the legs.



Leg cycle drill (30 seconds on each leg)

This exercise helps you lock in the movement pattern that you want to use as you’re running. It’s a great way to practice your hip extension as well as getting your feet to land directly underneath your hips.





About Coach Carl
Coach Carl is a USA Track & Field Level 2 endurance coach who works with runners of all ability levels to reach their goals. He has been featured in Runner’s World, Women’s Health, Men’s Fitness, and Competitor. For information on his coaching services, click here.