(Ian Fagala will be a regular guest blogger to Finish Line Feeling. He will focus on general fitness and training) 

It’s only fair that I give you a bit of backstory about myself before I start telling you what will make you a better runner.  My mom and dad are originally from Michigan and moved here in the 70’s….no seriously I won’t give you that much backstory.

I’m a born and raised St Louisan or to be more specific Fentonite, Fenton being a suburb about 20 minutes southwest of St Louis proper.  And yes I’ll tell you where I went to High School as I’m certain anyone reading this from the area was wondering, Rockwood Summit.  If you aren’t familiar with the where did you go to high school question, it is just one of those endearing things about our city like toasted ravioli and thin crust pizza.

I picked up an undergraduate degree in Exercise Science from Southeast Missouri State, and a few years after that a Masters Degree in Sports Science and Rehabilitation.  My life’s passion is exercise and I’ve been working in the fitness industry for the better part of a decade.

Now that we have that out of the way I can also share with you that I’ve run my fair share of road races as well as a couple of half marathons, but wouldn’t consider myself an expert on running.  I’ll leave that to the veteran road runners and racers, many who have been doing this longer than I’ve been alive.

However, my role will be to serve as the fitness professional that can help you stay in top shape, get into shape, recover from an injury, or whatever the case may be.  You see the Go St Louis misison isn’t just about running, yes it’s one of the central themes, but the mission is much larger than that.  That mission is about getting and staying healthy year round through fitness.

So now that I’ve hopefully convinced you that I’m not some dork sitting in my pajamas in my parents basement just spouting off about how much I know about fitness, let’s dig into how a few simple things can improve your running.

1)     Strength Training – Whether you are new to running or one of those veterans I mentioned above, strength training can be a very simple addition with lots of benefit.  Strength training can help reduce the risk of injury, make you faster, and make you strong enough to push other runners out of the way at the finish line (ok just kidding about that last one…well sort of).  We aren’t talking Arnold weights here, but strength training once or twice a week using a fully body approach would be a great start.

2)     Foam Rolling – While a bit light on tangible research there is enough anecdotal evidence to suggest this is a great way to prevent injury and help muscles recover.  It works on the same principles as massage and can help improve tissue quality.  If you are unfamiliar with foam rolling and where to start google or youtube has enough content to last a lifetime. 

3)     Gear Up! – This could run the gamut from correctly fitting shoes, to synthetic socks, to spending half your paycheck on a Garmin watch if you so choose.  Shoes are probably the first and most important thing, but being sure you have some moisture wicking shirts are pretty helpful too.  That way you’re not running around with an extra 10 lbs of sweat in that old school cotton shirt.  If you need a bit more guidance on what to buy head over to your local running store they will be a great resource, or reach out to any of the amazing folks here at Go St. Louis.

4)     Cross Training – Again whether you are novice or veteran cross training is a crucial part of improving your running.  There will be days when you just can’t seem to get into the training mode and using an alternate modality of exercise like biking or swimming is a great  way to keep training.  Not too mention if you continue to run regularly there will be times you need a break from running and cross training is a way to maintain your fitness.  Running is a repetitive motion and those repetitive stressors if not managed properly can lead to injury.  Then what good are you laying on the couch eating pizza and watching Netflix:)

5)     Listen To Your Body – I didn’t list these tips in order of importance, but if I had this should be number one.  Running like all exercise is stress on the body, exercise is usually a good stress, but like a lot of things if not handled properly can have some negative consequences.  These negatives happen when people ignore the signals our body is trying to communicate to us.  If you are dragging the floor one day it’s ok to scrap a run or scheduled workout, just don’t let it turn into a habit.  If you feel some new and funny pains don’t take the tough guy route and push through it, consult a physical therapist, chiropractor, or another professional that can help you.

 So there you have it 5 things that will help you in your journey to be a better runner.  I’ll be the first to admit they aren’t earth shattering, they aren’t the key to winning the Olympics, but they will help you nonetheless.  And if you are already doing all those things then I give you an internet high five!

 Ian is a Fitness Professional that has been working in and around the St. Louis area for the last 10 years or so.  Most days you’ll find him at the gym or spending time with his family.  He has worked with people from all walks of life and is passionate about helping regular people reach their fitness goals.  You can read more about him at his blog http://stlpersonaltrainer.wordpress.com.