Want to get a runner’s body and improve your running skills? World-class trainer David Siik knows exactly what it takes. David is longtime track and field runner, and one of the elite trainers at Burn 60, an interval training fitness studio in Los Angeles. In addition to helping people lose weight, David takes strong, fast and fit runners and makes them even better.

“I’ve been running since before I can remember. It is the single greatest constant I have found in my life,” says David. “Running has always been there for me as my greatest source of therapy, fitness, and often accomplishment.”

The Perfect Runner’s Program

David says running and yoga is one of his favorite combos for women. “Running can make you tight, yoga can give you back that flexibility,” he says. “Personally, I think the greatest routine for a woman wanting a long, lean, tight runner’s body and to become a better runner is to combine running, yoga and endurance strength training such as a Bar method.”

For those serious about becoming a better runner, and also for those who work full time, David recommends resistance and weight training at both the beginning and ends of the week (at the beginning when you are fresh, and toward the end when you know you’ll have a day or two to recover), and yoga in the middle of the week (right when things get most tight). “Tuesdays and Saturdays are great days to hit a good weight-training class or hard bootcamp,” he says.

However, David says to never sacrifice the run. “I live by this rule. I never lift before a hard run, ever,” says David. “I believe and fully support the importance of weight training but I also believe you will never get more out of something than you will from ‘the run.’ Besides the calorie burn while running being irreplaceable, I remind people that a strong heart and set of lunges down the road of life is far more valuable than the size of your biceps.”

Running Workouts

David recommends a good balance of fartleks (explained below), speed intervals, and endurance. Try to work your way up from two great treadmill runs a week to four or five.

“Running is all about balance; find a good balance in these indoor months, and you’ll be way ahead of the game come spring!” says David. “When you step on a treadmill with a plan, not only will it often go by fast, you will mostly likely step off that treadmill a smarter, stronger, more energized runner. And, all too often, you will be rewarded with that elusive runner’s high. All of this makes it so worth it!”

For beginners:

The number one workout David recommends for first timers is a form of fartlek training. Fartleck is a Swedish word meaning “speed play” and one of the best ways to create a base for other runs, says David. Try this basic fartleck to get started:

1 minute easy (speed around 4)
1 minute medium (speed around 5)
1 minute fast (speed of 6-7)

Repeat 5-10 times for a 15- to 30-minute run, with no break. The important thing is to really commit to three speeds, and ALWAYS return to the same easy speed after your fast. Your easy speed essentially becomes your recovery. When you are ready to make things more challenging, you can add increasing incline to each set. There are literally dozens of ways to change and modify this run to keep it fun and challenging. Do more sets, choose slightly faster speeds, or add more incline. Try 2-3 of these runs a week to get started.

For intermediate runners: The Interval Ladder

This group is in a great position to start learning more dynamic interval runs, says David. Investing in a simple running watch with a timer is a great idea. Here is a little more challenging interval run that David does himself, and often coaches others with:

90 seconds fast (around an 8 for a strong, intermediate runner)
1 minute recovery (fast walk or slow jog)

80 seconds fast + 0.2 (8.2)
1 minute recovery

70 seconds fast + 0.2 (8.4)
1 minute recovery

60 seconds fast + 0.2 (8.6)
1 minute recovery

50 seconds fast + 0.2 (8.8)
1 minute recovery

40 seconds fast + 0.2 (9.0)
1 minute recovery

Then go backwards, doing the 50-, 60-, 70-, 80-, and 90-second intervals, but try to keep the fastest speed you did on the 40-second interval (9.0) for ALL of them as you go backwards.

You can also add incline to this to make is much harder. Do exactly the run above, but add a 5 percent incline to the 90-second interval, 4 percent for the 80-second interval and so on down to 0 percent for the 40-second interval. Doing this, you can take an already tough run to a whole new level of tough!

For advanced runners: The Redline Run

“Working with fast intervals, but really pushing your recovery and medium speeds is an awesome way to elevate your level of running and help you prepare to knock off a few seconds from your race personal best,” says David.

Here is one of the more challenging runs David throws at his runners, and often uses himself:

1 minute very fast (10)
1 minute recovery (exactly 3 points less than your fast speed, 7)

1 minute fast – 0.2 (9.8)
1 minute recovery + 0.3 (7.3)

1 minute fast – 0.2 (9.6)
1 minute recovery + 0.3 (7.6)

Continue this format eight times. If you stay right on track of this 16-minute run, your recovery speed in the last minute will actually surpass your fast speed. “For me, the real winner is the not the runner that shows off in the last few seconds of class hitting 12 in a sprint,” says David. “I’m always more impressed with those who maybe only maintain a fast speed of 8 or 9, but recovery at a 6-7. It’s no coincidence those are also the people running the fastest races, have the greatest runners’ bodies, and have the least injuries.”

Treadmill Running Tips

These basic running tips are the foundation to running stronger, safer, faster, and longer, says David. Build this foundation so that the next time you step foot on the treadmill, you’ll have the upper hand:

Foot strike. “There is an ongoing debate about where your foot should strike. Some people say all pose running (staying on your toes), some people say heel-to-toe. The fact is, both are right. When you are walking, jogging, and at moderate speeds, it’s OK to have a nice heel-to-toe roll. It is true that striking with your heel puts a little more ‘shock’ on the knee, but it isn’t until you reach your fast speeds that it becomes a significant problem. Forcing yourself to run on your toes ALL the time can be a recipe for shin splints and calf strains. I remind people all the time, you have a fat pad on your heel for a reason. It’s a little shock absorber, designed to protect your heel and absorb shock through your natural locomotion of walking (which is heel to toe).

“It is when you hit your faster speed, you need to start your mid-foot (running on your toes) strike. The faster you go, the greater you magnify the impact on your body, so to balance that impact, get up on the front of your foot and let your CALVES engage, letting them absorb a greater amount of the shock. Mechanically, it’s almost impossible to sprint on your heels anyway, so follow your natural inclination when things get speedy; your body will tell you when it’s time to start striking further up on your foot. After reading dozens of research articles on heel versus toe running, and years of experimenting with it, this balanced method I use has kept me and so many of my runners injury free!”

Stride. “There is a calculable, specific point of incline where a person should stop having a full stride and take a slightly smaller, shorter stride. Longer strides put more force on the knees and back due to the amount of force required push off and cover the greater distance of a full stride. I tell people in my classes to make quick, small, staccato-like footsteps on a steep incline. It has been proven through research that small to moderate inclines take some of the pressure off the knees and back.

“On the smaller inclines and especially when you have no incline and are going fast, it’s great to utilize your full natural stride (your gait). Also proven in the lab, it is a significantly greater energy (calorie) expenditure when you lengthen your stride, pushing off harder to cover a greater distance with one leg cycle. Just be careful to not overstride, which I see happen a lot when people get excited. You should never feel like you are reaching with your legs, which is often the responsible for hip flexor strain.”

Posture. “Don’t sit back on your hips, and drive your arms straight. It’s really that simple. You should always utilize the ‘runner’s tilt.’ This does not mean you lean forward, but rather tilt forward just enough to make sure your weight is forward. Sitting back on your hips can compress your spine and put you in a very vulnerable position. As you tilt your weight forward, you engage the muscles in your LOWER BACK. These muscles engage to support your torso, and in turn react and absorb a great deal of shock. Let your back muscles take on the work, NOT your spine.”

Arms. “In my opinion, bad arm form when running is the single biggest missed opportunity in class. Runners have such great arms because they use them! It’s less work to swing your arms back and forth, rather than drive them parallel to your legs. When you drive your leg and opposing arm in parallel motion, you create torque, which I refer to in my class as ‘runner’s torque.’ In order to keep your body from swinging to the side, your abs engage in a big way to keep the body in line. So, by driving your arms parallel instead of crisscrossing, you’ll keep your ABS very busy. With every step, you will do more abdominal work than you ever imagined. Runners have some of the most amazing ABS in the world. Now you know a little of their secret.”

More from David

David will be releasing a book on treadmill running, with workouts similar to the ones discussed here. It will have over 50 electrifying and easy-to-understand workouts, relatable in a “‘chicken soup for the runner’s soul’” style that will provoke the reader to run with their body, their minds, and ultimately their hearts,” says David. “I’ve been in and out of labs since my racing years of college, studying the impact of running, the pros, the cons, and its effect on one’s life. Hopefully within the year I will be able to share with you the book that is a product to that commitment.”

For more information on David, follow him on Twitter @DavidSiik and on Facebook.