Better Blood Flow = Better Running

Updated: May 23

By John Withinshaw

Yes, OK - that's a picture of a man doing press ups - but bear with me, it is relevant to your running!

In my last blog, I wrote to you about some training that I do that has had a massive impact on my running.

The strength session I spoke of is a toughie but you do get huge bang for your buck if you apply it to your training. If you haven't read it - click on the LINK HERE

Leg strength isn't everything when it comes to improvement, there are loads of other variants to consider.

This article is based around your blood flow, and what does good blood flow equal........................?

....................................Good oxygen supply to the muscles!

I'm sure many of you, particularly those involved with running clubs, have intervals in your training. Fartlek, sprints, hill sprints etc are all good training modalities when it comes to getting faster.

A much overlooked method, and one I totally swear by is BFR (Blood Flow Restriction) or occlusion training method.

Sounds freaky doesn't it, something that only bodybuilders do? But no, this can be applied to running training too.

Those who follow me on Strava will have seen me post up my BFR training. You guys could already be a bit familiar with it but maybe still a little confused as to how it works.

Well, today I'll share it with you so you can add it into your training.

BFR was introduced to me a couple of years ago by an S&C coach called Phil McDougall. It has appeared in my training ever since and it really does have huge benefits on running, especially when it comes to your endurance or stamina.

I'll talk about it in terms of running but it can be applied to swimming and cycling too, you get the idea.

Firstly I'll give you a bit of science to help understand a little more about it.

When you contract your muscles, the tension prevents blood flowing back to the heart but instead redirects it to the working muscles of the body.

For example, if you add press ups into your run, the arms, chest and shoulder muscles demand blood while at the same time you're keeping your legs and torso under tension.

This reduces the amount of blood flowing to the heart which in turn increases the heart rate dramatically due to the same amount of blood being required around the rest of the body.

When you stand back up and start running again, the tension is then released taking the blood away from the superficial upper body muscles you were just using and back to the heart.

Splicing BFR training into your running regularly increases the body's ability to move blood around from one area of the body to another by vasodilation (widening of the blood vessels) and vasoconstriction (narrowing of the blood vessels) much more efficiently. The cardiovascular improvements are substantial if essential components such as hydration, rest, nutrition and daily movement sessions are in place.

I hope that sheds a little light on the subject?

Now onto the workout itself. I'll give you a simple example to add in to a run you already do.

Let's say you go out for a 4 - 5 mile run.

Set a timer, either on your watch, phone or timing device such as a Gym Boss (preferred), for a rolling 4 minutes or about 20 times to be safe.

Run at a good comfortable pace.

On hearing the bleep you stop running and perform 50% of your max reps press ups with full body tension (max reps are the most amount of press ups you can do keeping good form and posture).

Remember the timer is still going.

Once the press ups are complete, stand back up and sprint for 50m before settling back into your comfortable pace until the next bleep.

This will be significantly shorter than the first one and will change as you get tired due to the speed at which you get the press ups done.

The aim is to settle into the same comfort pace each time as quickly as possible.

Do this for the duration of the run.

You can do this for most length runs. The last time I did it we were running 12-13 miles and stopping every 6 minutes to do 15 press ups. Total press ups was 300 and that distance has become quite comfortable now.

Timings can vary depending on distance being covered but it is something you can play around with.


Better blood flow = a better supply of oxygenated blood to the muscles = more efficient training = stronger heart = better running and stamina = big bang for your buck.

Please do try putting this into your running workouts and let me know how you get on.


In Fitness & In Health

John 'BFR Badass' Withinshaw


P.S. If you're interested in adding something new to your running training and would like to try a bespoke online program, please let me know and we'll see how I can help.

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