How to Become a Better Runner-10 Simple Tips
Many of us start out just running for exercise and fun. But as you gain experience, it’s only normal to begin considering the clock and how to move more quickly.
Unfortunately, running endless miles won’t magically make you faster. However, there are some exercises you can include in your running regimen.
What would be the top ten simple keys, which in my opinion are the most important steps to enjoying running, preventing injuries, and improving as a runner, if I had to list them?
1. Find a Goal That Really Inspires You.
Even if you want to call it fluffy, it’s still important. Initially, running isn’t all that enjoyable for its own sake. It can be calming, meditative, energizing, and yes, even enjoyable once your body masters it. But not at first.
And even then, I had never run more than three miles, I didn’t stop detesting running until I decided to register for a marathon. Even though it was still challenging and not particularly enjoyable, I was motivated to continue.
How do you decide which objective to pursue? Personal goals that initially appear unattainable are what inspire me the most. I realize that not everyone is like that, but I would implore you not to back down from a goal just because it seems far-fetched. Frequently, that is the one that will inspire you the most.
2. Slow Down.
We learned that running should be quick in gym class. If you take too long, the other children will make fun of you because you’ll be timed.
That is why so many people detest running. They feel as though they must move quickly.
My advice is to slow down by a minute, or even two, per mile from what you normally run. This will free your mind to focus on things other than “damn, this hurts,” and you might experience a little of that runner’s high you hear about.
After your run, you’ll feel energized rather than exhausted. Run a bit farther than you could before if you’re feeling particularly motivated.
And instead of dreading having to do it again, you’ll look forward to it.
3. Take 180 Steps Every Minute (90 Per Leg).
As ultrarunning great Scott Jurek says of running form in Tim Ferris’ 4-Hour Body, “Many of the other issues resolve themselves if you concentrate on taking longer strides.”
I give people this “180 steps” tip so often that I feel like a one-trick pony at this point. But the significance of it cannot be overstated.
It’s this piece of advice that generates more “holy crap, thank you!” emails than any other. And in my case, it was the single most crucial action I took to triumph over shin splints and stress fractures after a four-year battle.
Though it seems difficult, it’s not. I’ve written in more detail about how to do it here, but in the simplest possible terms:
Run so that you can count three foot strikes per second.
If you’ve never considered it, turning your legs over 180 degrees is probably much quicker than you do normally. You’ll have to take shorter steps and use unconditioned muscles, which will make it uncomfortable at first. However, it will eventually become second nature, and the advantages of these smaller, lighter steps will become apparent in your durability after a few weeks.
Additionally, if you typically feel pain while running, you may start to feel better after just one run done in this manner. I’ve heard from many people that when they try it, that is what happens.
4. Run Trails.
Real ones, with mud, streams, rocks, and roots in the woods.
Each step is unique. Since lateral movement is necessary, supporting muscles are strengthened.
The long, careless stride that lands on your heel (and eventually injures you) cannot be opened up like it can on a road. Instead, you must maintain body alignment while moving quickly and incrementally.
More hills are also present, providing additional opportunities for strength training and, occasionally, much-needed walk breaks.
Oh, and you get dirty.
Check out my first guest post on Zen Habits for a trail-running primer.
5. for Runs over 45 Minutes Or An Hour, You Need to Take in Some Nutrition.
I would have thought this was too obvious to mention a few weeks ago.
But in just that time, multiple people approached me with the same issue: “I attempted my first 10-mile run, but I collapsed after about 7 miles.”
Your muscles ran out of fuel, resulting in your crash. The body can only hold enough energy for an hour and a half of running, and when it runs out, your brain turns off your body to conserve what’s left so that it can keep working.
Get a portable bottle and bring a sports drink with you when your runs start to grow long. However, don’t forget that you still need water. Solid food or gel also works, and we developed our own whole-food approach to workout fuel.
6. Don’t Miss Leg Day at the Gym
‘Any running program must start with strength training. Strength and conditioning is one of the best ways to develop as a faster and stronger runner if you’ve reached a point in your running career where you’re searching for those marginal gains and ways to trim a few minutes off your personal best. Every stride we take while running exerts a lot of force, so by strengthening your body through weight training, you’ll be able to run more effectively and generate more power on the ground while lowering your risk of injury.
‘Start by concentrating on single-leg movements to develop strength since we spend the majority of our time on one leg when we run. Try exercises like step-ups, Bulgarian split squats, and single-leg deadlifts. You’d be surprised at how many runners step up onto a box without any weight only to discover that their knees and ankles are disorganized. Once you have these fundamentals down, you can move on to squats, Romanian deadlifts, and other larger, more functional exercises.’
7. Alternate Hard Workouts With Easy Ones.
People appear to understand that your muscles need time to recover after lifting weights. They seem to believe that running is an exception to this rule.
After a challenging workout, recovery takes some time. Your legs and heart (a muscle) need time to recover after a speed workout, a hill workout, a tempo run, or a long run. You become stronger in this way.
In light of this, you can still run the day after a workout like this, but only if you want to. I mean extremely easy: if you’re worried people will make fun of you because you’re barely moving, that’s probably about the right pace.
All those difficult workouts would be in vain otherwise.
8. Take Rest Days Seriously
You will begin to experience itchy feet on days when you don’t have any scheduled training once you get into the running groove. But in order for your body to recover and adjust to the training load, you must take at least one full day off each week. You will burn out or, in the worst-case scenario, get injured if you continue to skip your rest days.
Taking a rest day doesn’t just mean “no running” either – you should refrain from any kind of exercise if possible. It is best to schedule your strength training for your rest day rather than the day you run in order to give your body a full day of recovery. This goes for even the mobility and stretching exercises you perform to support your running. If you must, make sure it’s no more strenuous than foam rolling or a very gentle cross-training session in the pool or on a bike.
When training for a race, your rest days become even more important as the race approaches. If you can, it’s worthwhile to structure your entire race week around getting the most rest possible and relaxing. When compared to the sense of accomplishment you get from finishing a challenging run, it can be difficult to picture the advantages of rest days. However, if you want to improve your running, you must give your body the time it needs to heal.
9. Get More Sleep
Yes, lying in bed allows you to accelerate your pace. “Sleep is one of the most important forms of rest and provides time for you to adapt to the physical and mental demands of training,” says Grantham. “Both a single bad night of sleep and a string of bad nights can contribute to performance loss from sleep deprivation. Reduced sleep over a week could lead to sleep debt and have a negative effect on performance.” Aim for at least seven hours, but eight or nine are preferable.
10. Keep at It.
If there is a sneaky ninja method for becoming a much faster runner, it is a pretty lame one.
Run, and then run some more.
Do you ever think about how seasoned runners, even those who aren’t in the best of shape, can just pick up and run a marathon or 10 miles whenever they feel like it?
Your body is becoming more adept at running with each step you take. Because of this, long-distance runners frequently win in their 30s, 40s, and 50s, well past the typical mid-20s peak for athletes in other sports.
Every time you run, your brain gets better at choosing the right muscle fibers to keep you moving forward with the least amount of effort possible.
Your body starts to burn stored fat more effectively for energy rather than dirty-burning sugar that needs to be constantly replenished. (The best marathoners, as Brendan Brazier notes, only consume water and electrolytes while competing.)
Running also becomes simpler as these adaptations take place. With the same amount of effort, you can run farther and faster than before.
Finally, you come to the realization that what you once detested is now enjoyable.