I want to share with you some of the things that have really helped me improve my running in the past year. I know the internet is full of tips and advise (and thanks for that!) but personally I have really enjoyed reading what average runners had to say via blogs and message boards, it makes it more relateable for me.
So if you are hoping to start running more and/or faster, some of these tips may help you.
1) PROPER FORM: Some big contenders for first place, but in my opinion the most important thing to keep in mind is proper form. No matter how fast or slow you run, how many miles, or what your running goals are for the future, as long as you are running with the correct form you will be able to avoid injury and move forward your goals.
And a very interesting (short) article on the subject:
2) GRADUAL INCREASE: Another big one. Yes, we’ve heard it before a million times, but that’s because it’s so true. No matter where you currently are in your running, increasing your distance/speed gradually is not only the best way to see actual results, but to avoid injury. Nothing to set you back like a month of not running because of injury.
Increase distance by 10% weekly, and don’t run hard two days in a row. I love the ‘hard day, easy day’ rule, even those weeks where I run a few days in a row, I always alternate between easy runs and hard runs.
3) TRAIN SMART: There are a lot of training plans online, for free or for a fee, that can help you achieve your goals. I ran for years, always at the same level of effort and usually twice a week for a total weekly distance of 15 KM / 9 MILES. So no wonder I wasn’t seeing any progress. Eventually when I started running more and reading more on proper training I realized that I had to do things a better way. Not only increase my weekly distance but mainly adding different kinds of runs to my training.
It took me some time but I got to where I’m now, running 5 times a week, about 60 KM / 37 MILES, and doing a different run every time (during a week period): a long run, an interval run (short bouts of running at a higher speed than the rest of my runs, an easy (recovery) run, a tempo run, and a fartlek run (longer intervals, not as fast as the short intervals).
4) RUNNING GEAR: There’s a lot of hype about running/fitness gear, you may love it or not.. I do enjoy all the options and pretty colors and designs of running gear. But “pretty” and “fashion” aside, there is actual benefit to owning a few pieces of good running gear.
- Running shoes: The most important piece of running gear you need, you must have shoes that fit YOU right.
- Running clothes: A few basics, sweat wicking, cool for summer (shorts and short sleeve/no sleeve top), warm (but light) for winter (tights and long sleeve top), running socks (totally worth the investment!), and if you are a woman a supportive/non-chafing sports bra and strong hair bands.
- Music: Personally I can’t move without music. The day my Ipod battery dies in the middle of my run is the day I stop running in the middle of my run
- Watch: you can buy a GPS watch with/without a heart monitor, but even a regular digital watch to keep track of your time is useful, you can then figure out your speed based on how much you run (google maps measuring distance tool). You can do most of this with your phone too, although I personally like to run as light as possible and don’t usually have my phone with me.
5) BEFORE AND AFTER: Like running is not hard enough or time consuming enough… but yes, you must do before and after care.
Before: some people stretch, some people don’t. I don’t, but always start with a warm-up of 5 minutes walking and 10 minutes of slow running. Trust me, I hate every minute of it, I don’t like running so slow or walking during training, and I’m in enough of a hurry to move on with my day, but it’s a necessary evil.
After: stretch, stretch, stretch! I’ve also started foam rolling a few months ago and love it. Sorry I meant to say I hate it, but it works so at least I love that.
6) CROSS TRAIN: Now some people don’t have a problem with this and actually love doing other things other than running, and some people just want to run-run-run! I might go into full running mode but I’m too afraid of getting injured or losing the strength that cross training gives me. I think the smart move is to keep doing other things besides running, especially strength training and another form of aerobic exercise (elliptical, zumba, biking/spinning, swimming, to name a few).
7) WATCH YOUR NUTRITION: I’m going to keep it short on this one because it’s such a huge subject I don’t want to get into.. so let’s just put it this way: to run your best you have to give your body the best nutrition you can get for it to be healthy and strong. Whatever that means to you, go ahead and make it happen.
8) REST: We all need our ZZZ’s to function as best as we can. A bad night’s sleep means a bad morning run, for sure (if you even make it out the door). So for the sake of running, your health, your mood, and everyone around you: get the sleep you need. For me it’s 7 hours a night although I usually get about 6 or 6 and a half hours.
Hope you had a great run during the weekend!