It’s easy to get into a running rut—you may even be in one now. A rut can come in many forms:
- You enjoy your runs, feel good from start to finish, but are doing the same route every day, going at the same pace—not improving.
- You’re bored, you don’t like the routes you’re used to and it’s a struggle to find the motivation to get up and go.
- You want to become faster and stronger, but don’t know how, so you do more of the same.
While I always promote comfortable healthy living—or else, what is it worth, right?—sometimes you have to push yourself that little extra bit, whether it’s finding time to uncover a new route or picking up the pace to get faster. Luckily, there are a number of ways you can become a better runner, here are ten running tips to start with.
1. Add Intervals
Interval running gives your heart rate the spike it needs to burn more calories and forces your breathing to adapt as you speed up and slow down, improving both anaerobic and aerobic capacity—which translates to an improvement in both endurance and speed.
2. Start Cross Training
Runners often become good at one thing: running in a straight line, which uses a certain set of muscles, on nearly every single run. However, many runners suffer from chronic injuries and pain in their feet, knees, hips, and more.
Adding once- or twice-a-week cross-training to focus on building strength in other areas of your body can help lower the incidence of injuries. Without injuries, you spend less time on the sidelines and focus on using running tips like these to get better.
For example, your feet, ankles, and knees would benefit from low-impact strength work, such as elliptical training, swimming, or walking, helping you become stronger on your runs.
3. Don’t Forget to Stretch
To be a good runner, you need to be limber in all the right areas. When your quads are tight, for example, the opposing muscle group (in this case, your hamstrings) become overworked, and as such, are at higher risk for injury. Muscle imbalances often lead to the lower back, knee, or hip pain.
However, when your muscles are strong and stretched, they can work as they should, allowing you to run like a well-oiled machine. In addition to stretching, it’s good to foam roll.
4. Get Into a Routine (Or Reassess Your Current One)
Being a better runner is a mental challenge as well as a physical one. If being consistent is where you struggle, get into a routine; this makes it easier to stay on track. Soon running becomes like brushing your teeth—it’s just something you have to do.
If you’re struggling with your current schedule, set up a new routine that actually makes sense for you– you’ll never stay on track if you set unrealistic expectations.
5. Challenge Yourself
Runners who genuinely love running can easily slip into their comfort zone. While simply getting out to run is a win on its own, it’s important to continually challenge yourself.
Luckily, there are a number of ways to do this. One way is to run with a friend who has a faster pace or tougher route than you. When you have to keep up with someone other than yourself, you’re more likely to push through the mental and physical boundaries.
You can also:
- Change your route.
- Add intervals.
- Set a time goal to beat.
- Find a hilly area of town to do hill sprints.
6. Treat Your Body Right
When your body is healthy, it performs at its peak. If you run, and then feed your body junk, you’ll be stuck in catch-up mode. Instead, eat clean. You’ll be able to improve your running when your body gets the fuel it needs.
Focus on whole food forms of carbohydrates, protein, and fat such as sprouted whole grain bread, raw nut butter, lean meat, fish, beans, and legumes.
7. Run In a Group
One of the best ways to improve your running is to go with a group. If you can’t seem to push yourself, you will be in a group, where you’ll be stuck at the back of the group if you can’t keep up.
Ask your friends to run with you or find a MeetUp group in your area. Running with unfamiliar faces may be even more beneficial.
8. Know When to Push and When to Slow
To be a good runner, you have to know when it’s time to slow down or speed up. This means paying attention to what your body is telling you at all times. If you feel a sting in your knee, tune in and assess the pain. It’s important that you know when you’re pushing too hard or not hard enough.
9. Try Hill Runs
Hill runs are great for strengthening your legs, especially if you’re used to running on flat terrain. Uphill training, when done incorrectly, can lead to a variety of injuries, including knee pain, so use these tips to perfect your form and reap all the benefits of hill running.
10. Enjoy It!
Your final tip: Enjoy your runs. The best runners simply love running, just as it is. When that happens, you’ll naturally work toward becoming a better runner, having a faster pace, and finding new routes.