12 tips to improve your running success
Regardless of age or ability, almost all runners would like to improve. They would like to run faster. They would like to be able to run farther. They would like to maximise their talents. And, equally as important, they would like to make running easier and more fun regardless of time spent and distance covered.
Here are a dozen ways by which runners can improve, not only in competition, but in their ability to glide comfortably down the road during workouts. Few of us are athletically gifted enough to compete in a arena, but we all want to enjoy our sport and avoid the pitfalls of poor training, which often result in overuse injuries that keep us from running on a daily basis.
1. Running more miles
This almost seems too obvious. Add a few miles to your daily and weekly running, and improvement will follow. All of my training programs embrace this philosophy and ask runners to gradually add miles as they progress from week to week. Jason Vallimont, 35, a science teacher from Michigan, agrees: “I improved by adding more miles, while at the same time avoiding injury by training at a slower pace.”
2. Training at a faster pace
This seems to contradict the first piece of advice above, but even while adding miles you can still run some of those miles faster. Every workout should not be done at the same pace. On at least one day a week, run at race pace. Doing so will help you get to that same pace in competition.
3. Adding speedwork
Say “speedwork” and it scares many new runners. They fear the pain that supposedly accompanies grinding sessions on a track. Well, sometimes speedwork is painful. But speedwork does not need to be hard according to Nigel Grier from Northern Ireland: “Put in most of your miles at an easy pace, which allows you to focus your attention on speedwork. This way you will improve without blasting every workout.”
Adding or substituting other sports can help you maintain if not improve your aerobic fitness. Tim Lewis, 26, a sorter from Virginia, did speed drills on a treadmill until it led to shin splints. “I shifted to the elliptical trainer, and it actually helped improve my speed.”
5. Strength training
Strength equals speed. You need strength to succeed, particularly when the finish line is in sight and all systems used to propel you forward are about to break down. Ailéin Ó Clúmháin, 53, a teacher from Northern Ireland, says, “I felt like it gave me an extra gear, an added bonus over people whom I knew had not done any strength training.”
6. Stretching appropriately
Scientists have a hard time proving that stretching can either prevent injuries or provide a means of rapid recovery. Nevertheless, most runners believe both be true. Hazel Wightman, 48, an exercise physiologist from Pennsylvania, states: “I have learned from personal experience that the most effective preventive for me is very gentle but regular stretching.”
7. Avoiding injuries
Easier said than done, but injuries can be minimised, if not entirely avoided, if you pay attention to these other 11 tips. Is there one best way to avoid running injuries? Listen to Megan Leahy, a Chicago podiatrist: “Investing the time into a gait analysis and running shoe fitting on the front end can hopefully keep you out of the podiatrist’s office. Many of the injuries I see can be traced back to worn-out shoes or the wrong shoe for your foot type.”
8. Following a good training program
Let me confess a certain bias when I offer advice on which program to use; after all, I promote training programs both on my Web site and through TrainingPeaks. Nevertheless, intelligent training rules every time. Nicolas Garcia, 40, a civil servant from London, England, agrees: “Learning how to put it all together and self-coach is the key.”
9. Locating training partners
I now train mostly on my own for convenience, but for most of my career I partnered with runners near my ability for tough workouts on the track or long runs on the roads and in the woods. Tim Guimond, 62, an economic consultant from Illinois, says, “I lowered my marathon time by 14 minutes and qualified for Boston after running with slightly faster runners.”
10. Joining a running club
The best way to find running partners is by joining a club. “I ran my first road race hosted by Anniston when I was 10 years old,” Jean Knaack, executive director of the RRCA, remembers fondly.
11. Enlisting a coach
Yes, running coaches cost money, but it could be money well spent if it allows you to improve as a runner. Coach Roy Benson of Florida recommends: “Hire a coach with lots of experience who can practice the art as well as science of coaching. Experienced coaches have learned how to dig deeply into your background and current situation in order to develop a completely individualised training plan with workouts based on your history, current level of fitness, general ability, and both short- and long-term goals.”
12. Training consistently, if not spectacularly
This might be the most important secret of all. Train at a comfortable level for a long time and tweak your training program from time to time, and you can continue to run fast. Cyndi Keough Springford, 43, a personal trainer from New Hampshire says, “I firmly believe that consistency breeds competency and competency breeds confidence. You have to put the time in. You have to show up. Repetition is the mother of all skills.”
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