You may remember back in June I wrote an article, How to Become a Runner in Just 10 Weeks. I must confess I did have all the intent in the world to follow through with this program myself, but unfortunately I never got around to it.
Initially, the possibility that I would collapse in an embarrassing heap in front of random strangers was enough to freak me out. But, then I decided I really don’t care!
So, since moving back to Australia I’ve made a start. I’ve been brisk walking, with short bursts of jogging in between (I know, it’s not quite ‘running’ yet). Thankfully it has actually become more enjoyable, and I don’t feel quite so silly any more. 🙂
In my personal journey, I’ve discovered a few secrets in learning how to become a better runner. Here are 15 of them:
#1 Record why your running…
Having this log will be very helpful on those inevitable days when you just don’t feel like running. Record the reasons why you started running and what you enjoy about it. Here are a few examples to what you might record:
- Boosts energy and mood
- Burns calories
- Helps with weight loss
- Tones and firms the body
- Provides quiet thinking time
- Can encourage better eating habits
An added bonus is that exercise in general is known to help prevent disease, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.
#2 Make a commitment…
Do things which show your commitment to running and becoming a better runner. Write about it in your journal, facebook, blog or whatever for accountability and then do it! Remember, if it’s just not working out, there are plenty of other exercises and sports that you can do.
#3 Eat a healthy diet…
Eating a super healthy diet will give you the energy you need to become a better runner, and will help you maintain, or reach, a healthy weight.
Also, make sure you don’t run on a full stomach – if it’s time for meal choose something light, and eat 1 1/2 to 2 hours prior to your run.
If you feel hungry before your run, have a light snack, such a small bowl of yoghurt, or a slice of toast and peanut butter.
#4 Get sufficient sleep…
Good quality sleep is essential to make sure your body can repair and recharge after an intense workout. So, aim for around 6-8 hours each night.
Check out my article on How to Improve Sleep Quality.
#5 Wear the right gear…
It’s not necessary to be kitted out like an Olympian, but you should be comfortable in what you’re wearing. I read somewhere that having good workout gear encourages us to want to wear it, and therefore we’re more likely to workout – do you think there’s any truth in this?
Whether that’s true or not, it’s important that you wear a thick pair of sports socks, and good quality trainers. This will help protect your feet from blisters, and also absorb some of the impact from running.
Wearing clothes that draw moisture away from the body will make your workout more comfortable, but it isn’t necessary. If it will help you become a better runner though, it might be worth it.
#6 Keep well hydrated…
Make sure you drink plenty of water before, and after your running session, with a little during if you need to.
Obviously you don’t want to be running with a belly full of fluid, so it’s important to drink water regularly throughout each day, whether you’re running or not, keeping your body at optimum hydration levels.
#7 Stretch before and after…
Stretching is so important to help reduce the amount of lactic acid produced by your muscles. Perhaps more importantly, it also to decreases your chance of injury, keeping the body supple, and cutting down on stiffness the following day.
Stretch your calves, hamstrings, quads, hips, triceps, etc. – yoga or pilates poses are a great option as well.
#8 Running form…
The running motion should feel quite natural to the body. But, often people develop habits which only hinder their ability to run effectively. In order to become a better runner, try to follow these guidelines:
- Head up
- Shoulders level
- Straight back
- Hands at waist level, they should not cross
- Arms at a 90 degree angle
- Elbows at your sides
- Lift feet off the ground and land on the ball of your foot, and then roll through to the front of your toes
- Also, breathe deeply
#9 Start slow…
If you’re new to running, I’d suggest you begin with a brisk 10-minute walk, then alternate 30 seconds of running, with four minutes of walking about 3 times a week.
If you’re finding it a struggle, try to run at 60% rather than 110% – it’s much better to run really slowly, than to put yourself off completely by running too hard.
Use your breathing as a guide, you should still be able to carry on a conversation while running, and your breathing shouldn’t be heavy.
#10 Increase distance each day…
Each time you run, gradually build on the distance (perhaps speed, too), pushing yourself a little more each time.
So, if you’re running in intervals, you can gradually increase the amount of time you run, and decrease the amount of time you walk, until you’ve built up to the desired amount of cardio you want to achieve.
Try using visual cues as a way of motivating you to keep going. Each day you run pick a new landmark that is past where you got to the day previous. This will be your turnaround point, and will make sure you’re pushing yourself a little further each time.
#11 Keep a training journal…
This touches a little on what I said in the first point. But, a journal is also a great place for noting down your goals, running times, heart rate, pain rating etc, and it will help you keep track of your performance, and motivate you in times when you need it most.
#12 Rate your pain…
It’s normal to have a little pain when you workout. However, you need to be able to recognise when it’s too much. I suggest using an imaginary scale from 1 – 10:
- Mild pain ranges between 1 and 3. This is safe to run through.
- Moderate pain ranges between 4 and 6. For the most part it is safe to continue, but you may need extra rest.
- Severe pain ranges from 7 and 10. You should stop running, and may need to visit your doctor.
You can use this scale to record in your journal.
#13 Overcome inertia…
I’m pretty sure you’ll have days when you just don’t want to run (I certainly do). Often though, this feeling of inertia has been brought on by other circumstances which are playing in your mind.
This is when you may need to run most.
However, if you just can’t face running, try to go for a walk to think about things. If you walk briskly, it will allow your endorphins to kick in, clearing your mind and perhaps even helping you over the mental barrier, and giving you the desire to run.
You could also try using positive reinforcements to encourage yourself. For example, “This is important ‘me’ time,” “I’ve done this before, I can do it again this time,” “My health will benefit from this,” or whatever works for you.
#14 Think of exercise as ‘me time’…
Exercise should be a time when you allow yourself to chill out, reflect, de-stress, and get charged up for life’s events.
I really enjoy it, because I find I can think quietly, and often find inspiration being away from my computer screen! So enjoy your run, it’s your time.
And I don’t me that in a selfish way. This time you give yourself will inevitably make you more effective in all your other daily tasks.
#15 Hire a personal trainer…
If you continue to struggle, you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer for a couple of sessions.
This is a great way to get the initial confidence you need to continue in order to become a better runner. Plus, you will gain valuable tips and advice on correct running form, injury prevention, and how to reduce your training times etc, so it’s definitely worth considering.
Perhaps you won’t become an Olympic runner with these tips, but you’ll certainly be moving more. However please remember, if you do suddenly find you’re the next Usain Bolt – you heard them here first!!! 😉