10 Ways to Become a Better Runner
Fall is the ideal time to add to your workout routine, and running is one of the easiest and most budget-friendly ways to exercise. If you haven’t run in a while, or you’re new to the sport, keep in mind that all you need to do is put on a pair of supportive running shoes, find a great place to run, and you’re set.
With that in mind, LadyLUX talked to fitness experts to ask them for the top 10 ways to improve your running habits. Whether you’ve just started, or you’re a hardcore triathlete, some of these tips will help you improve your running skills.
- Chase the speedsters. Run with people who are faster than you. Find a local running group where with a mix of speeds. Run with thefaster runners for as long as you can once a week. The key to running fast is to train fast. Also try adding hard interval work to one or two workouts per week, because alternating very hard runs with easy recovery work will help increase your lactic acid threshold. This is the point at which your muscles start to say no and burn calories at a high rate as an extra bonus.
- Get the right shoes. If you’re running in trail shoes on pavement, or in racing shoes on the trails, you’re going to run into difficulty. Proper support for the foot is fundamentally important. Buy shoes at a running store where a professional can evaluate your gait and get you fitted for the right footwear. This will not only make you more comfortable, it will help prevent injury and allow your body to move through a full range of motion without struggling.
- Build functional strength. We hear that strength training is good for running, but what we don't hear is that some exercises are better than others. Squats, lunges, and bridge-ups build running specific muscles thatboth build speed and prevent injury. What's great about these exercises is that you don't need any equipment to do them. You can easily work in a set or two of each exercise at the beginning or end of a run.
- Head for the hills. Hills build endurance, strength and mental toughness. These are three important qualities in running.
- Make rest a priority. Rest is when your body adapts to the stress of training. Without rest, the body wears down which leads to burnout and injury. Rest is essential to improving in running and sleep is a big part of that. Try for at least six hours of sleep a night and schedule days of rest days where you don't work out at all. Make sure to consider the impact of your daily life when considering how much rest and recovery time you need. If you have a busy, stressful life outside of running, you may need more recovery between workouts than a coach or training plan suggests. Listen to your body over the plan.
- Check out your form. Make sure your form is good by having a friend film you running from the front, back and side. Compare the your tape to videos of professional runners or ask an expert runner to give you their opinion. Tight jaws, poor arm and hand positioning, and excess core rotation can all be detrimental to anyone’s running efforts.
- Cross train. Many people start to run and end up quitting because they have knee or hip pain. With the exception of structural damage (torn ligaments, tendons, arthritis), most of this pain comes from weak muscles. If your quadriceps, hamstrings, calves and hip flexors aren’t strong enough to support the pounding your body takes during a run, it’s going to result in pain. Functional strength training not only prevent boredom, it prevents injury, increases durability and improves joint stability.
- Work on that six pack. Having defined abdominal muscles takes a lot more than crunches and sit-ups, but having strength without definition is just as important. Running requires your core muscles to hold you upright the entire time. If your abdominals, lower back, obliques and erector spinae are weak, your running is going to suffer. Building core muscles under fat is just going to push the fat out, so balancing core work with fat-burning exercises like cardio and strength training is also incredibly important.
- Set goals. It’s great to get out and run. It’s hard to improve without a goal. OK, you want to run five miles. By when? How fast? Without a baseline and a direction, it’s unlikely there will be any significant improvement. You are starting somewhere, but you need to know where you’re headed and once that goal is set, the improvement will be seen.
- Diet. Eat and drink to run. Running is hard work and proper hydration and nutrition are two of the easiest ways to see a difference in running skills. Preparing muscles for the hard work of running and giving them the right recovery foods are the best ways to feel better and perform better. While hydration and nutrition needs vary by individual, maintaining a healthy diet rich in protein and whole grains is a great way to start. Taking soda out of the diet and adding up to 100 ounces of water a day will not only flush toxins out of the body, it will keep muscles, ligaments, tendons and joints lubricated.