We always assume that getting better at running just happens from more running, and more training, and more workouts.
We assume that elite runners get to where they are, and achieve what they achieve because they just run all the time. Well they do. But they also do a lot more than that.
If you want to improve your running – whether to meet a new goal, set a new PR, or just to feel better about it – you have to do more than just run.
Here are 7 other things you can do to become a better runner:
Drink more water
Even if you think you are drinking enough, or aren’t thirsty, drink more water. Your body needs different amounts on different days depending on what you eat, how active you are, the weather, how much you slept, how good your digestion is, and several other factors that you probably don’t even realize. As a result, it is hard to say specifically how much you need and it’s better to consume a little extra just to be sure. Your running will be that much better in a hydrated state!
Fix your mental state
There’s a huge mental component to running and it’s important to train for this just as you do the physical component. For some people this means clearing their head before running so that they can devote their thoughts simply to running, while for others it means practicing mental tactics to have them to call upon in races and competitions. Whatever it means for you, be aware of your mental state now and commit to any work you need to do to be able to perform your best mentally on race day.
Take a break
There’s a reason elite runners take a break from training, and running after a big event: both your body and mind need the time to recover and regain strength. Even when you feel ready to run again, you probably aren’t, as big events like races or heavy training periods are actually very stressful on the body. Failure to properly recover will simply lead you to overtraining or injury and this will cause you to be sidelined for far longer than you want to be.
When we are asleep, the body is actually hard at work. It is this time when it does muscle recovery and repair, when it replenishes and cleans out our cells and organs, and when it gives the body a big reset, cleaning up from the day before and preparing for the day ahead. Failure to get enough sleep, or a good quality sleep means that these things don’t happen, and over time your running will suffer as a result. If you are having problems sleeping, start by eliminating screen time in the hour before bed and set up a night time routine that your body will start to get used to, ending in sleeping.
Be okay with less
Sometimes when it comes to running, less is more. You don’t have to be at maximum mileage, or maximum speed, or maximum workouts all the time. Learn to work out effectively so that you can get the most gains from minimal amount of time, as often doing too much simply leads to injury, not to better results. Work out a training plan incorporating regular speed, strength and endurance work, as well as adequate rest, and then stick to it so you can see results without getting hurt.
Garbage in = garbage out
In other words, if you aren’t eating good food and fuelling properly, you can’t expect to have a good workout and be performing properly. Think of everything that you eat as fuel for tomorrow’s run. If it is bad fuel, or fuel that won’t last very long for you, be sure to eat it in smaller quantities and instead stock up on good quality fuel that burns slowly and gives you sustained energy. A diet high in fruits and vegetables, with whole grain sources of carbohydrates, plant-based protein and lots of healthy fats is ideal for running success.
As runners, we’re constantly putting stress and strain on our muscles, and if you’re like me, they don’t get stretched out nearly enough in response. Start making stretching and flexibility classes, such as yoga and Pilates a regular part of your routine. Not only will your body benefit from it, but it is a great way to calm your mind and give you some good calming techniques which you can adopt in races or in competition.