Ten Tips for Better Running | RunGuides

Ten Tips For Better Running

We become adults and life seems to get pretty complicated.  Running, which was such a simple pursuit when we were kids, is suddenly seen as rocket science. The following list is the culmination of 25 years of running, coaching and study. Practice these tips and you'll be back running with the joy of a kid!

1 - Find Joy

There is so much to love about running.  Create the conditions that result in running bringing more happiness to your life.  Run with friends, run alone, run with music, run in silence.  Make it personal.  

2 - Start Smart

Be they a new runner or one starting a new season, so often the major mistake is made with the very first steps: doing too much too soon. There's no joy in running if you can't run so, don't get injured.  Your primary goal should be FIFE: finish injury free everyday.  For your first run, choose a distance you think you can do without being sore, then only do half of it.  Next, see how you're feeling the next day. If you're fine, then build from there, adding no more than 10% distance to any run or to your overall weekly mileage.

3 - Follow the Path of the JETI

Technology has conditioned us to expect results now.  Your body doesn't work that way.  You need to send a message through training that it needs to grow a little stronger.  Then, through rest and proper nutrition, your body rebuilds, allowing you to run a little further or a little faster.  If you increase the workload (distance, speed) too much, your body will be overwhelmed which often results in injury or excess fatigue.  When choosing how much to increase from run to run, remember to do Just Enough To Improve.  This will help you to achieve the key to success: consistency.

4 - Stretch

Many runners keep seeing the same running injuries popping up, and they are usually avoidable.  Excess tightness in certain running muscles, the gluts especially, leads to the body to move in inefficient patterns, and injuries can often happen as a result of this compensation.  Remember, a 5k run will see you hitting the ground close to 5000 times!  5000 repeats of a motion the body isn't built for is a good way to get injured.  Make sure your muscles are loose and your body is able to function the way it was meant to by properly stretching after your run.

5 - Maintain Cadence

Cadence refers to the rate at which your feet hit the ground.  When you learn to run with shorter, quicker strides, your body will spend less time in the air meaning there is less impact each time you land.  By bringing the foot down more quickly you will also avoid over-striding, which results in a small but measurable braking effect each time you land.  A great cadence target for the recreational runner is 90 strikes per minute per foot, or 22-24 in 15 seconds.  At this rate you can run at any speed; the difference then lay in your stride length.

6 - Present Perfect Posture

You don't just run with your legs. In order for your body to run efficiently, it must be well-aligned from top to bottom (actually, right past the bottom, all the way to the feet:) With your head up, shoulders relaxed, and leading with a proud chest, you will leave your upper body working as one with the legs and not working against them.  Add to that arms that are bent to approximately 90 degrees, and avoiding swinging across the body, and you will be on your way.

7 - Change Your Pace

Recreational runners often train at the same pace every time they go out the door then wonder why they have plateaued.  Slow down on your long run; you don't have to go fast to get all of the benefits of this workout.  Stay at a conversational pace.  With the extra energy you saved by going easy on the long run, take one of your other weekly runs and slowly build a section of it in which the intensity is hard but sustainable.  This will give you huge fitness gains, teach your body to run fast, and you will find that, when you slow down to your goal race pace, it will feel easier.  Goodbye plateau, hello personal best.

8 - Rest Before You Race

So simply, yet so hard.  The big race is a few days out and you're nervous so you go out and do a long run just to reassure yourself that you can do it.  Then, on race day: disappointment.  Remember, your body needs to recover in order to get fitter.  It can take over 7 days for a body to fully rebuild after a workout. This means that any hard run within 7 days (longer for longer races) of a race will only hurt you.  Leading up to the race, maintain the frequency of your runs but keep the workload easy.  If you have a 'race pace', include some short accelerations to keep the legs tuned up, but otherwise enjoy the nervous anxiety I call taper madness.

9 - Refrain, Sustain, Freight Train

The gun goes off and like the empty smoke exploding from it's barrel, you take off like a sprinter.  Don't get sucked in by the adrenaline; pace yourself.  For the first third of the race, when you are fresh and excited, the challenge is to hold back or REFRAIN and stick with you goal race pace.  This is not easy.  The second third is all about being steady and able to MAINTAIN goal pace.  The final third is where the race really begins.  Here is where you see what is inside you and I'm not talking physically.  The final third, it's time to dig deep and run like a FREIGHT TRAIN (your body follows your brain so I like the imagery), and push to the finish.  

10 - Give Thanks

As you cross your finish line, take a moment to give thanks for being blessed with the good health to allow you to do so.  We are so lucky to be able to celebrate the joy of running.

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Published on Aug 16, 2013

These tips have been provided by Geordie McConnell, head coach of the Ottawa Running Club. You can learn more about what Geordie and the club are up to by checking them out at www.ottawarunningclub.com