In this episode, I share the top ten things that I would have told a younger version of myself, based on what I know now.
These running tips are things that I wish I would have started earlier or tactics that have led me to achieve the greatest gains in my running. I believe that, if you adopt even a few of these into your training, you will see great results.
So without further adieu, here are 10 tips that made me a better runner.
In this article, I’ll cover 10 running tips I wish I knew when I got started. I will share with you things I learned after the years of running, things I would tell a younger version of myself.
These are things that I did not just read in a running tip list like, you know, follow the 10 percent rule or how to do a temple run, but rather things that I either had to learn the hard way or things I learned from coaching others and through my own running.
I wish I would have paid more attention to many things. So now, I want to share this knowledge with you, so you could prevent some of my mistakes in running.
There may be some things in here that you may disagree with, but that's OK. We’re both runners, and we have our different path. Yet, some tips might help you improve your running performance and prevent injuries.
1.Build a Better Base before Increasing Mileage
This is around developing a strong running base of four to six miles for the first 12 months instead of jumping to the half or full marathon.
I really would like to have repeated going through a phase where I just focused on building a strong cardiovascular system, working on creating stronger muscles, ligaments, and bones, and just allowing my body time to adapt.
Just because you can run further doesn't mean that you should. So like I mentioned, the biggest benefit would be creating a blood pumping, oxygen circling, circulating fitness machine - creating a strong cardiovascular system.
This would be teaching your body how to become more efficient by using the stored energy that you have, making yourself better able to pump blood and oxygen and teach your body how to use, utilize fat and conserve energy.
For example, your cardiovascular fitness comes much, much faster than your muscular system and your skeletal system, and having that time to really focus on building a strong, consistent running base is something that I think would have prevented a lot of early injuries.
2. Include Preventative Maintenance in Your Life
Another important thing is preventative maintenance versus being reactionary. The idea behind this is to do activities that are preventative in nature, such as more strength training, more flexibility, and mobility training, things like foam rolling, sports massage, dynamic stretching, for example.
And it's not just strength training, like going to the gym, lifting weights and doing squats and things like that, but focusing on specific exercises that strengthen your running and focus on your mobility, provide balance in the hips and the quads and in the legs that help maintain a good running style.
Strong muscle is a lot less likely to get injured and another benefit of strong muscles that they take longer to fatigue. So it'll make your run seem easier.
But the other thing is sports massage. Getting deep tissue and trigger point massage on occasion helps your body deal with breaking down the scar tissue that it can accumulate over years of building the muscle up, tearing it down, building it up again, and then tearing it down.
There's a lot of things that sports massage can do that are a little bit hard to do with foam rolling, but you can certainly use foam rolling as a close second to massage.
And there's even some household items that you can do, things like using a tennis ball to rub the bottoms of your feet, massage the bottoms of your feet if you have plantar fasciitis.
Most of these routines can be done in five to 10 minutes per day. In fact, I do reps during TV commercials, and I used to actually use my DVR to skip past commercials, and I still do sometimes. But I also started using commercials to do strength routines. And so, you know, it's not that I watch the commercials, but that two and a half minute break or however long it is, is perfect to fit in a set of reps. And then over a course of a TV show, you've gotten your workout for the day.
3. Join a Running Club or Running Community or Find a Running Partner
If you find the right workout partners, you know, that can slightly push yourself in a positive way. It can really push you out of your comfort zone to a point where you need that little extra jolt that can break you through, helping break you through plateaus.
Just be careful not to do too much or be too far off from your running partner, because it can have negative impacts. But if you find someone at your own level, it's amazing.
4. Don’t Rely Exclusively on a Running Club or Partner to Train
Along the same lines, don't fully rely on a running club or your running buddy. There are times when you need to do challenging workouts and some types of runs on your own. You need to be able to master the mental aspects so you don't quit. The only way to do that is to experience solo runs on occasion. In other words, you're practicing running in a situation where you may want to quit.
And the key is you don't want to quit. You don't want to give your mind those little wins that it's trying to play on you. Once you quit, it becomes easier and easier to quit over and over again. That's why having a good mix of solo runs with running with others is important.
5. All Training Programs Work
People often ask me what plan is the best. And the reality is they're all good plans. They have slight variations and philosophies and each one works slightly different than others. But fundamentally, they're all based on scientific studies. They're all based on what is real. There's no real right or wrong way to train. And each plan works, but it only works if you use it the way it's designed. Each plan has, again, not only the philosophy behind it but the cycles in the way that the workouts are laid out.
One of the things that's popular right now is injury-free running plans that are kind of catering to people who get injured a lot. And I know people who have followed those plans and still get injured, you know, just happens. There's no plan that's going to prevent you from getting injured. Some plans can help guide you and help keep you from doing things that have a higher tendency to get you injured, but no plans can prevent that.
I also know people who have trained very high mileage and have never been injured. It doesn’t matter what plan you choose, you’ll have individual experience with or without injuries.
The problems that training plans are in reality generalizations that are based on studies that cannot guarantee you’ll have the same running experience. Most studies have very small test populations and a lot of them are using college athletes, not the adults, not the runners who have a day job. I mean, we're all too busy. None of us participate in college studies or scientific studies. But if you're a college athlete, if you're a college student, guess what? It's often part of your class credit to attend and participate. And these types of studies, and it's not that the studies are bad or the studies are wrong, they just don’t cover all the groups, ages, cultures or genetic makeup and so on.
So one of the things that I commonly see across successful runners is regardless of the plan, is that they either strength train or they're focusing on mobility or they're taking care of themselves through things like the preventative maintenance items that I previously mentioned or both. They're, taking into consideration things like rest. They're paying attention to warning signs of injury. You know, they're not running through pain and they're just generally aware of how their bodies are reacting.
So focus on the core basic principles of running, not on whether your plan is the best or not. Every plan is just a training program that guides you and helps keep you on the rails.
6. Slow Down to Speed Up
Try to choose a plan that matches your experience and is realistic for you.
Sometimes, I see runners who want to follow things like a Boston Marathon training plan, but yet they're running a 13- minute mile and they're trying to go out and run a 6-minute mile because the plan told them to do that. And they're really pushing themselves when they’re not ready for that plan.
Listen to your body, pay attention to how you’re feeling during the running, and adjust your mileage accordingly.
Increase speed and mileage gradually to prevent overtraining. It’s good to have a combination of speed workouts and slower endurance training. This way you’ll manage to develop both your aerobic and anaerobic energy systems, and significantly improve your running performance.
7. You Are Not in a Competition with Anyone
Always remember that you are not in a competition with anyone. This is one that I really struggled with my first year. I kept trying to compare myself with others.
Stop worrying and overthinking about how you look. You are a runner and you're running for your health and well-being, not anyone else's. You do not need to go further than somebody else. You just need to strive to do better and measure up against yourself.
You may try to compare yourself with another runner of similar age thinking that you should be able to run as fast as that person. However, that person probably has been running for 30 years, and you simply have a different fitness age. That’s why don’t compare yourself to other runners and instead focus on gradual and consistent training.
8. Every Workout Should Have an Identifiable Purpose
Every workout should have a purpose, and you should know what it is.You know, think about what is the purpose when you go out for a run. Are you doing it just for enjoyment? If so, that's certainly a valid reason. But if you're in a training mindset, make sure that you are performing the type of run properly and not just going out generically just to get your run in.
For example, many people are running their long runs way too fast and other workouts too slow. It's partially because sometimes we get caught up in the moment and we want to run faster, but when we do so, we’re putting ourselves at a disadvantage because we're not attempting to work out in the manner that it's meant to be for. When it happens, sometimes we don't understand it or ignore it.
Running the same pace will cause you to slow down, plateau, and mess with your metabolism.
9. Don’t Run the Same Pace and Distance Every Single Day
I can tell you from personal experience and from what I see, that running the same pace every day will cause you to slow down or plateau.
It really screws with your metabolism. Your body is smart and it will adapt and slow down because you need to vary the intensity to keep your metabolism from just leveling out.
For many of us, we just get comfortable and the overload aspect stops occurring. That’s why If you want to keep improving, try not to run the same pace and distance every day. You should diversify your running routine with a moderate tempo and race-pace intervals. It is also good to change the running surface, try to include trails and a softer surface.
10. You Do Not Need to Be Perfect
Do what you can when you can. You don't need to be perfect, you just need to make some form of forward progress each and every day, and if you have retired or had a stressful day, go ahead and take rest.
In fact, I'll argue that rest will benefit you more than, say, the run will. And as long as you get more runs than you skip, you're going to make progress. I like to make an analogy of putting pennies in a jar. Think of each of your workouts as a penny that you're placing into a jar each and every time you do a workout over a period of time. Those pennies are worthless, but if you put enough pennies in a jar, the amount actually will start to add up to something.
So, don't get so upset with yourself or hard on yourself when you just have those days when you can't get a workout in. Just be careful with it a little bit because it is easy to kind of fall out of habit and make that day you can't get a workout into an excuse that trains your mind that it's OK to skip. So if you find yourself falling into that habit, take a deep breath, and do your best to get back onto a normal schedule. This will help you not be so hard on yourself and not feel like it's a failure because you didn't get all the runs you’ve planned for the week. So, you know, do what you can when you can. It's a great mantra to think about.
So, these are 10 things you can apply into your training, to your running. And I think they'll have huge benefits if you truly give them an opportunity.
Additional Running Resources
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