6. Get cozy with frozen vegetables. This isn't a nutrition tip. It's an injury-prevention tip. If London Marathon winner Paula Radcliffe can take ice baths after a hard race, you can stand a bag of frozen peas against your sore knees for 15 minutes. Nothing reduces inflammation and holds injuries at bay like ice. Result: You stick to your training program. Don't like veggies? Fruit works, too. Try a small bag of frozen blueberries or strawberries. Or one of the many commercial ice wraps, often with handy Velcro straps. (You can find a good one at www.contourpak.com.)
More: Recovery Eating Tips: Don't Let Your Energy Run Low
7. Find a coach.
Maybe the kind who yells at you every once in a while. (But probably not.) Point being, a coach's first job is to motivate you in a way no one else can. Second job: To lay out your training program. Third job: To prevent you from straying from the program, probably by running too much or too fast. You can find a coach by asking around, calling running stores, and checking the Internet.
8. Join the "X" revolution. Despite the many proven benefits of cross-training, we still know too many runners who only run. C'mon, folks. We love running, too. We know all about the "specificity-of-training" rule, but we still skip the occasional running workout to get in some cross-training. Mainly strength training, bicycling, elliptical training, yoga, stair climbing, pool running, rowing, and walking. Why? Not because we think these routines will make us faster in our next half-marathon, but because they make us fitter and less prone to injury.
More: 5 Cross-Training Ideas
9. Keep a log.
Your training log is a great source of the kind of motivation that builds consistency. It beckons to be filled in, reveals the secrets of your training and racing successes, and provides lots of inspirational quotes and useful tips. At least it does if you're using the new Runner's World Training Journal, available at www.rodalestore.com. Check it out.
10. Enter races.
You don't have to race to be a serious runner, but, geez, there are so many good reasons to enter races. Jeff Galloway, RW columnist, says that entering races, especially marathons, "scares" people into training the way they should. That's a good one. But we also like the sense of community you get from races. They help you realize that you belong to something big, and that there are more people than you imagined who share your running and fitness goals. Besides, it's good to go for the burn every now and again.
11. Pay attention to your shoes.
Some things should be obvious, and this is one of them. But it's worth repeating, if it keeps even one of you from getting injured. Most shoes wear out after 300 to 500 miles. You often can't see the wear, but, your knees, hips, back, and Achilles tendons know it. Give your old, worn shoes to a local Salvation Army or similar group, and get yourself to a running-specialty store for a new pair. (While you're there, buy some reflective gear. The days are getting shorter. Make sure you're visible on the road this winter.)
More: Basic Gear for a Beginning Runner
12. Run early. You want to get something done? Do it early in the day. Everything gets tougher later in the day when various tasks and responsibilities start ganging up on you. In a recent Runner's World Online survey, the two most popular workout times were 5 a.m. and 6 a.m.
13. Practice good posture. Not just when you're running, but all the time. This is especially important if you've got an office job, and are sitting at a computer all day (like us). Make sure your keyboard and monitor are properly positioned, and sit straight but comfortably in your chair. Some of us have recently started sitting on those large Swedish exercise balls, which encourages good posture because you have to use your legs and stomach muscles to keep from falling off. Good posture can improve your running efficiency and decrease injury risk. Ergo, better consistency.
More: 3 Ways to Improve Your Running Form