If you want to improve your running, the most surefire way to do it is with consistent training. By logging the miles and putting in the work, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll get better. But most runners are just a tad impatient and the thought of waiting weeks (or months!) to see improvement can be disheartening.
Luckily, there are some things you can do right now to become a faster, happier and healthier runner.
1. Drink a Glass of Water1 of 10
Even slight dehydration can affect running performance. Water deficiency can make your blood thicker and your heart work harder. Downing about 16 ounces of water is a quick and free way to stave off dehydration.
2. Strength Train for at Least 10 minutes2 of 10
If you're pressed for time and only have a few minutes to dedicate to strength training, focus on bodyweight exercises like lunges, squats, pushups and planks. A strong core makes for a strong runner!
3. Set a Bedtime Alarm3 of 10
Are you getting enough sleep? Chances are the answer is no, especially if you're a morning runner. Figure out what time you need to wake up, then count back eight to nine hours and set a bedtime alarm. When the alarm goes off, turn off screens (TV and phone) and begin your nighttime routine. Aim to hit the sack about 30 minutes after your bedtime alarm goes off.
4. Prioritize Runs4 of 10
Make runs as important as meetings. Pull out your calendar and start scheduling your workouts for the week ahead. Rather than waiting to see when you'll have time to run, make logging the miles a priority.
5. Evaluate Your Shoes5 of 10
Take a look at the bottom of your running shoes. Is the tread beginning to wear down? Put your hand inside the shoe and press the cushioning. If you can feel your fingers on the other side, your cushioning probably needs to be replaced. Most runners retire their kicks after an average of 300 to 500 miles, so if it's been that long, it might be time for an upgrade. Running with fresh shoes is a great way to add some pep to your step.
6. Decide on a Goal6 of 10
Sometimes we want to just enjoy running for what it is, but if you want to get faster or run longer, you'll need a goal. Whether it's finishing a 5K in under 30 minutes or running 100 miles in a month, figure out what's important to you and start planning the workouts that will get you there. For a constant reminder, write down your goal and post it where you'll see it often.
7. Call a Fast Friend7 of 10
Some days we all need a kick in the pants. If you're in need of recovery miles, by all means take it easy, but otherwise running with a slightly quicker friend is a great way to push your limits. Ideally, you want to run with someone who averages about 30 to 60 seconds a mile faster than you'd run on your own. Any quicker than that and the run turns into a speed workout.
8. Finish with Strides8 of 10
Strides are short, roughly 100-meter accelerations that get your legs used to moving a little faster. Even if you're not up for tempo runs or track work, strides can be a great way to maintain some speed.
Start with four to six strides at the end of a run; accelerate for the first 25 or so meters, transition into your near top speed for the middle portion, then decelerate for the final bit. Take a few seconds to recover and then repeat.
9. Take a Rest Day9 of 10
Isn't the best way to become a better runner to, well, actually run? Usually, but not always. When you work out, you break down muscle fibers, and it's only through rest that these fibers repair themselves and come back stronger. Every good training program needs recovery time, so focusing on extra sleep or cross-training exercises like swimming can be a simple way to improve your running.
Take a day off to become a better runner? Sounds almost too good to be true!