Run better - Simple advice to self improvement
There are no secrets in running. Like your bank account, the more you have accumulated, the better things tend to look. It’s that simple. Yes, we can wax lyrical about you can’t buy happiness, but try telling your underprepared legs that in the final mile of your run. You’ll wish you’d been a bit more diligent in the accumulation department.
Of course that’s far easier said than done. I’ve been a runner for more than 40 years now, but without a series of ‘tricks’, there’s no way I could have been quite so dedicated to the cause. Although on occasion even I have to play a few trump cards to get me out of the door when, say, time is tight, or when it’s raining, when my favourite football team is on TV, and definitely when my wife says we’re heading to the supermarket.
So there’s the first clue. You need to get yourself a routine. If you’re at all rushed during the day – work, shopping, kids, general life – then factoring in a morning run is just about the perfect solution. Apart from ensuring you never miss a pre-planned run, running sets you up for the day and generally it just makes you feel good about yourself.
Add to that a touch of consistency and before you know it, you’re running three times a week, every week. As a coach to six county champions this track season I can reveal we don’t do anything particularly out of the ordinary, we just train regularly, never missing and the results follow. It sounds simple, but honestly we don’t do much more than meet up three or four times a week. One-off great workouts don’t tell you a lot, but after a year and you’ve done 52 of them you’re ‘suddenly’ a very different athlete.
Get yourself in to a training group or a buddy to run with. There's even evidence that shows it will even make you more intelligent!
To make this simple plan work even more effectively you should also throw in a little strength training to break things up a bit and to reduce the chance of injury. That can take the form of something like going to the gym or perhaps a Pilates or yoga class (check out our running yoga article). Mix and match, but again, make it regular and make it part of your routine! And, working to a minimum of three runs a week, you should also include one longer run a week in your seven-day programme. So if you normally run 30min make one run 45min or better, an hour.
From this point you can fine tune your running formula as much as you want, for instance by adding in pace training or looking at your diet, but there is one more thing worth bearing in mind. I’m not a massive fan of GPS watches; when you need them, they do a magnificent job of telling you how far and how fast you are going, but for running to be truly fun, at least once a week pace and distance shouldn’t matter. Leave the watch at home. Run how you feel, for as far as you feel. Explore; let your mind wander. Your legs will thank you for it.
You may want to 'get fit quick', we all do, but we also know it doesn't work like that. That said, the body is a wonderful machine and it adapts quickly so you can make great gains quickly. Just stick with it.
Put all these together and you have the makings of a very successful runner, I guarantee it!