Being a successful runner isn’t about genes or luck. It’s about doing your running in the right way.
Really, all you need is to cultivate some very simple and sustainable training practices. Integrate these habits into your own running lifestyle, let them become second nature to you, and you can bloom anew as a successful runner for a life time.
Take care of your body. Injuries and burn out from overtraining will not sustain your running passion. Stay motivated and energized by practicing preventative maintenance.
- stretch after every run – hold each stretch for 20 to 30 seconds
- grab some goodness with a weekly massage – focus on the legs
- get consistent and sufficient sleep – this will go a very long way to contributing to your running and overall wellbeing
- consider a glucosamine supplement for your joints; ensure adequate omega 3 fatty acids in your daily diet
- get appropriate attention for chronic problems – physical and mental
- try barefoot running – practice a healthier forefoot or frontfoot strike pattern rather than the jarring heel strike we tend to use
- if you are wearing running shoes, change them every 450 – 800 kilometres
- walk as part of your cool down – even 5 minutes can help with muscle recovery
Favour quality over quantity. The most important predictor of injury is total mileage, so following a running program which is not about accumulated distance may help you with a sustained running life. Vary your weekly training with hill runs, tempo runs, long runs, repeats, pick ups and easy runs. You can get in three or four quality runs each week this way and still accumulate base mileage for racing if that’s your thing.
Get off the roads. Decrease the amount of time running on pavement. Running on beaches, trails, boardwalks, fields and rubberized tracks – indoor or out – will help prevent injuries. Run on the shoulder of the road periodically if road running is your most convenient route.
If you are on pavement, take one run a week off road. Do an internet search for local trails or hit a treadmill.
Move iron. Runners of all levels benefit from resistance training. You can prevent injuries, improve running economy, delay the muscle loss of aging, and strengthen ligaments, tendons, and bones. This all means smoother, more effective and efficient running.
- use free weights or body weight for pushups, crunches and squats.
- best yet, work with a kettlebell for strength gains, lean muscle development, and endurance enhancement
Run in crests and take your rests. Make sure you take time off periodically. Yes, this can mean a full week a couple of times each year with no running. This will rest you well and recharge you too.
Though you take a holiday from running, stay active. Swim, bike, kettlebell, complete a home project, landscape. Take brisk walks or do a bit of hiking. Try some fitness classes you haven’t yet explored.
You’ll return to running stronger, happy and fit and truly motivating to continue loving your runs.
Keep your running fun and fresh. While developing great habits will keep you going in the long run, don’t be so tied to routines that they become ruts. Make sure you vary your running routes, your training schedule and the races you enter.
Plan a new running adventure each year…maybe a trail run, a relay race with family, a marathon in a new and exciting locale.
Or, try some new running gear or tweak your running time of day.
For the tech minded, smart phone apps, clothing with embedded mp3 players, heart rate monitors and any number of downloadable software programs might pique your interest.
Maybe a change in music mix or getting rid of the earbuds all together might be a welcome change. Though skeptical, I loved it when I abandoned the music and began truly enjoying my surroundings and my body in them. Practicing meditation while running is also an incredible experience.
Build or join a running family. Run together, share life’s joys and challenges. You’ll find camaraderie, motivation and inspiration. Your running family will spur you on to greater goals, cheer every step of progress you achieve, and hold your hand during the tough times of your life. You can do an engine search for groups in your area or start your own through current social networks or local bulletin boards.
Run for yourself. Run for others. You run for fun, for fitness, to compete, to feel better. Whatever your personal motivation, over time the power of that reason to get you out the door on a cold early morning may wane. You might find a shift happening in your reasons for running.
You could run to inspire others to run. Maybe that’s how you got yourself mired in this running culture yourself, by being inspired by a friend or family member, maybe by an athlete or the neighbour who changed her life by moving her feet a bit quicker.
You can run for charity. Charity runners are so common place now and large charitable events organize running and training teams. Or, you could just pick a favoured charity or two and convert your aerobic conditioning into fundraising efforts. There are a zillion such events. I like the new Jingle Bell Run for the Arthritis Society and shorter distances which let me donate to local food banks.
It may take some conscious effort to incorporate these eight great groove-your-running rules into your running life. You’ll need to sort out what works and what doesn’t for you and for your location. But be diligent. Stick to the program for a few weeks. Soon your running will be in a new and totally satisfying groove.