The good news is you don’t have to join the local track team to become a serious runner. You just need focused training and self-discipline. Whether you are new to running or have more experience, here are eight training tips that may help you.
Increase Your Distance Week on Week
The best way to push your distance up is to gradually increase your weekly mileage. The easiest way to do this is to establish a progressive training plan. Any training plan starts with the end in mind. How far do you want to run? How fast do you want to run the distance? When you have your goals, you can decide when you want to hit your target. A goal is just a dream until you put a date on it.
Break down the gap between where you are now and where you want to be at your target date into weekly or bi-weekly milestones. These will be short-term or mid-term goals you want to achieve. Then, break the activity down into training days and rest days. This process takes a challenging goal and separates it into a series of steps you can take to get there.
If you are new to training, speak to a personal trainer or someone with more experience. They can help you establish your goals and schedule.
Concentrate on Core Strength
When you're running, your core muscles are working to keep your body stable. Your core plays a key role in stabilizing the spine and supporting it during a run.
People often overlook the core muscles. If your core muscles aren't strong, you can't expect to run with good form, especially as you fatigue.
To build stronger core muscles, you should focus on exercises that target the trunk of your body, the area from your chest to your hips and especially on your abs and back. Exercises that build the core include planks, bird dogs, crunches, and side planks.
Listen to Your Body
If you’re on a mission to run faster and farther, you need to listen to your body. Don't be constrained by rules of thumb that you hear. For example, you may read online that you shouldn’t increase distance by more than 10 percent per week. This idea came about to help new runners avoid injuries.
If you feel strong, healthy, and are able to progress faster than expected, don’t limit yourself. Yes, take plenty of rest. Yes, recover from runs. But, push your runs hard if you want to progress and map your own journey.
Listen to Music
Listening to music can help you run longer and faster, according to researchers at Brunel University in England. Their study showed that runners who listened to music while exercising maintained a consistent pace for longer periods of time compared with those who did not listen to music. The study also found that runners who listened to music increased their pace even when tired. The right playlist can be the difference between a slow, arduous jog and a dynamic, motivated run.
Upbeat, fast-paced music is best. Research suggests that music with 120 to 130 beats per minute is best for fast, powerful running. Be mindful of your playlist though — different songs have varying effects on our moods and energy levels. You can also use different music as you focus on different training goals. For example, if you need to focus more on your technique and running form in a session, you could try a slower-paced playlist. When working on stride length and power, you’ll want to turn up the dial on the beats per minute.
Improve Your Breathing
What’s the easiest way to get more oxygen into your lungs? Simple answer: belly breathing.
Belly breathing is a breathing technique that lets you take in more air per breath by engaging the diaphragm and making more space in your chest cavity. Diaphragmatic breathing can oxygenate your blood and muscles more efficiently. This breathing technique will improve your endurance and make the transition from walking to jogging feel much less intimidating.
Practice belly breathing by laying down on your back, taking a deep breath in through your nose and exhaling out through your mouth. Then, try it while sitting up. You can learn this breathing technique as a separate skill and then take it into your running.
Make Rest and Recovery a Priority
To run fast, you should work on your strength and speed. But, to get results, your body needs to grow muscle. When you do a hard workout, your muscles develop microscopic tears. Your body responds to this by growing stronger muscle fibers. Without a recuperation period, your body cannot go through this rebuilding process. After a long session, you should ideally have a recovery period of 36 to 48 hours.
Overtraining puts stress on tendons, joints, and muscles. Rest days help your body to recover and reduce the likelihood of injuries.
Rest days can still be productive. You should:
- Stretch to increase flexibility
- Soak in a bath or get a massage
- Hydrate well ready for the next training session
- Eat well to replenish depleted nutrient stores
- Mentally prepare yourself for your next session
Up Your Mental Game to Boost Your Speed
You've probably heard the expression that someone was "out on their feet." When your legs feel heavy and you're struggling to breathe, it's your willpower and mental reserves that give you the nerve to push on towards your goal. Sometimes you have to get into your head, dig deep, and make the mental decision to push through.
Self-talk is crucial. You have to believe that you can run faster. You have to see yourself running faster. Positivity can’t guarantee success, but negativity can guarantee failure. The mental game is a big factor. Some of the tools you can use to help you develop your mental game are:
- Self talk and positive affirmations
- Setting SMART goals
- Relaxation techniques and meditation
- Centering techniques
- Keeping a journal
Are You Ready to Improve Your Running?
To run farther and faster you need to train, recover well, and develop your mental resilience. Those who succeed in running longer and faster are those who make their training a priority. Make the decision that you are committed to your goals and schedule. Not next week. Not next month. Get mentally committed today.