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9 Ways to Become a Better Runner

There is no such thing as a perfect runner. Runners are constantly learning and improving upon their techniques, speeds, and distances, but improvement goes far beyond just strapping on your sneakers and taking that first stride. Preparation for a run comes from every aspect of your life, physical and mental. No matter if you are a beginner, or an avid runner who is failing to see any progress, there are many things to keep in mind when getting ready to run.

Run With Purpose

Without purpose, there can be no real progress. Find your motivation and set goals for yourself. The goal can be physical, like weight loss, or mental, like managing stress, but no matter what, it needs to be important to YOU. If you are feeling a lack of drive in your runs, maybe it’s time to rethink your goals and find something that truly encourages you.

Stretch, Stretch, Stretch

Running consistently means running frequently, and if you are running multiple times a week, stretching is incredibly important. Running can be hard on your muscles and joints, and neglecting your body before AND after a run can lead to some serious injuries. Take a few minutes before each run to wake up the body, try some light cardio (think jumping jacks or high knees), as well as stretching out those ankles, calves, and hamstrings that work so hard during the run. After you finish, go for some deeper stretches to work out any tension in the hips and knees.

Hydration is Key

While this point may seem pretty obvious, it is still important enough to mention. Running demands a lot from the body, and not drinking enough water before and after a run can not only make recovery more difficult, it can be dangerous. Try to drink plenty of water consistently throughout the day, chugging a bottle right before a run is not going to help you stay hydrated and energized during a workout.

Fuel Your Body (with the right stuff)

Whether you’re running a mile, a 5k, or a marathon, your body needs to be properly energized to work effectively. Providing your body with proper nutrition, like fruits and vegetables, healthy carbs, and plenty of protein, will greatly maximize results. Foods high in sugar or oil content can make you feel sluggish, or even sick, during a workout. Try to eat something energizing within three hours of a run, and don’t forget to fuel up again after you finish.

Add in Strength Training

Many people tend to shy away from strength training because they automatically equate it with weight lifting. While yes, lifting weights is a highly effective way to gain strength, there are plenty of other ways to strengthen the body. Yoga is a great way to gain muscle while also working on flexibility at the same time, which can be amazing for runners experiencing any running-induced tightness. Pilates is another great option for anyone looking to build and strengthen muscle while still working at a low impact. A stronger body will help you go longer, farther, and faster on your runs.

Switch up Your Location

Different running surfaces can provide different benefits. Running on the sidewalk or road can allow for faster speeds while running on a trail can be a bigger test of endurance and balance. Trail running also tends to have less of an impact on the body due to its softer surface. Both can provide different challenges that will make for an overall better runner.

Switch Up Your Runs

As with anything, running can cause some serious burnout. To avoid this, try switching up your routine from time to time. If you primarily focus on long runs, try out sprints every once in a while. If you usually run on flat surfaces, find a hilly area to do some interval running on. Changing things up can help you keep motivated as well as improve in areas you may be lacking.

Experiment With a Running Coach

Those who have never tried running with a coach or a trainer may be surprised to find how much extra motivation can help. There is something special about having a voice in your ear telling you that you CAN go faster or longer. If you are hesitant about investing in a coach, there are plenty of apps available (for free!) that can provide you with some quality coaching.

Join a Running Club

Ozark Mountain Ridge Runners, Fleet Feet, and Trail Sisters are all great local running clubs that would love to help you train to become a better runner.

Remember, trying new things when your running methods aren’t working for you is not a weakness, but a strength. Staying consistent and focusing on improvement, rather than perfection, will ensure that the benefits of running can extend into every aspect of your life. With an emphasis on strong, healthy, and empowered running, you’ll find yourself feeling better, looking leaner, and going about your day feeling more motivated and confident than ever before.

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