12 Tips For Better Running

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In the old school of thought, the way to improve your run was to run more. But as more research results have emerged, a new school of thought developed that proved there are ways to improve your run without running more. Let’s look at some of the ways.

1) Pool running

If you have ever walked in a pool, then you know how hard it is against the resistance of water. Now try running in it. Pool running has been used for years as a rehabilitation method after an injury, but only recently is it being used to train. But because it is low impact, it is easier on the lower body joints. And its resistance is much greater than air, so it also builds endurance.

While running in the pool don’t forget to swim some laps. This works different muscles in both the upper and lower body along with building breathing endurance.

2) Stationary biking

Here is another low-impact exercise, but used for a different reason. Biking with resistance not only builds up the leg muscles and breathing capacity, but it also increases the range of motion in your hip joints. This can lead to taking longer strides when running if you happen to be a short strider.

3) Treadmill running

Running on a treadmill is another way to build endurance and increase your VO2 max. With the ability to increase the incline, you can make the run harder. Then when running outside, it will seem easier since you are running on a surface of less incline.

4) Other non-running forms of exercise

If you are in a winter climate, one of the best ways to train to run better without running more is to cross-country ski. Cross-country skiing uses almost every large muscle group, both upper and lower body, so not only does it build strength, it builds endurance.

Your running friends may laugh at you with this one, but don’t overlook just walking. If used as a warm-up and cooldown exercise, it can be beneficial in the recovery after a run or preparing the body for an upcoming run. Also running can be a good form of rehabilitation if recovering from a running injury.

In general, use these non-running activities, or other cross-training opportunities, as enhancements to running. By varying the exercise, along with the volume, intensity and frequency, all are beneficial in their own way at improving your running without running more.

Good Running Form

If new to running, it can be confusing as to what you should do to increase your running form. You’ll run into terms like swing phase, stance time, loading rate, stretch flex, etc. If you are like most runners, you don’t want to know the science behind good running form, just how to do it.

There are four things that will do more to perfect your running form and are easy to implement: Posture, Foot Strike, Stride and Cadence.

5) Posture

Many new runners tend to lean forward at the waist when first learning how to run. While leaning forward is part of good running form, the lean should come from your ankles and not the waist.

However, leaning at the ankles comes naturally so by focusing on running tall with erect posture you should also have the right amount of lean in the right place.

To focus on running tall, pretend you are a puppet hanging on a string. Your whole body should be in vertical alignment from your head down to your ankles. Focus on keeping your head level and looking straight ahead. This should keep your weight centered over your spine where it should be.

6) Foot Strike

How your foot hits the ground is not as important as where it hits. To perfect your form, each foot should hit the ground when it is directly under your hip. Hitting forward sends too much impact up your leg and does not allow you to propel forward as well. Not only does proper foot strike produce a more fluid stride, it reduces the risk of injury.

7) Stride

By taking shorter strides from the front of one foot to the back of the other, you will land lighter on your feet. This in turn reduces the impact on your legs and thus reduces the risk of injury.

To practice, perform an exercise known as butt kicks. While using a short stride running, lift your knees and bring your heels up directly under your butt, not behind it as is the case with a longer stride.

8) Cadence

Cadence is the number of steps taken per minute. Through research, the optimal number is 180. At an easy comfortable pace, you should be running at least 170 steps per minute. Running at the proper cadence has everything to do with reducing the impact on your legs and thereby reducing the risk of injury. Many runners also find that it increases their speed too.

To find out your cadence, count the number of times one of your feet hits the ground in a minute. Now double it to account for your other foot.

If not at least at 170, focus on increasing your cadence by 5% every two to three weeks until you are running between 170 and 180 steps per minute.

Practicing these four tips not only will make you a better runner, but reduce your risk of a debilitating injury that could sideline you for months.

Race Day

Race day is tough as it is, but it can be even tougher if certain things are not heeded that day. Here are four things to think about that many seasoned long distance runners consider key to their performances:

9) Eat light before the race

Many runners eat twice before the starting gun goes off. Upon rising, they will have a 200-calorie carb-based snack, like a slice of whole-wheat toast and 2 teaspoons of peanut butter, or oatmeal, 1% milk and half a banana.

Then an hour before the race starts, they will eat again – like a quick 200-calorie energy bar. In both cases, they go for the carbs. Your body has “fasted” during the night so you want to carb-load before the race. You want to have as much glycogen as possible that your body can use for fuel before it turns to using fat (and slow down your pace time).

10) Wear familiar gear

Race day is not the time to debut a new pair of high-tech running shoes or even a new running outfit. Either could rub you the wrong way making the race anywhere from miserable to not being able to finish due to intense pain. If you are going to wear something new, be sure you have tested it first on one of your long races to ensure fit and resistance to skin chafing. Speaking of clothes, don’t wear anything cotton to include underwear. Go instead for any of the newer moisture-wicking fabrics.

11) Eat/drink during the race

Most people do not have enough glycogen storage capacity to complete a full long race of at least two hours. To carry you through to the end (or at least farther down the road), eat a high carb energy bar mid-way to delay the burning of fat. A couple hundred calories may be all you need to sustain you to the end.

Water is the catalyst necessary for your body to keep your muscles working. Even a 2% to 3% loss of body weight due to water loss is enough to alter your pace negatively. A good rule of thumb is to bypass the first water station (because everybody is already stopping there) and choose one further down the road that is less crowded. You’ll be able to grab something faster without impacting your time. Keep hitting the water stations as you progress along the race.

12) Maintain your pace

With everyone starting off faster than they should, it is easy to get caught up with keeping up with the group. Don’t do it; run your own race by keeping to your pace time. Steady wins every time!

Use this advice as a guideline to four important things you should do prior to and during a race. They can make a difference in your performance.

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