The Olympics always inspires us to get moving again or to pick up our current pace. Those athletes that have somehow maintained olympian levels of fitness despite the difficulties of the last 18 months show us what can be achieved with discipline, dedication and determination.
If you’ve recently dusted off your running shoes, or have been jogging along at a pace which you know could be quicker, here we share some tips for improving your running.
MOTIVATION & PLANNING:
What is your goal? Why are you running? Want to improve speed or distance?
There are loads of reasons to run, be it weight loss, stress relief, keeping fit, improving stamina and endurance, for a competition or charity event, or just plain old fun. The important thing is to have your own specific motivation and then set up a schedule which you stick to. The more you run, the better you’ll get, but if you’re just restarting, go easy on yourself to begin with and then over the course of a few runs pick up the pace and/or go a little further each time. The key is to have a specific target or motivation in mind though.
If you want to run seriously, then you need to spend a little extra on the right gear. Don’t get those £10 trainers, but rather the £60+ ones. Where you are running needs to be considered. Are you running on concrete? In the park? On a track? If you have the wrong trainers, you will likely develop problems in your knees, shins and ankles. Ask the experts!
The right shoe on the right surface will make running easier.
You’ll also need the right clothes for different weather.
A fitness tracker watch is also a must-have. A fitness tracker watch will monitor your physical performance, measure running distances and times, give you tips for improvement and also give challenges. It is a great tool for both beginners and experts alike.
Check out our blog on the best tracker watches out there.
Lastly, music. Music may motivate you and can be used to keep rhythm. Obviously, taste in music is subjective, but we’d recommend something with a steady beat that keeps you going, and smiling. Alternatively, podcasts or book readings can help take your mind off the pain!
Warming up and cooling down are key to preventing niggles and improving recovery time. Do not start running cold. Be sure to give your leg muscles a good 10-minute stretch before you head out, and move through the gears slowly. Likewise, at the end of your run, cool-down. If you’ve got a cold bath, do it… If you haven’t, a cold shower will help too. This is because the cold water soothes and relaxes the muscles and increases recovery time.
Once you’ve been running comfortably for a few weeks, it can be easy to plateau out. This is when you need to have a look at your form and find areas that need developing. There are 3 major areas everyone can improve: Strides, strength and speed.
Most experienced runners will take about 180 strides per minute. Watch the pro marathon runners: their stride rate is super quick, not long and slow. A beginner will most likely be at around 150/160. Try running at your usual speed and count the strides you take just on one foot. Then double it. That is your average stride count. Then try to up it.
It’ll feel unnatural to begin with but the higher your stride rate, the quicker you’ll be. Through concentrated practice, this will eventually become your completely normal technique, and results will follow.
It is also important to relax your shoulders and arms and let them swing naturally. Don’t run as if you are wearing boxing gloves!
Although running will obviously improve your cardio and stamina, it is also important to get strong elsewhere if you want to get better. More muscle and flexibility means more speed and resistance.
Check out these things to do and how they will benefit your performance:
- Weights and exercises on days off - Lunges, squats, press-ups and sit ups will strengthen your core and leg muscles. Stonger muscles, more power, more speed.
- Sleep - After your run you need to give your body the time it needs to recover. Sleeping at least 7 hours, in a comfortable bed, will help.
- Diet - Bananas, oats, pasta, broccoli and dark chocolate are all great foods for a runner.
If you’re working out on your days off, improving your core strength, losing a few pounds, sleeping and dieting well, your speed will certainly go up. However, here are some other ideas to get quicker.
- DISTANCE/TIME CHALLENGE - with a smartwatch you can keep track of your distances and times. The watch itself will reward you if you break a previous personal best. It’s the most classic of ways to up your tempo. But always listen to your body. Discomfort is normal, agonising pain is not.
- FINISH STRONG - go for your scheduled run as you normally would but push yourself to the max for the last 200 metres. This will burn, but the next time out your resistance will be stronger and you will be able to go that little faster.
- RACE - yes, enter into a race or a competition! Sign up, write down the date and then get training for the event. It’ll add extra motivation to your running and with that will come speed.
To sum up, running is a great and usually free way of keeping your body in shape. If you want to get better, run more frequently and get the right gear. You will also need to watch your diet and workout on your off days to see real improvements.