Do you want to run cross country or track? How about a long, leg-breaking marathon? Maybe you are new to the running scene and running faster for longer is your goal, or perhaps even just completing the run itself is what you want. No matter what drives you, there are some key ideas that every runner needs to know in order to be successful in their workouts. These simple tips will help aspiring runners or even advanced runners to increase their fitness levels and step up their game.
1. Time: Keep It
So let’s get hypothetical for a moment. Let’s say you have decided to go for a run, and your target distance/time is two miles in 15 minutes. That means that your pace for that run should be a 7:30 mile pace. Starting the run, you choose a comfortable pace and do not really keep track of time. Assuming that you complete the run at around the same pace, you check the time, and 17 minutes have elapsed. You have just forgotten one of the most important rules of running: keep time. Many people will go run and set a distance but pay no attention to the time it takes. Not only does keeping time allow you to track your improvement, but it allows you to know just how fast you are running and to know what certain paces feel like.
2. Distance: Know It
This may sound obvious, but knowing your exact distance to the meter is very important and vastly overlooked. Some runners will run on the road, others on a trail, and some on a track, but no matter what your venue, you should always know exact distances. On a road or trail, you may know the distance from one end to the other, but intervals are not always known. If you do not like to run on a track then I would recommend a GPS runners watch or even a very inexpensive smart phone app that can track your location and distance and coordinate it with your time. This will allow you to further your knowledge of how your body handles various distances and speeds.
3. Pace: Practice It
Now that you have taken care of all the easy stuff, let’s talk about actually running. It is important to know what pace you need to be running at, but it is even more important to know what these paces feel like. As runners, our bodies get accustomed to certain intensities and paces by exposing them as often as possible. One way to do this is by using a bit of math to figure out how fast we need to go at distances our body can handle. Don’t worry, it is easier than it sounds.
Let’s go back to the two mile distance, but this time we want to run it in at least 12 minutes. If we run that on a track, we would run eight laps in 12 minutes, or 4 laps (1 mile) in 6 minutes. By dividing that by four we get 1 lap in 1:30 which is a somewhat fast pace. The way we would teach our body to get accustomed to that pace would be by running single lap sprints in 1:30 or less. We could also incorporate 4 laps, 2 laps, and half lap sprints at corresponding times, keeping that 1:30/lap pace. By using this technique you will learn what it feels like to run at a pace that will reach your destination at the preferred time.
4. Body: Take Care of It
The last but certainly not least thing to consider is what you are doing to your body when you run. In addition to cardiovascular exercise, running is rough on your leg and lower body muscles. The constant impact from running can lead to painfully sore muscles and excruciating shin splints. In my experience, the best thing to do to prevent or lessen the severity of these side effects is to stretch. Stretching your muscles will help relieve most pain if done correctly and enough, and allowing your muscles to stretch and warm up properly before and after your run will help prevent problems. New runners should also consider running primarily on grass or dirt when first starting, and increasing mileage very slowly. Overworking your muscles or tendons could become dangerous if the proper precautions are not taken.
Whether you are just starting or are an experienced runner, I hope these tips can help you succeed in the running world. They have helped me as I have progressed through the years, and now I am passing them on to whomever is willing to hear them. Good luck all, and happy running!