Do These 5 Things To Become a Stronger Runner
If you want to become a stronger runner, there are no shortcuts, simple solutions, or magic pills. It just takes a lot of hard work and consistent effort.
Sometimes you can feel like you’re working hard and not seeing much progress. If that’s the case, you may need to look beyond your weekly miles.
Below are five things I have found to be incredibly important as I continue to shoot for audacious running goals. They are things you can start doing right now that will have immediate returns.
Sometimes we need to be reminded more than we need to be instructed. This list is a reminder (as much for me as for you) of what it takes to be a well rounded runner.
1. Get more Sleep
Ok, so we already know runners need more sleep.
So why aren’t you getting enough sleep?
According to the CDC, “An estimated 50-70 million US adults have sleep or wakefulness disorders.” and most of us get fewer than 6 hours a night. Yikes!
Sleep is not only linked to stronger running, but a host of other things. Mental alertness, mood, and weight control to name a few. The May 2014 issue of Runner’s World called it, “The New Cross-Training,” in part because sleep is when your body recovers from the rigors of running.
Make sleep a priority by going to bed 15 minutes earlier every night this week - ideally at the same time. Next week, make it 30 minutes earlier. Keep going until you’re able to consistently get 7 - 9 hours a night (or whatever your optimal amount is).
Track it with an app like Sleep Cycle. I’ve never met a healthy person who functions better on less sleep.
2. Do More Core Work
The February Core Challenge was a great reminder of why your core is important. When you stabilize your core, you reduce your risk of injury while becoming a more efficient runner.
So how often are you seriously working on your core?
Admittedly, since February I’ve gotten lazy with my core work. If you’ve lost your motivation like I have, it can be hard to find the will (or time) to do more core work. Make it a priority!
After each run, do core for 10 - 15 minutes. Here are several great core routines to get started. Print it out, save it to your smart phone, or find another way to make it part of your running ritual.
3. Warm-up and Cool Down Properly
Dynamic stretching before you run isn’t new. It’s been linked with better performance and reduced injury.
Are you getting your body ready to run?
Dynamic warm-up should be part of your pre-run ritual in the same way that tying your shoes is. It may not make you faster, but it will help reduce injury, which will keep you running longer.
Before EVERY run (no matter what) spend 3 minutes doing the lunge matrix or other dynamic warmup routine that prepares your muscles for the intensity of running.
4. Do More Speed Work
Do you incorporate speed work into your training?
I received several emails from seasoned marathoners who had never focused on this before.
Doing just one speed workout per week will help you become a stronger runner by challenging a different part of your running system - the side that makes you run faster, longer.
If you’re not doing any speed work, look at one of these plans and pick one workout to do this week. It will be hard, but if you consistently incorporate it into your training, you’ll get faster. Contact us if you’d like a more thorough plan, or ideas for moving to the next level.
5. Run in The Morning
If you’re not a morning person, you should become one. The benefits of exercise in the morning has been well documented. Benefits such as;
- You’ll get it out of the way. You’ll likely have fewer scheduling conflicts by doing it in the morning, and you don’t have to worry about finding time later in the day. It can also help you stay consistent.
- It will jump start your metabolism. You’ll burn calories all day if you workout in the morning. If you’re an evening runner, your body isn’t burning as many when you’re sleeping. A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that if you exercise before breakfast, you burn calories more effectively. It forces your body to burn more fat instead of carbs.
- Greater Brain Power. Working out has been shown to improve mental alertness and clarity for 10 hours post exercise. “Exercise increases energy levels and increases serotonin in the brain, which leads to improved mental clarity.” By working out in the morning, you get these benefits in your brain all day, not just in the evening.
What’s stopping you from running in the morning?
Not a morning person? Try this
- Go to bed earlier (see point #1).
- Sleep in your running clothes (one less thing to prevent you from getting out the door).
- Find a friend or group to run with (accountability to show up for an early run).
- Eat breakfast at work (can save you time to make room for that run).
Unless you’re an elite runner trying to shave .04 seconds of your PR (Heather Kampf), becoming a stronger runner isn’t hard. It takes consistent attention to these details. You’ll also find you function better in all aspects of life, regardless of your race plans.
What would it take for you to implement or more of the above tips this week?