Over the past two years however, I have learned a lot about running. The majority of what I learned came from reading books and magazine articles. They gave me a lot of helpful pieces of advice that uniquely improved my running performance. These tips were invaluable, and I am grateful for the incredible people who took the time out of their busy lives to write down what they learned, so that people like me could benefit from them.
To pay homage to them, I thought it would be nice if I wrote down a few things that I have picked up along the way that might benefit you in the future.
So here we go!
1. Less is more.
When I first started running, I was completely horrible at it. I had no idea what I was supposed to do. Naively, I thought I could just strap on a pair of running shoes and everything would fall into place.
But the more I ran, the more I began developing pain in my shins and in my ankles. I kept thinking, "Why is this happening to me?" Then one day while I was doing some research on running injuries, I came across this book written by Christopher McDougall titled:
It was through reading this book that I learned a simple truth that impacted the way I viewed running forever. That truth is, human beings were literally born to run. Before automobiles and fast food, our ancestors had to be able to run long distances. We ran to travel, and we ran down animals in order to survive.
And do you suppose our ancestors had a pair of Nike's strapped to their feet while doing all of this running?
No. We ran barefoot. You see, we are naturally programmed to walk and run just fine without shoes.
After learning about this concept, I was immediately convinced that it was my "running shoes" that were causing my running woes. So the day I finished the book, I embarked on my very first barefoot run. It was incredible! No pain, no agony, and I was somehow going faster than my usual pace - even though it felt like I wasn't even trying.
After that, it was clear to me why most people develop issues when they first start running - they purchase the wrong equipment. Mother nature has already blessed us with the most perfect running equipment imaginable - our feet.
All we had to do was figure out how to add a little bit of protection without taking anything away from the already exquisite design. This is why I believe that minimalist running shoes are the way to go if you really want to get serious about running.
They truly give you the best of both worlds!
2. Land on your midfoot.
Once I adopted the minimalist running lifestyle, I noticed that instead of landing on my heel when I ran, I naturally began landing on my mid-foot instead. After doing some research, I learned that landing on your mid-foot is the most efficient way for your body to absorb shock when you run.
3. Baby steps.
There might come a time in your running life where you feel particularly overwhelmed by a distance you are trying to cover. To help ease this stress, simply remind yourself that running is all about the journey, not the destination.
If you find yourself struggling during a run, just keep telling yourself to put one foot in front of the other. Without a doubt, these small steps will eventually lead to a huge and rewarding accomplishment.
4. Focus on short, quick strides.
It is a common misconception that if you lengthen your stride, you will run faster. This could not be further from the truth. What I have learned is that you are better off focusing on short, quick strides instead. By running this way, your body not only conserves energy, but you also significantly improve the ease with which you run.
To determine whether you are running efficiently or not, you must first figure out your running cadence.
The next time you are out running, count the number of times your right foot strikes the ground for 60 seconds, then multiply that number by two. This will give you your running cadence.
The ideal running cadence is about 160 foot strikes per minute. If you are below that number, then you strides are too long. If you are above that number, your strides are too short.
5. Abide by the talk test.
A simple test you can administer to see if you are exerting too much energy while you run is called the talk test. It's really simple: If you can't talk and run, you are running too hard. If you find yourself in this predicament, slow your pace until you can comfortably carry on a conversation, then finish your run with ease.
The more you train, the easier it gets.
6. Set a challenging but achievable goal.
It could be something as simple as committing to running just one mile every morning for an entire month. The distance does not matter, nor your speed. The point is to develop and solidify your running ritual.
After you pour your heart into this initial running foundation, building up becomes fun and easy.
7. Get your run in before breakfast.
Over the past two years I have experimented with running at all different times of the day. What I discovered is that the very best time to run is first thing in the morning - before I ate breakfast.
Why you ask?
Because there is truly no other time of day that can possibly even compare to an early morning run.
You have the benefit of:
- Running on an empty stomach - less weight to carry from fasting all night.
- Running with well rested muscles - your glycogen stores are full and dying to be burned.
- Running in the fresh, crisp morning air - I run in the city, so fresh outside air is hard to come by.
My point is that running in the morning provides the most ideal conditions for running. Not to mention you feel incredibly energized the entire day following a morning run.
Why do you think races are held early in the morning?
8. Join a running group of some kind.
Even if you enjoy running on your own (like me), I promise you will benefit from running with a group - even if it is just once every other week. Not only will you make a lot of new running friends, but you can also pick up valuable tips from seasoned running vets that will likely aid you in the future.
Trust me, you'll be doing yourself a favor.
9. Learn how/when to eat/hydrate.
- If you're going to eat before a run, make sure it is at least 1 hour beforehand.
- Always eat a high protein meal within 30 minutes of completing your run.
- Hydrate 30 minutes before, 45 minutes into, and immediately following a run.
10. A.B.T - Always Be Training!
Before we get into this rule, I think it is important that I first explain to you the difference between exercise and training.
After you get comfortable with running about two miles without stopping, I suggest you sign up and train for your first 5k race right away.
The reason this is so helpful is because training for a race keeps you focused, holds you accountable, and keeps you motivated. Once you drop money on that entry fee and tell a few friends that you are training for a race, you no longer have any room for excuses.
And once you get into the habit of always training for a race, you'll never find yourself in those pesky weight traps again. You'll actually be able to enjoy those holiday/special treats (in moderation), because you have the satisfaction of knowing that you worked hard for it. You'll start going to bed a little earlier every night because you know that next morning's run will be waiting for you, whether you get enough sleep or not.
When you find balance in your weekly training, a funny thing happens: the rest of your life balances itself out and seem a lot less frantic than before. You'll find that you have more energy than most of the people around you. Inevitably you will experience this incredible sensation of peace and tranquility that will overflow into every area of your life.
Take it from me, it's hard but it is worth it!
Good luck and happy running!