Everyone I know wants to improve their running times. I want to help you run your best, injury free, while you learn how to condition your muscles more efficiently. Go ahead and give these tips a try so you can start maximizing your run and be the leader of the pack.
1. Take it easy. If you hear that loud thumping going on, make sure it isn't you pounding on the pavement. Take it easy on your foot strikes on the way down with your feet and plant them more gently. Think as if you're running on a piece of glass, and that you don't want to shatter the glass. Doing this will help you use your muscles and not your joints. Also, pay close attention to your knees and ankles, and use them as springs.
2. Watch your posture. Keep your shoulders back, to prevent slouching, and raise your head up to the horizon, so you're not looking down. You're better off on slowing down your pace and having good form, than leaning forward with poor form and causing yourself to run less efficiently.
3. Listen to your body. If you experience any aggravation or ongoing persistent pain, stop. Yes, stop running. No need to make an injury any worse. Your body signals you with a pain message and you need to attend to it.
4. Watch that pace. You may feel fantastic on those first few miles, but nothing is more grueling than burning yourself out well before the race is over. Think of your car and staying at the right speed limit for the best MPG. Keep your fuel tank running efficiently and save your after-burners for the end of your race.
5. Get rest. Not only 7-8 hours of sleep every night, but you need to alternate the days that you are running and make sure you rest on those days off. This will allow your body to repair itself, so that you can run more effectively.
6. Keep your tank full. Make sure you're staying hydrated and eating nutritiously. You may want to start your run on an empty stomach, but you will pay the price later on. You simply need fuel to power your run. I recommend eating protein 45 minutes prior and within 30 minutes afterwards such as a Promax Lower Sugar protein bar.
7. Stay hydrated. Whether you're going for a short run or long run, you definitely want to keep a water bottle on your waist or make 100% sure you have access to water- multiple times on your run.
8. Keep it interesting. Don't get into the routine of going around the same old block. Make your run interesting by switching up your course, doing intervals, the stairs, and latch on to someone who challenges you to take your run to the next level. Drifting off into runner's bliss is great too. Pair this runner's high with a great course- and you'll be done before you even know it.
9. Wear properly fitted shoes. The last thing you need are running shoes that don't fit. I know that style can sometimes win you over, but make certain they fit properly. From blisters, to cramping of your feet, avoid these by getting fitted properly by an expert. Also, beware on how long you keep running in those same pair of shoes. Just like balding and worn out tires, you need to change your running shoes too.
10. Loosen your grip. Keep from holding your fists tightly while running. This allows you to have a more relaxed running form and to not waste energy on unnecessary tension. Remember to shake your hands every so often.
11. Catch your breath. Make sure you push yourself enough to get your breathing going, but don't go overboard with erratic breathing either. Take deep breathes and exhale nice and smoothly- keep a steady rhythm going. Make sure you aren't holding your breather either. Create a consistent pattern, so that when the going gets tough your body automatically knows what to do. You'll pay the price in the end, so breathe!
12. Massage. Finally… the reward for all of your hard work! Sometimes you may not even realize you have a knot until you're in the hands of a great masseuse. It is great to be put back together a bit and to mentally let go and float. I recommend treating yourself to a massage every 2-3 weeks. If you can't get a massage, then use a foam roller a few times a week, or take a nice warm bath to relax your muscles.