6 ways to become a better runner
Run, rest, repeat. But what about improve? If you want to supercharge your running power, employing new techniques can really help you go the extra mile. Whether you’re training for a half-marathon or just starting off, master your running routine with these simple but effective tips:
1. Pick up the speed
When you run, your brain communicates with your muscles to help you exercise more efficiently. Training faster makes your muscles contract quicker and harder, explaining why runners become less fatigued with experience. To speed up your running without overdoing it, try interval training - sprinting for 60-90 seconds then slowing down the pace for five minutes. Do around ten reps of this and feel your running go from strength to strength.
2. Run for the hills
They may not be the easiest, but hills are a great way to up your running game. It torches calories, prevents shin splints and challenges your body’s ability to process lactic acid - which is crucial for improving speed. Not only will your glutes will thank you for it, but regular hill training will boost your running endurance, meaning you’ll be tackling the steepest of hills in no time.
Tip: Mix up your next hill session by running downhill, too. Go lightly - pick up your heels quickly and use short, fast steps to avoid jarring your joints.
3. Fuel up correctly
Becoming a better runner can be as simple as revamping your eating habits. Focus on easy-to-digest carbs that are low in fibre and fat. For a run lasting more than 90 minutes, try a smoothie, banana (or peanut butter) on toast, or porridge with honey. Time it right - it’s best to eat at least an hour before you set off. Post-workout, have a protein-rich snack around 20 minutes after to repair muscle tissue and restock your energy with some healthy carbs.
4. Warm down properly
Neglecting your cool-down routine can leave you injured and really stall your training. Take five minutes at the end of a run to stretch out your quads, hamstrings, hips and glutes. You’ll boost your flexibility by filling muscles with blood and oxygen, relax your brain and flush out toxins, getting rid of all that lactic acid and leaving your body set for an even better session next time.
Tip: A proper warm-up is just as important as a warm-down. Instead of static stretching, start every run by walking and jogging for 10 minutes.
5. Don’t be tempted to over-stride
Don’t stride too far or too heavily - this can send impact shock up through the leg and cause injury. Instead, run with short, fast strides that briefly hit the ground. What part of your foot hits the ground first depends on what feels best for you - heel, midfoot and forefoot all work. The most important aspect is making sure your foot lands directly underneath your body, rather than in front of it.
6. Find the perfect form
Great technique equals better running. Make sure you’re standing tall, with a straight line through your ears, shoulders and hips. Imagine a string attached to the top of your head, being pulled towards the sky. Once you’ve got the perfect straight-up posture, your body will naturally lean forward slightly from the ankles. Focus on the fundamentals of form and you’ll reap the rewards of running.