How to be a better runner (or better at whatever sport you choose)

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Improving at running is something I always strive to do. It takes up quite a bit of my time, requires a LOT of hard work, and of course, determination to slice minutes off of my miles. I am not a perfect runner, or a Kenyan, but I HAVE improved considerably over recent years.

Once upon a time, I ran a 6 1/2 our marathon. I did not always know
What my body needed, or, great training methods. My latest marathon time was a 3:54. Judging by my most recent training runs, my next 26.2 will be a 3:26 marathon.

People always ask me how I got better. These are some things that worked for me… I thought I would share because just Maybe they can help you too!

-Research your sport. I’ve been running for 13 years and I still don’t know everything there is to know about it. There are still more mysteries to unlock,and secrets to learn. I’m constantly reading running tips, articles, and blogs. I never assume I know it all. And even if I THINK I know it all, I try to keep in mind that we, as human beings, are an ever evolving species. Trends and techniques change all the time.

-Set a goal for yourself to work towards. Fewer things can be a more powerful motivator. Once you hit your goal, set a new one. The feeling of kicking your old goals butt is awesome!

-Don’t ever get discouraged by bad runs..everybody has them. Even me. Especially me! You can’t be afraid to go back out there.You WILL get better.

-Learn to rest and take days off. I once read a funny quote that is (sort of ) related that went something like this “when you are running 100 miles a week, you can eat whatever you want. Pretty soon you’ll be injured and back to a restricted diet anyway.” Resting = less prone to injuries.
What is rest? Sleeping, and taking the right number of days off from running. Sleeping the right amount of hours depends on your own personal needs and workouts.. The more intense of a run/workout you have- the more sleep your body requires. I am an insanely better athlete when I’m well rested.
Now I’m not saying not to push yourself when you are tired- because I have had some of the most surprisingly amazing runs when I have thought I was too tired to run. I just mean to take (at least) a day or even (gasp! As if!) two off so your body can heal itself.

-Cross train. There are other sports besides running that are great for your body. Swimming, yoga, Pilates, weight lifting.. These are some powerful sports that help you get into tip top shape.

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-Learn to train in ALL sorts of weather. I mean.. Don’t run in a hailstorm or a hurricane… But a little light rain or heat and humidity will seriously only make you a stronger runner. Testing out your running wardrobe in all sorts of weather leaves you ready to handle anything. And this way when you read the forecast of rain on your race day morning- you aren’t stressing about what clothes will work good for you in the rain.

– Never give up. Beat that voice down in your head that says you CANT do it. Fight for what you want. Don’t listen to the negativity of others: I once had someone tell me “you’re only getting older, Nicole.. You are never going to get any better at running,”
Um…. We don’t talk anymore! Believe in yourself!

– Rewards. I promised myself that if I broke 1:45 in my last half marathon I can get these sweet kicks I’ve been eyeing. Promising yourself a reward/treat helps you focus on getting there faster! Maybe you tell yourself that if you finish today’s long run, you can spring for takeout. Find something that makes it worth it for you!

-Energy/fuel/water: it is very difficult to head out for an amazing run when the tank is running on empty. Depending on how long you’re planning on running, you’ll have to eat before, and during. I carry Swedish fish or starburst with me, but if you run in an area with lots of stores, you can bring cash/debit card along with you. I always stop for a drink once or twice along my longer runs. We will talk more about hydration/fuel at some point soon.. I have about 84,000 more things to say about that it!

-Mix up your runs. Sprints, intervals, fartlek’s, tempo runs, progressive runs, easy runs, long runs…These are some different kinds of runs you can do to mix up your training. When you focus on only one type, it is hard to improve. By switching it up, you keep your legs (and mind) fresh and intrigued. Don’t forget running on hills. I tackle a few crazy hills in my area a couple times a week. When I swap to flat terrain, I am soo very fast because these little legs are used to going up hills!

-What makes YOU a better competitor? When competing, or on a regular old everyday run, I like to say I’m taking down one runner at a time. I focus intently on the person in front of me and ever so slowly build up my speed until I pass them. Or sometimes just blow right by them in a quick burst-if I’m not dead on my feet yet. I really wish at some point that the marathon picture peeps would get a pic of me mean mugging the person in front of me as I am preparing to pass them! To me, The coolest thing is when I pass a guy (sorry dudes!) I find some sort of inner goddess power in me to kick it up a notch. Psssht..this is MY RACE!:) what’s YOUR favorite competitive tool? Find it-and use it to your advantage.

-Experience. Did you hear about that guy who won the marathon and did absolutely zero training? Neither did I. Your body will develop a routine through your training. It is amazing what you can push yourself to do. 26.2 IS possible, and if you’ve done that – a BETTER 26.2 is also possible. (or better at whatever sport you choose)

I hope these were insightful and helpful.. Please tell me what works for YOU… I absolutely love hearing other athletes training techniques!

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