Becoming a better runner is about more than ticking off items on a checklist – intervals, strength training, increasing mileage… I’ve seen people do all these things and still fail to improve.
It’s as if there’s something lacking. A mental block that stops the transition from mediocre to exceptional. Certainly not everyone has the demigod physiology of Usain Bolt but most of us have a long way to go to reach our full running potential.
This post contains affiliate links. This means I receive a commission if you make a purchase through my links, but this is no additional cost to you. Please read my disclaimer for more information.
Finding The Right Mindset To Be A Better Runner
Back in my twenties I hung out with an exceptional group of runners. Between us we accounted for most of the endurance trail records in the UK. It didn’t feel like an elitist group – most of us were friends from the same running club. We just fed off each other, inspired and supported each other. Our exceptional training patterns became normal.
It was having a winning mindset. If you want to improve your times, win races or break records you have to know what success looks like. What are you trying to achieve. What are other people doing to get there?
If you want to be a better runner, act like a better runner. Hang onto the coat tails of the top runners in your group or club. Do what they do.
Don’t set limiting beliefs. “So and so is just talented.” Yeah maybe they are but that talent is just a small part of their success. It’s what happens behind the scenes, the hard work and consistency that gets results.
All the good runners I’ve known trained harder and smarter than anyone-else.
Be Prepared To Change Your Body
No-one starts running with the perfect body shape. Some may be more suited to running than others but the perfect running body can still take years to develop. Gradually building the strength and muscles you need to train hard without getting injured.
If you always run at the same pace and cover the same distances, without challenging your body, you get stuck in your comfort zone. Your body’s kicking back and going through the motions without getting stronger.
Plan your year out in advance. Find a training plan that makes you work harder, one that mixes up endurance, interval and strength training to build the body you need. Consistency is key and working with a coach can make a big difference.
Make healthy eating part of your plan. There may be 20-something (normally male) runners who can thrive on fast food and chocolate bars. For most of us, healthy eating is the price we pay for the perfect runner’s body.
Becoming A Better Fast Runner
Interval training is about planning, patience and record keeping. It’s the key to becoming a better fast runner.
You can’t become a better runner without trying to run faster. You need to be pushing yourself on a regular basis.
Even if you’re an endurance runner you will still benefit from speed. It helps to build powerful muscles to keep you going on longer runs.
Mix up your sessions instead of letting your body get complacent. You won’t always see improvements week on week, the daily niggles of everyday life can take it’s toll. It’s the month on month improvements you’re aiming for.
What Makes You A Better Runner?
Being a better runner isn’t just about running further, faster, harder. You need to train smarter.
That means avoiding injury and staying healthy. I’m not convinced changing your running form is always such a great idea but you should at least avoid the more obvious problems.
Over striding and heavy heel striking are common beginner runner issues that need correcting. One tip is to up your cadence – your steps per minute. If you’re taking more frequent steps it’s very difficult to over-stride. This one small change can put an end to heavy landings.
There’s nothing wrong with heel striking provided your foot rolls flat before taking the full force of your weight. It’s slamming your heels down hard that does the damage.
When it comes to injury, some runners are more susceptible than others. Sometimes it just seems to be pure bad luck but often there are underlying strength issues. Try and work with your body to get the most out of it. After all it’s all you’ve got.
Work on strengthening your weaknesses and avoid over-training. You can’t up your mileage suddenly overnight and expect to get away with it. Better to under train consistently than go all out and be forced to take weeks or months off as your body recovers.
Use Marginal Gains
Long before Sir Dave Brailsford came up with the idea of marginal gains for the Ineos cycling team in the Tour de France, we were using it in the UK for endurance trail running. Shaving ounces off kit, timing stops at feed stations and switching to walking up steep ground to save energy.
It’s not always the best runner who wins a race. Pacing, fuelling, wearing the right kit…these all add marginal gains. For example, in a road marathon, drinking from a feed station without losing running speed is a skill you can practice and learn.
I’ve learnt over the years that the best runners aren’t always the most gifted. Talent only takes you so far… the runners who rise to the top back up their gifts with hard work and training smart. Better runners overcome their self limiting beliefs and follow logical steps to improve their running.
I’ve also known many runners who’ve never reached their full potential and that’s okay. Everyone has different reasons for running…enjoyment, being healthy, friendships… these are all good reasons to run.
To become a better fast runner you need to work on speed, strength and endurance. Benchmark yourself against better runners and work on your weaknesses. Hill reps, varied intervals and regular short races are the best ways to get faster but don’t neglect your endurance. Yoga for runners can be a good way avoid muscle imbalance, improving strength and avoiding injuries as you learn to train harder.
It’s easy to get in a rut as a runner endlessly clocking up junk miles. If you want to be a better runner you need to train smart – every mile you run needs a purpose – building speed, strength, endurance or recovery. Your training plan needs to be sustainable designed for steady improvement and avoiding injury.
So many factors come into this such as your speed, strength and running history. It’s possible to run at an easy pace far longer than your normal training run. For example if you normally run 7 minute miles, you can run a lot further by dropping your pace to 9 minute miles. However there’s still a risk of getting over tired or injured if you’re running significantly further than your normal long run. As a rule of thumb build distances slowly adding no more than 10% to your long run every week.