Have you ever looked at the fast runners who seem to effortlessly float down the road at speeds you can barely match with your car? These runners have it figured out: the “secrets” to increasing your pace, how to run with proper form and the right way to prevent running injuries.
If you're a new runner, or you simply want to take your training to new heights, it's helpful to receive some wisdom from fast runners who have been racing for years (or even decades). What do they know that you don't? How can you learn from their success? What does it take to continue to improve year after year?
Follow these seven lessons, and you'll be miles ahead of the competition:
1. Good runners don't “just” run.
Gone are the days when you could simply lace up your shoes and head out the door. By only running, you're only exercising in one specific way. Fast runners display far more athleticism that comes from strength workouts, dynamic flexibility routines and runner-specific core sessions.
Improve your athleticism by “sandwiching” your runs between a dynamic warmup and a bodyweight strength workout. This simple training upgrade can help you get stronger, improve your running efficiency and prevent injuries.
2. Progress takes time.
Rome wasn't built in a day, so neither will your fitness. Think in terms of months and years – rather than days and weeks – when it comes to running improvements.
This long-term patient approach will help you progress gradually. It will reduce the likelihood that you'll rush through your training, and it will greatly limit your risk of a running injury.
Those fast runners you see winning races have been running regularly for decades. To truly see your potential, you must train consistently for at least four to six years.
3. Foot strike is basically meaningless.
After "Born To Run" by Christopher McDougall was published in 2009, it seemed like every runner wanted to transition to running forefoot (on the balls of his or her feet).
But fast runners know it doesn't matter where on your foot you land. Rather, it's where you land in relation to the rest of your body that matters. Rather than “reaching out” in front of you to cover more ground (which inevitably leads to over-striding and an inefficient running style), it's best to land directly under your body.
This approach virtually eliminates over-striding, increases your cadence and helps reduce aggressive heel-striking.
4. Shoes aren't that important.
Buying running shoes might be one of the most confusing things you'll ever do. If you feel overwhelmed when it comes to stack height, pronation control or medial post terminology, fear not: The types of running shoes you choose aren't that important.
The most important thing is simply choosing running shoes that feel good when you run in them. Fit and comfort conquer all other considerations.
5. To get fast, run slower. (Wait, what?)
Most runners believe that to run faster, you have to run more or run each workout at a faster pace. But this approach often leaves runners overtrained or injured.
Since the most significant barrier to running faster is a lack of endurance, it's more helpful to build endurance. After all, most of us can run fast. The problem is maintaining that speed.
Increasing endurance can be done by increasing weekly mileage, consistent long runs every week and aerobic workouts like tempo or progression runs.
6. Embrace the trails.
Trail running has a host of benefits, including reduced likelihood of injuries, faster recovery and increased athleticism (thanks to the uneven terrain and softer surface). Plus, it's a lot more fun.
You don't need to conquer mountainous, single-track, technical trails to get the benefits of trail running. Simply find any off-road route on grass, dirt paths, cinder walking trails or wooded trails.
Explore, enjoy the sights and sounds and discover new environments in your own neighborhood.
7. The little things matter.
The mundane tasks of sleeping enough, staying hydrated, eating well and reducing stress all contribute to how well you can train, recover and race. The fastest runners know that running is a lifestyle. It's not just a sport they do once in a while.
Focusing on a healthy lifestyle – including proper rest, nutrition habits and balance – will help you become the runner you know you can be.
Hindsight is 20-20, so take these principles of successful running into consideration the next time you plan to achieve a big running goal. They may help you achieve more than you ever thought possible.