15 Top Tips to Improve your Running

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It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been running for, how much you’ve already achieved or what your goals are. We can all improve our running in one way or another by making small changes to what we’re doing.

This doesn’t mean needing to make massive amendments to our training plans or diets. It’s often the small and simple changes in our routines that lead to the biggest results. In this post, we explore 15 top tips to improve your running.

1. Leave your running gear out and ready to go the night before

Have you ever had the intention of going for a run, but it just seemed like a massive chore to get all your gear ready?

You need to choose a top, some bottoms, find your GPS sports watch, grab some snacks, and wrap yourself in a sports jacket if it’s cold and rainy out. You think of all these things you need to do and then decide you’ll take it easy today, postponing the workout. The run can wait until tomorrow.

Though the task of getting all your gear ready for a run seems relatively insignificant, each additional step that must be taken requires willpower. The more willpower you need to get ready for a run, the more resistance you’ll experience to the idea, the easier it’ll be to put off exercising until tomorrow.

Instead of having to locate all of your gear from scratch before each run, have your gear laid out and ready to go the night before.

Having your clothes, shoes, sports watch, and snacks already laid out and ready to grab and go, you’re more likely to go for the run. It’s hard to put your workout off when all the tools for making it happen are staring you in the face and there’s nothing more for you to do other than put them on and step out the front door.

Leave your running gear out and ready the night before the run and you’ll be more likely not to miss your workouts.

2. Run with a partner or a group

Though running is usually seen as a lone wolf sport, it’s incredibly fun to run with others from time to time.

You can run with anyone. Your romantic partner, a friend, a colleague, a family member, other runners in a club. Whoever you want.

A nice benefit of running with others is that it’s a good opportunity to spend quality time developing relationships with those most important to you. Running in the presence of others means you can motivate each other and even engage in some friendly competition to work on performance.

If you’re someone who is enjoys being around other people, I’d recommend joining a running club. To do this, simply go onto Google with location tracking turned on and type in ‘running clubs near me.’ There’ll usually be two or three in your local area.

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3. Mix up your running routes

They say variety is the spice of life and one can confidently say this saying applies to running. Variety is important for us runners, but why is this?

Sure, we all like toast. But imagine having toast every single morning. What would happen? You’d get insanely bored, very quickly. What happens is we might have toast on Monday, cereals on Tuesday, eggs on Wednesday, croissants on Thursday, back to toast on Friday. We like mixing up our eating experiences. The same applies to running.

If you run the same route during every single workout, you’ll soon become overly familiar with the surroundings and you risk becoming bored. The problem with this is that you may soon start to associate the boredom of the same route, day in day out, with running itself and lose passion for the sport. Not good.

Instead, try to mix up your running routes on a regular basis. Run new paths and venture through new locations on the fly, without planning or pre-thought. Pre-plan new routes using a route planning tool, like on Strava. Book events like half-marathons in different cities many miles away to experience other cultures. If you’re feeling particularly adventurous, book an event in another country! Why not?

Whilst routine is important for some aspects of running (like time of day, sticking to a schedule, applying the same workout regimes), it’s important that you explore new places while on the go. You will stay passionate about running and will have much more fun.

4. Eat healthy carbohydrates to fuel your runs

A popular analogy for describing the human body in the middle of a workout is a car driving along a road. For the car (you) to be able to travel down the road (the run route), it requires the right type and the right grade of fuel (the food we consume before running0

If a petrol car is filled up with diesel, it won’t run. The spark plugs will clog up with diesel and the car will be lifeless. If a petrol car is filed up with petrol, but that petrol is extremely low-grade petrol, it will run but nowhere near as effectively as it could run with a higher-grade alternative. We as runners can use this methodology

The right type of fuel for runners

Let’s take the type of fuel first. To move our muscles, our bodies require an adequate amount of blood glucose concentration. To raise the glucose concentration, we should eat carbohydrates. This means that we should have a decent pre-workout light meal or snack primarily consisting of carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are good pre-race snacks because they are light, easy for the body to digest and allow a supply of glucose to get into the bloodstream which increases performance.

Eating mainly protein and fats before a run is what we can call consuming the ‘wrong’ types of fuel. While a small amount of these nutrients can be consumed, eating too much of them can be detrimental for running.

These types of foods digest slower in the stomach which creates an unpleasant ‘full’ sensation in the middle of a workout. Protein and fats also draw oxygen and energy-providing blood from the muscles to aid in the digestion process.

This isn’t to say that you should cut out protein and fats entirely from your pre-workout food. Rather, the main part of the pre-workout provision should consist of carbohydrates with a little protein and fat to go with it. A good example would be

You’re much better off to save the eggs, meat, nuts, and dairy products for after the run, and focus on eating carbohydrates before the run for an optimal fuel source.

The right grade of fuel for runners: Simple and Complex Carbohydrates

Okay, we’ve already established that carbohydrates are the optimal fuel source pre run. Can we eat whatever kind of carbohydrates we want, or is there a special kind or ‘grade’ that we should be eating?

The most important thing is that you should ensure the carbohydrates you’re eating are healthy and contain nutritional value. For example, it’s much better for you to eat a banana before a 5K run than it is to scoff down a few bags of crisps or potato chips.

The type of training you’re undergoing and what your objectives are should influence the type of carbohydrates you consume.

Simple carbohydrates are easy for the body to digest, with the glucose from these sources quickly getting into the bloodstream providing a ‘sugar high.’ Examples of such foods are bananas, white toast, pasta, and dried fruit.

When you’re going for a shorter run, say under an hour, these are the type of carbs that should be opted for.

On the other hand, complex carbohydrates take longer to be absorbed by the body and supply a constant supply of energy over a prolonged period. Examples of such foods are brown rice or quinoa, yoghurt, sweet potato, and beetroot.

Complex carbohydrates should be eaten when you’re gearing up for a long run or even participating in a long-distance event such as a marathon or an ultra-marathon.


5. Book future races in advance

Personally, my running habits used to be poor and I put off training. I’d be chilling out on the sofa watching a Netflix show, having a great time. What was the urgency for putting on my running gear and venturing outside into the cold and wet for running a few miles?

Fast forward a few months and I was now running 6 times a week for at least 3 miles at a time, incorporating hill and intensity workouts comfortably into the mix. What changed? I booked six months of running events in advance and I found the motivation to train.

Everyone’s different but some (including myself) find it incredibly helpful to have something in mind to work towards. If you have an academic test coming up, you’re more likely to study the subject more. Having a project deadline at work helps us muster up the energy to put in the effort. Having something tangible to work towards does wonders for our motivation.

If I know I have a half-marathon coming up in three weeks, I’m more likely to get out of my warm bed and get a workout done because I know it will increase my chances of crossing the finish line with a decent time. When I know I have a 5K at parkrun the next morning, I’ll be more inclined to get an early night for a proper night’s rest.

For those who need something tangible to motivate you to put more time and effort into your running, I highly recommend booking multiple months of future events in at a time. One event per month should do up and you can book events for as long into the future as you like.

6. Set running goals and write about them in detail

Us humans need goals in our lives. We need things to move forward for and a reason to get out of bed every morning. Why else would we do hard things?

Have you ever studied a subject relentlessly to pass an exam? Did you ever take the time to learn how to cook an exciting new recipe? Are you bi-lingual, having spent many hours learning vocabulary and grammar in your target language? Why did you do these hard things? To achieve the goals, we set for ourselves and to reap the fruits of our efforts.

If you’re a runner without tangible goals you’re aiming for, you risk becoming uninspired to workout as intensely as you otherwise would if you had goals to aspire to.

I can confidently say that the quality of my workouts, the time spent running and the overall enjoyment I gained from the sport increased when I started setting specific measurable goals.

Some examples of goals I have set are:

  • Run a half-marathon in under 1:25
  • Run a 5K in under 19 minutes
  • Run a marathon in under 3 hours
  • Run a marathon in another country

I’m still in the middle of accomplishing some of these goals now, and that’s perhaps the principal reason I endeavor to train day in day out. Not only do I love running; I also love accomplishing goals.

If you’re new to setting goals, I would highly recommend Jordan Peterson’s Future Authoring program. This is an online resource that guides you through the process of consciously thinking about and creating SMART goals for obtaining your ideal future. I completed it a month ago and can say that it has quite literally changed my entire life (my running life being included).

For more information, check out the following blog post:


7. Read running books

If you’re someone who loves learning new things, reading is an exceptional hobby to adopt. If you’re a runner, why not start reading running books?

There are literally thousands of excellent running books out there to learn and be inspired from. If you don’t like or don’t have the time to read physical books, you can listen to audiobooks whilst running on mobile applications like audible.

For more information, check out the following blog post:


8. Get the right shoes for you

A decent pair of running shoes are easily the most important weapon in your running arsenal. A runner’s shoes can be considered like a painter’s paintbrush. Without the right pair, it’s highly likely you will not perform to the highest of your ability.

Special running shoes are important because they are designed by technical experts to accommodate the running motion. Running shoes are padded to protect against the shock of constantly striking the floor, air vents that allow for breathability and stretchy material to enable flexibility when running.

Do some research on possible shoes, make a list of those you like, then go visit a local store to try them on. If you visit a decent running store, they’ll have a form analysing machine which analyses your running style to provide information on the type of shoe that would be best. You can also work with a store assistant to find the right shoes for you.

For more information, check out the following post:


9. Listen to podcasts while you run

Podcasts are recorded episodes of audio content which can be downloaded and listened to on a digital device like a smart phone.

If you’re spending time running, why not optimize the time by listening to something interesting? I used to listen to music whilst running but I now decide to spend my time listening to podcasts (with the occasional audiobook) as it means I can learn something new whilst running. For example, I’ve been using my running time to listen to French language podcasts to develop my listening skills.

Podcasts can be about virtually any subject so, whatever your taste, there will be something to please you. History, politics, cooking, psychology, business, personal development, language learning music. The possibilities are endless.

For more information, check out the following blog post:


10. Don’t drink alcohol the night before a run

Ever gone for a heavy night on the town, gone to bed and woken up for a run the next morning only to find yourself feeling like throwing up on the side of the road? I’ve been there and I can assure you that it’s no fun at all.

Drinking alcohol reduces the quality of our sleep, increases anxiety, makes us more likely to eat junk food and gain calories, leaves us feeling sluggish and – in my opinion – reduces our ability to fulfil our full potential.

After having read William Porter’s book ‘alcohol explained’, I no longer drink alcohol so don’t need to think about it affecting my running performance. However, if you’re someone who likes a good drink from time to time, I would strongly recommend that you don’t drink the night before a run.

For other mistakes not to make before a run, check out the following blog post:


11. Work on your form

‘Form’ refers to the way you run. Examples of bad running form are heel striking, low cadence, a lack of mobility, an unrelaxed upper body, leaning too far backwards and being unbalanced.

If you have a poor running technique, your performance during workouts will be less efficient and you’ll be more likely to injure yourself.

Taking time to work on your form is crucial for improving the overall quality of your running workouts.

For a visual lesson on running form, check out the following video:


12. Get a coach

If you want to take your running to the next level, you could consider investing in a running coach.

A coach is a person who is knowledgeable in a particular topic and will train you in the best techniques that they know of.

Any running coach worth their salt will offer most of, or all, the following:

  • Technique assessment
  • Footwear check
  • Training advice
  • Speedwork
  • Goal setting
  • Accountability
  • Mindset coaching
  • Strength & conditioning
  • Basic nutrition
  • Race preparation


13. Download and start using a running app

I don’t know where’d I’d be without Strava, a popular running app.

Running applications are an exceptional tool for runners because they help us track performance, analyze stats, connect with our sports people, engage in friendly competition (like the segment feature on Strava) and help us plan routes in advance.

While I am heavily biased towards Strava because I use it every single day, alternatives exist like Runkeeper, Adidas Running App, Nike Run Club and Pumatrac.

To find the running app that works for you, download a few and give them a try before settling on your favourite. Your running will greatly improve as a result.


14. Be adequately equipped for all weathers

Being from England, I know all to well to be prepared for a variety of different weathers when running. In this lovely country it can be relatively calm one day, only to be lashing it down with rain the next.

It’s always a smart idea to have a variety of running gear suitable for a range of different weather conditions. A decent sports hat, lightweight sports jacket and sports glasses are all recommended.

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15. Invest in a decent GPS sports watch

GPS sports watches are handy tools athletes can use to track their sports data with extreme accuracy.

Any sports watch worth its salt will be capable of tracking location (GPS), connecting to a running app like Strava, monitoring heart rate, offering tips for recovery and having different training modes to provide a positive influence on your training.

One of the main reason fellow runners in my circle don’t want to buy in a GPS sports watch is because of the price. I have had my Garmin Forerunner 735XT for two years now and it is still working as well as it did the day, I took it out of its box.

A GPS sports watch can be considered as an investment in your running life as it will serve to improve the quality of your workouts. Money well invested.

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