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Running Tips and Advice


It's an old cliché, but the secret is 'there is no secret.' It's easy to package articles and say, 'The 8 Best Ways to Your Best 10k,' or 'The 10 Secrets to the Marathon.' But really there's no 8 or 10, it's really hundreds. It's consistency, not just day-in, day-out, but week, month and year-in, year-out consistency and planned rest. That is ultimately the 'secret.'

- Pete Rea -
(Elite Athlete Coach and Coordinator at the ZAP Fitness Team USA Traini)

We’re all slower than somebody. There’s nothing to be gained from belittling yourself over how fast you can run; banish all thoughts of ‘Oh, I’m so slow, what’s the point?’ People get lapped even in world-class 10Ks on the track. There will always be lots of people faster than you. That fact detracts not a whit from your efforts to get faster and the meaning you can find in that pursuit. Any thoughtful runner who has set performance goals and worked hard to reach them will respect any other runner’s quest to do the same. Your effort, not your pace at that effort, is what really matters.

- Scott Douglas -

For some messed-up reason, our athletic egos still feel that we only get faster as we pedal harder, run quicker and swim stronger. It's athlete psychology—all of our confidence is built around the times that we actually destroy our bodies. But it's only the rest afterward that makes our bodies stronger.

Because of this psychological dichotomy, when and how long to rest is the hardest decision to make as an athlete. It takes a level of confidence above even the level necessary to push your body to the limit. You don’t get the endorphin release, the feeling of accomplishment, and the external and internal praise and satisfaction. All you get are feelings of losing your edge, getting out of shape and nervous anticipation.

So the next time you need to rest, whether it be for a mid-season break, post-big race, or just an easy day or two between training blocks, remember that it takes confidence to rest. Remember that it is just insecurity and a lack of endorphin release that makes you feel like you're getting out of shape. Know that when you decide to rest, you're making the right call—the better, smarter decision. Feel good and confident about it. You've done yourself a favor—you have literally just made yourself a better athlete.

- Jesse Thomas -
(Professional triathlete)

Sustaining my ability to continue running, day in and day out, requires a surprising amount of support. In order to run well, train hard, and race occasionally, I need a lot of help… Motivation comes in many forms; lately mine resides in the bodies of my running buddies. In the 18 years I have been a runner, I have gone for long stretches fueled by an internal fire that kept me excited about lacing up my shoes and getting out the door. Lately I've needed an extra push, someone to email me at 5 a.m. and expect--no, demand--that I get my lazy self out the door to meet them in half an hour. When my fire to train is reduced to embers, I rely on my training partners to fan the flames.

- Candace Karu -
Running Times Magazine

No matter how well we do, as runners we always look back and wonder if we lost a vital second by rounding a corner too wide in a road race, or an essential fraction of a second in a 400 m by not leaving the blocks slightly faster. Even when everything goes according to plan, the first thing we do is analyze our performance to ensure a better result next time.

This is the same approach used by Carl Lewis, and one that many runners might adopt when pressurized by the presence of other competitors. By concentrating on striving for your own 'perfect' performance, your focus is redirected from other runners to your own race. Lewis relates how his coach apparently chastised him after he won his first Olympic gold medal with the comment, 'You never left the blocks properly!' It wasn't a derogatory remark, quite the opposite. It was a way of saying there is still more to come, still a better performance. There is no finish line.

- Norrie Williamson -
Everyone's Guide to Distance Running

The nice thing about running is that the runner is always there, patiently waiting to be released. There isn't a predetermined starting date or a firm expiration date.

One of the easiest ways to release the athletic beast inside and to keep it loose is to set running goals, both short term and long term. It’s fine on occasion to just run around for the sake of basic movement, but to loosen the athlete, goals are necessary, both as a motivational factor (to get you out the door on days you’d rather not go) and as a testing factor (testing just how good you can be with a requisite amount of training).

Setting goals is a process that runs parallel with the personalities of most people who get involved in running, and it is a way of laying out yardsticks end-to-end toward reaching a long-term goal. You may start with modest goals and grow from there. You may be surprised at how motivating reaching goals can be. Set a short-term goal and achieve it, and you will be doubly motivated to strive for the intermediate goal, and from there to the long-term goal.

- Richard Benyo -
Timeless Running Wisdom

When I ran my first marathon, one thing that I found interesting was how much better it made me understand my own body. Because you are forcing your body to do something you have never done before, namely logging lots and lots of running miles, you will become aware of all of the little aches and pains that come with the training. But you will also become aware that your body is a machine.

We all know that we are supposed to give our body proper nutrition and plenty of rest. We learned that in elementary school, right? Well, training for a marathon will make you experience the downside of eating the wrong foods and in failing to get enough sleep. A long night of beer and onion rings before a long run simply won’t work. Relying on your body to get you through those long runs will force you to make sure you put the right fuel in your tank and that you are getting enough sleep. That was a true wake-up call for me, and a lesson that has served me well since.

- Joe Donovan -
Essential Guide to Training for Your First Marathon

Is it just us, or is autumn the best time of year to be a runner? Still warm enough for shorts (hopefully), but just cool enough to inspire you to pick up the pace. And you've taken advantage of the long summer days to log more miles or train for a race, so you’re more fit than you've been all year. But this otherwise ideal season is fleeting, and without the right focus, you could lose all you've gained as winter rolls around. So make the most of your summer fitness and build on it. Lots of runners get motivated by choosing a race as a goal, but use whatever target works for you, whether that’s building up to your first 10-mile run, running five times a week, or logging 100 miles in a month. Keeping it all going through the lovely autumn is the key to staying with it through the more challenging winter.

- Matt Fitzgerald -

Within every run, there are successes and defeats. As an advanced runner, you learn that you can make a conscious decision to focus on either the negative or the positive. Sure, you can always find defeats: not going as fast as you had hoped, not feeling light on your feet, not having time to run as far as you expected. But you can always find successes just as easily. Some days, it's going farther or pushing harder than ever before. Some days, the success is just getting out the door. Some days - on the really rough days - a success can be as simple as staying in good spirits and reminding yourself that tomorrow is a fresh opportunity to feel better. It's a lesson that, once learned on the run, proves invaluable when applied to other aspects of life.

- Dagny Scott -

No matter how many years you've been running, the hardest part is always taking that first step out the door. The trick is to always remember that you'll feel better after a run than before it.

- John Strumsky -

Enjoying your runs will be the make or break of whether you stick with it or not. Quite simply, if we don't enjoy something, we don't do it! If you have to force yourself to get out there and run, creating a regular running habit is unlikely to happen — you are running for the wrong reasons. There are many different reasons for exercising, which can be split into extrinsic and intrinsic factors. Tick off any of the examples below to help you decide whether your motivations for running are, or have been, intrinsic or extrinsic:

-I enjoy the way running makes me feel
-Regular running makes me feel healthier
-Running energizes me

-I need to run to lose weight
-I have to run to train for my event
-I must start running to get in better shape

The difference between our motivations for running (or any exercise) is that extrinsic factors are less likely to help us stick with it in the long run. If you run because you feel you have to, ought to or should do, these are shaky grounds for a long-term running habit. If, however, you find your reasons for running are that you enjoy it, or you enjoy the way regular running makes you feel, these intrinsic factors are linked with a healthy, long-term habit. Extrinsic factors may have motivated you to begin running in the first place, but if the end goal — for example, weight loss or improved body shape — is not forthcoming quickly enough, you will soon lose that motivation.

- Sara Kirkham -
Get Into Running: Teach Yourself

I've trained myself to 'just say yes' to co-workers who cajole me into ducking out for a lunchtime run. I know from experience that I almost never regret the runs that I do, but I almost always regret the ones that I skip. And when my co-workers are weak or overwhelmed, I do the same for them. Its an informal deal we've worked out. Sort of a get-off-your-butt support group. Go find enablers. It's harder to skip a run if you know others are heading out and expecting you to join them.

- Mark Remy -
Runner's World Big Book of Marathon and Half-Marathon Training

If there's one thing we runners do, it's endure. We endure through long runs and hard workouts, weeks of bad weather, and days of low energy. We do what it takes to see things through to the end. We can achieve amazing things in the rest of our lives by practicing that virtue in our non-running endeavors.

- Scott Douglas -
The Little Red Book of Running

Almost every competitive runner I know goes through a period when he or she feels like quitting. What's ironic is that the tools that help make an elite athlete - focus, effort, attention to the latest technology - definitely do not provide the answer to getting out of a funk. I find the best way to get your running mojo back is to lose the technology, forget the results, and run free. And forget that running needs to be painful or that it's punishment. (Definitely get rid of those echoes of countless coaches ordering you to 'take a lap' because you dropped a pass or double-dribbled.) Run for the same reason you ran as a child - for enjoyment. Take your watch off. Run in your jeans. Run with a dog (does HE seem worried?) Run with someone older or younger, and you'll see running, and the world, differently. I know I have.

Run a trail you have never run before. Pick a new goal, race, or a large loop that keeps you motivated to get out on those bad-weather days. Do all and any of these thing often enough, and you'll remember why you started running in the first place - it's fun.

- Scott Jurek -
Eat And Run

Don't limit yourself by what you think you can do. In long distance running the majority of the effort is mental, not physical. If I plan to run five miles and that is mentally what I am prepared for, that is pretty much as far as I can run. With the same conditioning, if I plan to run 26.2 miles, that is doable. I almost never run more than I am mentally prepared to run.

- Anne Rentz -
A Passion for Running

Run with your heart instead of your mind. When you run with your mind, you think of the things you can and can't do. But when you run with your heart you forget about what you can't do, and you just go out and do it.

- Gerry Lindgren -
(Former Olympian & 11-time NCAA Champ)

Every long-time runner has experienced this phenomenon: week after week of great runs suddenly interrupted by one of the worst workouts in years, for no logical reason. I've found that the most successful athletes don't dwell on the bad days; instead, they're eager to move on to the next day's training or upcoming race.

Successful runners know that bad days don't last and aren't a true indication of their fitness. Bad days are just a freak occurrence that must be tolerated on the path to your goals. Running is hard but fun, and that short statement should tell us that there will be good days and there will be bad days. Live through both. Neither lasts forever.

- Greg McMillan -
(McMillan Running Company)

It's crucial to record those moments of inspiration, like your first race, when you see a clear path between the runner you are today and the runner you know you can become - as fleeting as they may be. Hold onto them through your training log, and like the entries about your weak links, let these moments of clarity guide your long term goal-setting over the next 6 months to a year.

- Adam Bean -

When we race, strange things happen to our minds. The stress of fatigue makes us forget why we wanted to race in the first place. In one of my early marathons I found myself unable to think of a single reason for continuing. Physically and mentally exhausted, I dropped out of the race. Now I won't enter a marathon unless I truly want to finish it. If during the race I can't remember why I wanted to run it, I tell myself, 'Maybe I can't remember now, but I know I had a good reason when I started.' I've finally learned how to fight back when my brain starts using tricky arguments.

- Jim Fixx -
1,001 Pearls of Runners' Wisdom

The single most common training error I see in competitive runners is running too hard on supposed easy days. A longer, slower recovery run is better than a shorter, faster one, because a longer recovery run adds more volume to your training, and again, volume is the number-one determinant of running fitness.

- Brad Hudson -
Run Faster from the 5K to the Marathon

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