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The running bug can be contagious, especially distance running. You might have heard people say that they just get “hooked” on the feeling of the footfalls, and how their heart rate begins to slow down after a time. It becomes clearer with time why people like to call it a “mindless” sport: you don’t need to watch the ball, or run up and down stairs for hours upon hours on end.
But no matter what your motives for being drawn into this way of life may be, there are some key considerations that you should be aware of if you want your running career to flourish. Here are eight tips designed with help from an avid runner and a sports psychologist who specializes in athletics:
Commitment is key.
If you want to improve your running skills and run faster, you have to commit yourself in your training. You can’t just let it be; you have to force yourself to train, even when it’s not only inconvenient but also difficult. This may not be something that you’re thrilled about at first, but after a time, the feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment when you cross that finish line will make all of the hard work worthwhile.
Visualize what you want.
Picture it. Visualization is a powerful tool that can help you to stay on course, no matter what obstacle comes your way. The best way to visualize your running goals is to write them down in a tangible way. When you want something, it’s easier to get than when you don’t have it set in stone.
Choose a goal that is manageable.
Out of the four types of training, the one I would choose is something called Active Recovery in which you run to your self-imposed fatigue level and then take a walk or stretch. So even though you’re running, your body needs to recover so it can do it again. It will also give you an opportunity to get a feel for how different paces work for you.
Know your limits at all times, especially as it relates to speed and distance.
What I love about running is that it both gives you a sense of accomplishment and also the feeling of freedom. A runner is in control of the movement. This doesn’t mean that you should be reckless and go beyond your limitations (i.e., running longer distances when you’re not ready), but it can also be helpful to recognize your comfort zone.
Regulate your breathing to avoid over-breathing.
When you’re running, a lot can be going on in your body at the same time: your heart rate and your breathing are intimately connected. Over-breathing can leave you feeling like you need to stop, but it also makes it more difficult to continue running. If all else fails, back off on the pace; but also try to slow down your breathing as well.
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When you take deep breaths, your body will have a better chance of catching up with where it should be when you start running again.
Practice makes perfect for distance running.
When you’re just starting out, walking and jogging might not seem like the same thing. But in terms of distance running, they are pretty much the same thing! So if you want to improve your speed and see great results, try to get the most out of each time you put on your shoes and go for a run.
Even slow paces help your body get used to moving in that way, so every step counts.
Expect to have setbacks.
This isn’t something that you can control, but it takes place in every area of your life. We all have setbacks and impostors, so it’s important to realize that running is no different. If you fall through the cracks after a few weeks, try not to get discouraged; just keep plugging away until you find a routine that works for you.
Work on your form.
For runners, it’s important to pay attention to your posture. We often look at other runners and think that they have perfect form; but unless you’re a professional, this is usually not the case. Use the tips you learn from a running coach and focus on your posture so that you can reduce strain and increase comfort levels for yourself as you run.
If you work on all of these things, it will be easier for you to improve your running skills in the long run. So try to incorporate as many of these tips into your training as you can, and you’ll be running a lot faster in no time at all!