We asked the Strong Women readers and trainers for their top running tips. Read this if you’re struggling to go further or faster.
Let’s just be honest here: running is hard. It’s difficult to motivate ourselves to get outside (especially now the sun has retired), to increase our distance and to up our pace.
That doesn’t mean giving up on training. Whether you’ve been running for months but have hit a plateau, suddenly have a lack of drive to get out or are struggling to nail your form, there are steps you can take to make your running easier.
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In fact, there is shed loads of advice out there on how to be a better runner. Which is why we turned to our Strong Women Community, including expert trainers and the avid runners of our readers, to share how they continue to enjoy and progress in their running. Here’s what they had to say:
1. Get the right playlist
Undoubtedly the number one tip we were given was getting the right soundtrack for your run. “I need a music track that takes me the extra mile,” says one Strong Women reader on Instagram, while for Emma Obayuvana, trainer from the Strong Women Collective, it’s the beat that’s key: “I tend to choose songs that have a bpm of 128 or slightly higher, this really helps with my pace. I usually have a dance party in my head when I run!”
2. Follow a plan
Rather than jumping straight into half an hour runs, it’s important to build up your stamina and speed. So whether it’s Couch to 5K, the Garmin training plan or a weekly schedule you set yourself, having some guidance can really help.
3. The right trainers
“The one thing that made running better for me was having a gait analysis and wearing custom insoles,” says another reader. According to Asics, 81% of us could be wearing the wrong shoes, which can result in discomfort, pain or injury. No wonder you find running tricky…
4. Breath properly
There is no worse feeling than struggling to catch your breath, so mastering your breathing is a great way to feel more in control of your training. “Learning to breathe in through the nose for a count of three and out through the mouth for the count of three made running easier for me,” says a member of the Instagram community. Not sure where to start? Read our guide to how to breath when running.
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It might sound obvious, but so many of us go straight from desk to pavement, then wonder why we are struggling. “The best thing you can do before running is to prepare your body properly,” says personal trainer and athlete Risqat Fabunmi-Alade. “Whether that’s foam rolling, some dynamic stretches or some running drills, it’s better to do something than nothing. A good warm-up relaxes stiff muscles and joints, gets you mentally ready, improves performance and reduces injury risk.”
6. Strength training
To get better at running, you don’t just need to improve your cardiovascular fitness – you also need to strengthen the muscles, joints and bones that carry you through the run.. We recommend lower body lifts that target the glutes and quads, but if you don’t know where to start then check out the Strong Women strength training for runners guide.
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7. Find a friend
“I actually hate the idea of running with people, but every time I do it I always feel so good,” says digital writer Hollie Richardson. “It pushes me to keep going (maybe that’s why I actually dread it beforehand?), there’s something nice in knowing that you ‘did it’ together and the people I run with are always so encouraging to me.”
Again, this was one of the most popular pieces of advice we’ve received. In these times, why not try virtually running alongside someone by tracking your runs and sharing with each other?
8. Upper body form
It’s not about powering those legs forward – keeping the correct posture is essential too. “People hold their arms very stiff while running, either at the shoulder or elbow joint or, on the flip side, a few people bring their arms right across their body causing their torso to swing side to side. Instead, on each stride brush your hand by your hip, passing backwards and forwards. This should encourage your elbow to bend and straighten, improving general arm swing,” says Risqat.
Running regularly is tough on the body, so it’s important to allow yourself to rest and recover. An important part of that is stretching, releasing tension that builds up from the pressure of your foot strike and improving range of motion through the hips, which take on a lot of work during running. A kneeling hip flexor stretch is a great way to end the run, coming into a low lunge with your knee on the floor and slowly leaning forward without arching the spine to feel the pull through the front of your leg.
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10. Wear the right kit
“Choose something that you not only feel good in but also something that you don’t need to fuss with once you start running,” says Emma. “You need leggings that don’t slide down as you jog, a top that doesn’t ride up and a sports bra that is tight enough to keep things in check.”
11. Get a good book
While music might be preferable to some, others need more of a distraction while they run. Listening to podcasts or audiobooks is perfect for this, as you can get lost in a great conversation and not have your pace influenced by the beat of songs. We love listening to podcasts about fitness to inspire us or tuning into a memoir that we can be totally absorbed by.
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12. Make it work for you
“If you’ve had a long day at work, going for a run in the evening probably isn’t going to be fun,” says runner and personal trainer Tashi Skervin-Clarke. “Why not optimise your running by going on the days where you feel energised and rested? Try to plan your runs in advance and don’t be afraid to swap around running days to fit your schedule too.” This was echoed by Strong Women reader Jackie, who says that “just doing it [when I want to] as opposed to when people tell me I should” made running more enjoyable for her.
13. Track your run
Using your phone or a smartwatch can take some of the guesswork out of your run – a quick glance at your wrist will show you how far you have left of your planned route and show whether you’re being consistent with pace. Being able to look back at your tracked runs to see how you’re improving can also be a huge motivator.
14. Go slow
“Going slowly rather than chasing PBs”, “running slowly for the first KM”, “going slower and focusing on the feeling”, “not caring about pace and not comparing yourself to others” – just some comments that the Strong Women readers shared. So, stop being so competitive and just allow yourself to enjoy the training.
“We often put so much pressure on ourselves when we run. Speed doesn’t dictate if we’re having a good run or not,” agrees Tashi.
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