My first foray into running races was in September 2007 at the Rochester Half Marathon. My wife and I had started choosing an annual fitness challenge, and that was the challenge for 2007. I'd recommend choosing an annual challenge as the most important of these running tips, actually. Since then, my interest in running has increased steadily, becoming fervent in the past few years as I became a running ambassador for my local running store, Finger Lakes Running & Triathlon Company. It can be tough to set a goal and stick to it, but over the years I’ve used some tools and techniques to help keep me on track. Here’s a list of my running tips!
Set Ambitious, Achievable Goals
The first step in staying on your fitness track is to determine where that track goes. Make a plan! Select a target race (or races) and sign up. You should choose a goal that’s a bit of a stretch, but not absurd. If you can walk for a half hour, make a goal to run for a half hour. If you usually run 5Ks, find a 5-miler to sign up for. If you really love half marathons, then make it your goal to run a faster half marathon.
Once you’ve made a plan, tell the world about it. Or at least your friends and family. You’ll love the benefits of having others aware of your plan and the encouragement that comes from that. Tweet it. Share it on Facebook. Encourage others to join you. But make sure that you tell somebody.
Lastly, figure out how you’re going to execute on your plan. I have read a few books about marathoning and a lot of online resources for running longer trail races, and use those resources to work backwards from the race date and plan out my workouts week-by-week. Write them in a day planner, online calendar or a calendar on your fridge. Whatever works for you!
For example, I signed up for my longest distance yet this year, a 50-mile trail race in Ithaca, NY (I’ve also selected a second big goal event, a fall marathon). I made the plan, signed up, and told the world about it. Then I figured out how I was going to work up to that level of fitness in time for May 31, using iCal as a way to document it. I’ve actually roughly worked out my entire year, so after May 31 I’ll start a detailed plan for my second big target of the year, the Corning Wineglass Marathon.
- Make a plan
- Tell the world
- Figure out the execution of the plan
Low-Tech Running Tips
Before we get into technology, there are some running tips that are mainly social, helping to motivate you as you go through the weeks leading up to your event. If you prefer to run solo, join some social running networks to share your training successes and comment on other runners’ successes. I use Strava, MapMyRun and dailymile. Whatever tool you use, you’ll find quickly that there’s a lot of motivation to be gained by posting your own workouts and reading and commenting on others.
It’s not all about running, either. Like any good financial plan, diversification of your fitness will help you leaps and bounds with running. Good, efficient running emanates from a solid core, so I try to make a group fitness class called BodyPump each week. We have a core group of fellow fitness enthusiasts who attend (and some teach) the classes, and the fellowship that comes from that is a nice accompaniment to the resulting core strength. I also do some yoga each week, and also have a set of stretches that I do twice weekly.
High-Tech Running Tips
I used to run just with a sports watch so I could capture elapsed time of my runs, but found that I liked the idea of not having to map out my routes in advance to know the distance. I bought a TomTom Multisport GPS watch. They also have a runner-specific model that doesn’t have the heart rate monitor or swimming capabilities. Here are the things I love about having a GPS watch:
- I can find out my average pace and real-time pace as I’m working out.
- Interval workouts are SO easy to set up, either time-based or distance-based intervals.
- I can run random routes and not far exceed my planned mileage for the day.
- When I’m done, I plug the watch into its dock and it syncs to Strava and MapMyRun automatically.
iCal or Other Online Calendar
I also use iCal to keep track of my workout plan. Each day I can see what my goal workout is for the day, and also figured out a way to connect Weather Underground weather to iCal so I can adjust my training plan for the week’s weather (really important in the winter). It’s nice to see everything in one place so I can organize fitness, work and social obligations.
View 10-day weather along with fitness in your calendar
If you want to do this, here’s the step-by-step instructions:
- Go to Weather Underground’s “classic” site, as it still has iCal links in it. For example, here’s the link for Seattle, Washington.
- In the upper right corner, right click the green iCal button and select “Copy Link Address”.
- Go to iCal (or other calendar application) and go to File … New Calendar Subscription. Paste the link there and click OK.
Running Tips for Motivation
How can you stay motivated when you’re in your plan, or if you’re between plans? Here are some running tips for staying motivated:
- Hook up with some group runs at your local running store. You’ll meet some great people.
- Volunteer at a local race. Watching other people compete is highly motivating, and they'll be so grateful for your volunteerism!
- Participate in Twitter chats with like-minded runners
- Post your past bibs and finisher medals in a prominent place. We have a fitness room in our house, and the wall is plastered with race bibs, pictures and medals from my entire family’s fitness exploits. Super motivational!
- Check out what your workplace or insurance provider has to offer. For example, my workplace had a fitness challenge last year and gave everyone a pedometer to log their mileage each day. It was cool to track it, and even more cool to win a $25 gift card at the end, since I walked/ran a lot! Oscar Insurance, a health insurance company in New Jersey and New York, is giving their members a mobile app and a Misfit band to set personal goals: if they meet their goal they get cash rewards. Your insurance company may offer wellness programs and health assessments, so do look around and see what's available!
Running and My Personal Health
I used to get sick quite often, especially in the wintertime. I’ve noticed a remarkable thing, though. Since incorporating a regular fitness routine into my life, I’ve seldom needed to go to the doctor. I get the occasional cold symptoms, and if my body demands it, I take a break from my fitness while I recover, but it lasts days, not weeks. Just be sure to remember you don’t have to “catch up” on your plan after missing a few days. Just jump right back in where you should be, and don’t worry about the missed miles. It’s not directly related, but I’ve found that using a clove of garlic as a lozenge works wonders when I’m feeling a cold coming on.
The more remarkable benefit of regular running, and for me, longer distances (half marathon and more), was a huge positive impact on my cholesterol. High cholesterol runs in my family, but since keeping track in 2000, my total cholesterol dropped from 203 to 193, my HDL rose from 44 to 53, and my LDL dropped from 146 to 121. This year’s numbers are the best they’ve ever been, and I attribute that to eating right, not snacking too much at night, and mostly - regular exercise.
I hope these running tips are inspirational to you, whether you’re starting off on a fitness plan for the first time, or are a seasoned runner. I'll see you out there on the roads and trails!