Girl on the Run: Become a Better Runner

Want to become a better runner? Sure, we all do. Take our 30-day tip sheet to heart and you’ll run stronger and faster in one month’s time!

•    Buy new gear. Purchase a pair of shoes, running skirt or headband that makes you excited to get out the door.

•    Sign up for a race. Committing to an event gives you a good reason to create a training plan…and stick to it.

•    Find a group. Researchers at Michigan State University found working out with a buddy — even a virtual one — motivated subjects to double the length of their workouts.

•    Add a mile. Enhance endurance by stepping up your weekly mileage. Avoid injury by increasing only 10 percent more than the miles you ran last week.

•    Run slower on easy days. Slow down during recovery runs — your rested muscles will help you pick up the pace on hard-effort days.

•    Speed it up. High-intensity running builds power. Mix fast running into your regular workouts twice a week.

•    Run with self-awareness. Research suggests that runners can improve their form simply by becoming more conscious of their movement.

•    Try a tempo workout. Once a week, run easy for about 10 minutes, then ramp up the pace for 15 minutes. Cool down for five minutes to finish. Watch your PRs start dropping!

•    Caffeinate…to recover. Research has found that ingesting caffeine after a hard workout, in conjunction with carbs, rebuilds glycogen stores 66 percent better than carbohydrates alone.

•    Drink chocolate milk. The old-school beverage has the right mix of carbs, protein and caffeine to help you recover. (And it tastes pretty darn good, too!)

•    Make a parfait. Layer yogurt, berries, nuts and granola to give your body the nutrients crucial for running: calcium, antioxidants, carbs and protein.

•    Strengthen your bum. Studies have proven that the gluteus medius is a big factor in preventing lower-body injuries.

•    Hit the beach (or the snow). For an intense workout in a short amount of time, run on soft surfaces. A study in the Journal of Experimental Biology suggested that running on sand requires 1.6 times more effort.

•    Put yourself on ice. Cold-water immersion reduces muscle soreness. If you can handle it, take a quick plunge in a tub filled with 56-degree H2O post-workout.

•    Get fitted at a specialty running store. The American College of Sports Medicine revealed that the best indicator of a good shoe—beyond cutting-edge technologies, promises of better form or how much it weighs—is fit.

•    Take a walk. Legendary running coach Arthur Lydiard recommended walking as a form of recovery. Try a 30-minute walk to relieve tired legs by improving blood flow.

•    Take a hike. Find a natural area with plenty of ups and downs—the strength you gain hiking translates readily into running, plus you’ll enjoy the change of scenery and pace.

•    Hit the gym. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found runners who weight train three times a week improve their running economy.

•    Foam roll. Massage your muscles with a roller to improve flexibility and range of movement in the knees while breaking down scar tissue and adhesions.

•    Skip pre-run pills. A recent study published in Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests popping ibuprofen before a run can cause intestinal and colonic leakage.

•    Up the incline. According to a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, a 3-percent slope on the treadmill best prepares you for road running.

•    Strengthen your hammies. Studies have shown hamstring fatigue may lead to knee injury. Perform dead lifts, leg curls and box jumps to protect your precious joints.

•    Run early, sleep well. Studies show that runners who work out at 7 a.m. sleep the most soundly.

•    Stretch actively. Static stretching before a workout can diminish performance, but active stretching—where you move your limbs through a range of motion—can help you improve it, according to research.

•    Cross train. Ride a bike, swim, cross-country ski or hop on the elliptical to get great cardiovascular gains without straining the muscles used in running.

•    Address your hip flexors. A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning found that performing hip-strengthening exercises improves speed and agility.

•    Take a nap. Studies show that taking a mid-day nap lowers the stress hormone cortisol, which will help injuries heal and increase speed in athletes.

•    Pop fish oil. Rich in omega-3 fatty acids, fish oil supplements may help runners decrease inflammation, boost immunity and protect against heart disease.

•    Pump up the jams. Music helps you get to the finish line faster, according to British researchers. Make a new Spotify playlist filled with high-tempo tracks.

•    Eat more healthy fat. British researchers have found that avoiding fat is the number-one dietary indicator of injury risk for women runners. Snack on walnuts, avocado and hard-boiled eggs!

Girl on the Run provides real-life training tips brought to you by Jessie Sebor, an accomplished endurance athlete who practices what she preaches. Sebor uses her column to provide tips, advice and guidance for runners—no matter their experience or pace. She shares more information and training plans through her magazine WomensRunning.com and on Twitter as @JessieSebor.