Ask a personal trainer, nutritionist, or sports-medicine physician for some running advice and wisdom, and if they are pros, they’ll first ask you: What kind of a runner are you? The advice will vary a lot, depending on how old, how experienced and how serious you are. Training, nutrition, and even psychological needs change as you progress from a newbie trying to get fit to a racer gunning for a PB to a professional athlete determined to stay in the game. Here are some best running tips for new and experienced runners, runners that have recovered from injury and for middle-aged runners.
1 New runners
Around 50% of new runners get injured in their first year because their muscles, bones, and ligaments aren’t used to the stress of running. When you’re just starting out, forget about speed, and increase volume more slowly than you think you should in order to stay healthy and consistent.
Tip #1: IT’S BETTER TO RUN BY TIME THAN DISTANCE
In this way, you won’t be tempted to speed up to finish faster, which may result in injury as your body isn’t used to such stress yet. Add 5-10 minutes of running per week. Back off a little every fourth week to give your muscular-skeletal system the chance to adapt.
Tip #2:CHOOSE YOUR RUNNING SHOES WISELY
Your feet absorb two to four times your body weight with every step, so the improper footwear might result in injury.
Go to a specialized running-shoe shop late in the day (when your feet are slightly swollen, as they would be mid-run) and ask a salesperson to watch you run. The salesperson can suggest footwear that works with your gait and body type. Purchase a comfy pair that feels snug in the heel, with a thumb’s width of space above your longest toe.
Tip #3:FIND A RUNNING BUDDY
Accountability to others is often a stronger lure than self-motivation, sports psychology experts say. Find a running buddy or join a running group.
Tip #4:EAT NOT MORE (OR LESS) BUT BETTER
Many people who take up running to shed extra pounds overcompensate for the kilojoules they think they’re burning, while others reduce kilojoules while increasing miles, which saps energy and increasing the risk of injury and illness. At first, keep your intake as is, emphasizing vegetables, fruits, whole grains, healthy fats, and lean protein.
Tip #5:BREATHE EASY
If at any point during your run you can’t carry on a conversation, take a walk break – even if this means more walking than running. Walk breaks will let you stay out longer and build cardiovascular stamina as your bones and muscles adapt. Gradually, you’ll need shorter breaks.
2 Runners at their peak
When you are able to run comfortably for 45 minutes two to three times a week without stopping, you’ve reached the point when you can shift your focus to performance. Whether you’re striving to pick up the tempo or eager to deal with a new distance, smart training is essential. Runners usually peak between the ages of 26 and 35. But if you started running – or training intensely – later, you may be running PBs well into your 40s and 50s.
Tip #1: DO SPEED INTERVALS EVERY WEEK
Speedwork strengthens fast-twitch muscle fibres, teaches the heart to deliver oxygen-filled blood to muscles more efficiently, and toughens your mind to discomfort. This results in long runs feeling easier to complete, you can endure fast runs longer without suffering, and when the pain comes, you can handle it better.
Start with a 15-min warm-up, then run one min fast, one min slow, and repeat 5-10 times. Progress to this: after a 15-min warm-up, run 8-12 times 400m with 200m jog breaks between. Aim for 15-25 min total fast running (+- 5-K pace).
Tip #2: WORK ON YOUR FINISHING KICK
Many potential PBs are quashed toward the end of the race’s second half, when you’re physically and mentally fatigued. Practice pushing when already tired by making the last kay your fastest in one run a week (a long or tempo run). On interval day, dig deep on the last few reps. And don’t skip the cool-down: running easy for 15 minutes after a tough exercise teaches the body to press on when energy is low.
Tip #3: EAT ENOUGH WITH A LOT OF CARBS
If you’re running longer, faster, and harder, the nutrition is vital: if you eat too little, you’ll burn lean muscle and compromise your immune system. You’ll burn roughly two-thirds your body weight in kilojoules per kilometer you run. (For instance, a 68kg runner burns 420kJ for each kilometer they add.) Do these kays on hills or into a headwind and you burn about 10% more kilojoules. Adjust your intake accordingly, making sure to get enough carbs (2.7 to 4.5g per 500g of body weight a day, from whole grains, produce, and legumes). If you’re trying to shed some pounds, tally the kilojoules you burn in a day, subtract 2,000, and take in at least that many to avoid underfueling.
Tip #4: TAKE CARE OF YOUR IMMUNE SYSTEM
High-intensity training suppresses the immune system for up to 24 hours, making runners vulnerable to upper-respiratory infections. Within 30 minutes of a tough workout, consume 10-20 grams of protein (which stimulates production of white blood cells), colourful vegetables and fruit (rich in anti-inflammatory properties and antioxidants), and probiotics (which are found in kefir and Greek yogurt). Also, wash your hands often and get enough sleep: people who sleep less than seven hours per night are three times more likely to catch a cold than those who sleep more than eight.
Tip #5: FOCUS IS CRUCIAL
Studies of top athletes show that those who focus on their effort run faster than those who let their minds wander. Break your race or tempo run up into chunks (kilometers, water stations, lamp posts) and check in with yourself at each one to ask: how are my legs? Can I push harder, or should go slower?
3 Runners returning from injury
At some point, almost every runner will be sidelined temporarily. For a healthy return to the road, you need patience, caution, and smart training.
Tip #1: GET RID OF STRESS
If you have so many life obligations that lacing up feels like just another stressor, it’s time to adapt your running strategy. Ditch your watch, put ambitious time goals and training sessions on the back burner, and focus on running easy just a few times every week to relax. As long as you’re continuing to run regularly, it won’t be too difficult to jump back into more intense training when your life calms down.
Tip #2: PRACTISE ACTIVE RECOVERY
Cross-training keeps your heart and lungs fit as your body recovers. Start with activities that require different motions to running (like cycling and swimming), and progress to those that mimic running without the impact (like aqua-jogging, or using the elliptical machine). Pregnant women and new mothers should exercise in whatever way fells comfortable and doctor-approved.
Tip #3: BREAK THE CYCLE
See a health-care professional – preferably one who runs – to determine why you got hurt in the first place and to craft a plan to avoid injury in the future.
Tip #4:TRY A TEST RUN
When pain is gone and you have the green light from your doctor, try to run for 10 minutes. If it hurts, stop running and wait another 3-5 days before trying again.
Tip #5: SHORTEN YOUR STRIDE
A faster cadence and shorter stride can reduce the impact of running, which may decrease the risk of injury. Aim for 170-180 foot strikes per minute.
4 New mothers: Be careful and eat enough
The hormone that loosens ligaments to allow childbirth can linger post-partum, leaving new mothers more likely to get injured. Wait 6-8 weeks after giving birth to ease in to running. It takes about 92 kilojoules to produce 30 milliliters of milk, so breastfeeding mothers should add an extra 1,255 to 2,092 kilojoules per day.
5 Over-40 runners
Runners tend to slow by 3-6% over the course of their 40s, 10% per decade in their 50s and 60s, and 15% per decade after 70, as flexibility, strength, and bone density diminish. But a lot can be done to slow down the decline.
Tip #1: IMPORTANCE OF STRENGTH-TRAINING
If you haven’t started strength-training (which helps runners at any age), it’s more important now than ever. Muscle mass declines by about 8% per decade after the age 40. Strength-training counteracts that while building muscular scaffolding to ease the burden of running on aging joints. Spend half an hour twice a week targeting muscles running often misses (such as glutes, hips, core, and arms). Use your own body as weights, with lunges, squats, planks, and push-ups.
Tip #2: FOAM-ROLL EVERY DAY
Flexibility is another casualty of age, and a daily session with a foam roller can preserve and restore it. Rolling over quads, hamstrings, and glutes loosens up connective tissues and promotes bloodflow, much like a massage.
Tip #3: DO SPEED INTERVALS
Old injuries and a declining VO2 max (the body’s capacity to transport oxygen to muscles) can dissuade aging runners from continuing speedwork. But practicing quick leg turnover is key for maintaining neuromuscular coordination, range of motion, and fitness. Begin by adding some short pick-ups (10-20 seconds fast; 30-60 seconds recovery; repeat 10 times) to a routine run. For a harder bout, try 60 seconds fast, two minutes slow, three times.
Tip #4: TAKE CARE OF YOUR BONES
To fight bone density loss, which can increase the risk of stress fractures in older runners, ensure you’re getting enough calcium and vitamin D daily (1,200 milligrams calcium for women over 50 and men over 70, and 600 IUs of D for people over 50). Good sources of calcium include dairy products, spinach, tofu, and black-eyed peas. Good sources of vitamin D are cod liver oil, fatty fish, and exposure to sunshine.
Tip #5: ADJUST YOUR GOALS
Commit to slow down as slowly as possible. Look forward to birthdays that put you in a new age group. Explore new distances (a 5-K, a marathon) or events (triathlons, trail races) in which you can still notch a PB. And keep in mind: even if you’ve slowed a little, at least you’re still out there.