As runners we are always looking for a way to take our training to another level. Fads come and go, such as minimalist shoes and tart cherry juice, but the fact of the matter is that running is a simple sport. Training, recovery, and fuel are the three keys to success. Listed here are ten simple tips for improving in your next race, without a lot of extra work.
Few Americans receive enough shut-eye each night. As a general rule of thumb you should sleep 7 – 8 hours per night, plus an additional 10 minutes for every 10 miles of weekly running. Therefore, if you run 30 miles per week, you should be logging 7.5 – 8.5 hours of sleep. Can’t sleep that long? Try incorporating 1-2 short naps throughout your day.
Get a Massage
Unless your race is within 2 weeks, visit a sports massage therapist. He or she will break up adhesion in your muscles and improve your range of motion. You can think of a sports massage as a bicycle tune up: to perform your best all of your moving parts must be optimal condition.
Improving your cadence (aka stride rate or turnover) is one of the best ways to improve your speed. Incorporating strides into your weekly routine, such as 8 – 10 x 100 m strides twice per week after easy days, is a great way to enhance your running efficiency without placing additional stress on your body.
The stress hormone cortisol can promote weight gain, chronic inflammation, and decreased athletic performance. Find a way to reduce your cortisol levels by eliminating unnecessary stress in your life.
Sports psychologists have found that practicing gratitude can increase an athlete’s self esteem, and therefore lead to better athletic performance. Keep a daily list of what makes you thankful in order to reap this benefit.
Similarly, sports psychologists have also found that visualizing success, such as fast times or well-executed races, can enhance athletic performance. Elite athletes practice visualization drills an average of 12 minutes per day, but even short bouts of visualization are beneficial.
If you are the type of athlete who runs 40 miles one week, 20 miles the next, and 60 miles the following week, aim for consistency. Running 20 – 30 miles each week would provide more benefits than yo-yo running.
After a moderate-to-hard effort workout your body requires fuel in the form of carbohydrates and protein in a 4:1 ratio within 30 minutes of completion. Not refueling within this time frame will hinder your body’s ability to recover.
Dehydration not only diminishes athletic performance but can also inhibit recovery. Make sure you are drinking towards your sweat rate during any exercise that lasts longer than 60 minutes. Drink plenty of water and electrolytes afterwards, as well. A good indication you are properly hydrated is when your urine is light yellow in color.
Believe in Yourself
Finally the best key to improvement is simply believing in yourself. Even the best trained athletes in the world cannot reach their potential until they are fully confident!
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