Pocket Guide to Running Right

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A seasoned coach shares her top 10 tips


Illustration by Jeremy Collins

I have coached a high-school cross-country team for nine years, and would like to share my accumulated running wisdom. Here is a quick list of the basics.

1. Do not overdo it early in the season. Running too much too soon results in injuries and frustration. Increase your training mileage by no more than 10 percent each week and be patient as your body adapts.

2. Avoid monotony and keep your running fun. Vary your running routes to maintain interest and motivation. Beautiful scenery can do a lot toward making you forget about how far or hard you are running.

3. Never, ever, run through an injury. A small problem can quickly become a larger one. It’s often difficult to take time off, but rest promotes healing.

4. Do other exercises to improve your running. Strength train to protect your muscles from injury and cross train (most popular options include cycling and swimming). Running in a pool can also be a great workout.

5. Lean into hills and shorten the strides. This will make it easier to climb faster. Schedule some “hill days.” Hills not only make you faster and stronger, but also let you practice technique and prepare mentally for a hilly course.

6. Run softly. Pay attention to how hard your feet hit the ground. If you can lesson the impact when you run, you have less chance of injury. This becomes particularly important when running downhill. Many runners slam their feet down with each step and end up with shin splints.

7. Do different types of runs. Long slow runs build a base of miles necessary to run well. A long slow run also is a great way to unwind. Do speed work because the only way to get faster is to run faster. Speed work is also a great way to learn how to pace yourself.

8. Buy good shoes and take care of your feet. Everything—efficiency, injury prevention, comfort—starts with your shoes. Also pamper your feet. Apply lotion after running to prevent cracking. Check for blisters and black toenails.

9. Drink plenty of fluids. To avoid feeling sluggish, drink a little all day, including when you are not exercising. You know you are drinking enough if your urine is clear.

10. Understand the mental aspect of running. Work on a positive attitude and practice positive self talk. You must be confident that you will do your best. Play games when you run like counting how many runners you pass.

This article originally appeared in our July 2006 issue.

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