It doesn’t take long to realize that being a lifelong runner involves so much more than actually running. How we feel and perform during a run is a result of what we do before, during and after the run. Many runners set out to become better runners and only focus on what they are doing during the run. But learning how to become a better runner involves so much more than just running.
So is it possible to become a better runner without actually running?
Despite our initial instincts, there are many ways to become a better runner that don’t actually involve running. If you find yourself giving increasing effort on the run but not seeing any progress, you may be missing a few key components of training.
These 10 simple tips will help you get better at running quickly – whether you want to run long distances, become mentally stronger, or get faster. Here are some of the simplest ways to immediately improve your running skills.
10 Ways to Become a Better Runner… without Running
Incorporate regular strength training exercises.
It’s no secret that the act of running requires quite a bit of muscle and strength. But even so, many runners forget that strengthening these muscles means doing more than just running. If you want to become a better runner, the best thing you can do is begin to incorporate regular strength training.
The best strength training exercises for runners target running specific muscles – those that are used as well as those that are neglected. Overall strength is important for runners! Having a strong core and strong arms will help power you through those speed workouts and keep you going on long runs when your legs begin to fatigue.
Whether or not you are regularly running, completing some simple strength training (like these) in your living room will increase your strength and help prepare you for the next time you lace up.
Hydrate! Make drinking water a daily habit.
Ever feel sluggish on the run? More often than not, this feeling comes from overall dehydration. Drinking water on a regular basis is important for all people, but especially runners. When we run, we sweat out a great deal of water, meaning that runners need to drink even more water during the day to compensate for what we’ve lost.
Staying hydrated helps keep energy levels high and hunger away. Many people live in a state of chronic dehydration and have no idea – you not even realize that you aren’t feeling your best on your runs because you are so used to feeling that way.
Make a point of drinking water each day. The recommended amount is half of your body weight in ounces. Take a water bottle with you wherever you go, and try swapping out some sugary drinks for water at your next meal.
Change your normal strength exercises to plyometric exercises.
If you’ve already been regularly completing strength exercises during training, increase the effect by changing some of your standard moves to plyometric ones. For example, rather than completing 20 squats, increase the intensity by completing 20 jump squats.
Jump squats, jump lunges, burpees, and legs down are great plyometric strength exercises for runners. Add hand taps to your plank or single leg kicks to your bridge. Adding simple movements to any classic strength training exercise activates more muscles, forces them to engage and adds an element of balance.
Strengthen your core.
One of the biggest assets a runner can possess is a strong core. Increasing your core strength will increase your power on the run, especially as you fatigue. Your core controls your upper body while you are running, stabilizing you on the go. Weak core muscles can lead to imbalances or other muscles having to compensate for the weakness.
Engage your core throughout the day by focusing on your posture, swapping your desk chair out for a stability ball, or regularly completing core strengthening exercises. Even small changes such as these will begin to add up.
Related: 15 Minute Complete Core Workout
Fix muscle imbalances.
Muscle imbalances are often an underlying cause of injury. Runners who wind up chronically injured on one side of their body may find that this side is weaker, or over compensating for a weakness. More often than not, runners have muscle imbalances and don’t even realize it.
Become a better runner by taking the time to check for muscle imbalances. You can check for the most common muscle imbalances using these simple exercises. In less than 10 minutes you’ll be able to determine whether or not your body has an imbalances.
Once you have determined where any imbalances may lie, you can begin to focus on strengthening this particular area. Including a few targeted exercises each day will help increase strength where there is a weakness, eventually increasing your overall power and running form. These simple exercises will pay off big time in the long run (literally)!
Foam roll and stretch on a daily basis.
Whether or not you feel tight, foam rolling and stretching are necessary for runners. Keeping your muscles loose and free of any tightness helps decrease your chance of any injury from inflexibility or strain.
Taking the time to include some active recovery, like stretching or foam rolling, relieves lactic acid build up and keeps you from feeling pain on the run. Pain free running leads to more opportunities for growth and quickly becoming a better runner!
Incorporate similar cross training.
Cross training workouts, like those on the elliptical or spin bike, are great for runners because they maintain cardiovascular fitness without actually running. These types of cross training take the impact off your joints while still working similar muscles and getting your blood flowing.
Try incorporating one or two cross training workouts per week to keep up your cardiovascular fitness. These workouts are great for runners who are injured, unable to train, or just want to enhance their training. Runners benefit greatly from including a variety of activities throughout their training, as they increase overall fitness and strength.
Try one of these cross training workouts:
- 30 & 45 Minute Elliptical Workouts
- 30 & 45 Minute Spin Workouts
- 30 Minute Cross Training Workout Challenge for Runners
Set a goal and create a training plan.
If you want to become a better runner, one of the best things you can do is set a goal. Setting a goal for yourself helps you mentally and physically target the improvements you wish to make. Wanting to become a better runner without knowing what that actually entails will only lead to frustration.
If you want to become a better runner, decide what that means to you. Does that mean running faster? Farther? Easier? Once you’ve decided on your goals, sit down and create a plan to accomplish them. Finding or creating a training plan helps keep you focused and immensely increases your progress as you are able to visually see how far you’ve come.
Review your training journal or past runs.
If you’ve been running for a while and are wondering how to become a better runner, one of the best places to start is by evaluating all the work you’ve done so far. Take some time to look back through your training journal or past runs. Make note of the runs that were really successful, and what you did before, during and after those runs.
Finding out what worked in the past will give you immense insight into what you need to do in the future. Discovering what activities have led you to fall short of your goals before will help you avoid wasting time where it isn’t needed.
Fuel your body to run.
Running requires so much more than actually just going out for a run. Aside from the act of running, strength training, recovery, cross training, hydrating, and getting enough rest, we also need to focus on what we are eating. Changing your mindset to view food as fuel, especially for those long runs, will make a big difference.
Take a look at what you are eating now and how you can improve it. Make sure that you are eating enough of the right foods to keep you fueled, gain muscle mass, and stay energized during those long runs. If you find yourself feeling sluggish or lethargic for more than just a few runs, you may need to reevaluate what you are putting into your body.
There is nothing more frustrating that giving it your all for each and every run, only to find that your progress is stagnant. If you are wanting to become a better runner and have been focusing all of your energy on the actual run, try looking elsewhere. Running improvements can be a result of many different things, and taking the time to experiment will likely pay off on your quest to improve.