Wanting to get really good at running is certainly a desire worth pursuing. However, many runners find themselves feeling disheartened when they quickly hit a plateau, or struggle to get better at running. After immediate progress in the beginning, most runners find that their successes come much more slowly.
How quickly can I get good at running?
Taking the time to learn how to get better at running will start to pay off very quickly for most. Making a few adjustments to lifestyle and training can compound over time and set the stage for vast improvements.
However, setting off to get really good at running often means dedicating months and even years towards those big goals. PRs and fitness successes require effort and time – but with consistency, you’re sure to see results.
Is it hard to be good at running?
Getting “good” at running, much like anything else in life, requires time and effort. While some people are certainly more genetically and physically inclined to be naturally good at the sport, their inherited talent can only get them so far.
Taking the time to get better at running is a surefire strategy for long-term success. Runners who rely on natural talent will often plateau once they hit the peak of their ability. With consistency, strategy and some good ole fashioned effort, you will become better and better at running.
How do I train myself to become a better runner?
Training yourself to be a better runner is simpler than most might expect. There is one secret: consistency. Doing some research to find the best training strategies for your goals is the first step, implementing them in your plan is the second, and after that… comes simply sticking with it.
Here are some of the best strategies to help you get really good at running. Try adding a few to your training routine this season and see how your running improves.
How to Get Really Good at Running: 12 Strategies for Success
Every runner begins their training at a different level, depending on their fitness level, genetics, health and previous experience. Once a running base has been established, many runners hit a plateau with their progress.
>> Download the FREE 12 Week Running Base Building Training Plan
In order to get better at running and continue to progress, runners need to be strategic with their training. Piling on the miles with no specific goals or strategy will rarely result in anyone getting really good at running. Try these strategies to optimize your training and nail that PR or running goal this year!
Stay consistent with what works
One of the most important life lessons reigns true in running as well: “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. The same goes with our training – as you approach your plan to make tweaks and adjustments, first take a look at what has been working.
Have you found a schedule and/or training frequency that really works? Does your body feel really strong from strength training? Have you avoided injury in the past? Are your paces continuously improving?
Whatever it may be, pinpoint those areas that seem to be working and carry them on. When you set out to make adjustments, first look at what areas seem to be stagnant or bringing you down.
Adjust your running mileage
The first step to take when hoping to get really good at running is to adjust your running mileage to hit your goals. When beginning, running mileage should gradually increase over time as fitness improves.
However, once you have established a solid running base, it’s important not to overtrain or put in more miles than is beneficial. If you’re feeling burnt out, run down, or in general achy or fatigued, it’s a sign that you might need to back off.
In many cases, doing less can actually result in more progress. It is much better to aim for fewer, purposeful miles than to simply run junk miles just for the sake of running more.
Gain full body strength and mobility
It is nearly impossible to increase distance or speed without simultaneously increasing full body fitness. Focusing solely on those running muscles often results in muscle imbalances or injury.
Core strength is especially important for runners, as it stabilizes the body and encourages proper running form. Arm and upper body strength can greatly aid in running uphill, running faster, and assisting when the legs begin to fatigue.
Focusing on well-rounded and fully developed lower body muscles can not only provide more power on the run, but it can help prevent injury as speed and mileage increase. Aim to incorporate strength training and/or mobility work at least once per week
Incorporate speed workouts each week
One of the most effective ways to improve fitness, whether aiming for a PR or not, is to incorporate a variety of speed workouts. Intervals – 400s, 800s, mile repeats – sprints, fartleks, track workouts and more are all great to alternate between on a regular basis.
If you’ve never done speed work in your training before, start small. Start by adding a couple 400 or 800 meter repeats in during a regular weekday run. As your fitness improves and your body adjusts, you can start to mix up the workouts.
Aim for no more than two speed workouts each week, and gradually increase the number of intervals. Be sure to incorporate sufficient recovery in between each interval, and don’t be afraid to walk if needed.
Don’t skimp on easy running
When you’re feeling motivated to get better at running, it can be tempting to really go all out with your training. Adding in multiple speed workouts, strength training, cross training and long runs each week might sound like a recipe for success – until your body can’t take it anymore.
Regardless of how big your goals might look, it’s important to always have some easy miles on the schedule. These easy runs provide your body with a chance to adapt and actively recover from some of the harder efforts, while still improving running fitness.
Be sure to stick to an easy effort during your long run regardless of how good you might feel, and throw in at least one or two other easy runs during the week.
Increase long run length over time
If you’re training for any sort of long distance race, the only way to get really good at running and prepare for race day is to gradually increase your long run distance.
Always begin your training with a distance that is comfortable and familiar. Over time, gradually increase the length of the long run by no more than two miles each week.
Stick with an easy, recovery effort for the long run, and scale back your effort even further on weeks with a particularly intense speed workout.
Learn the best speeds for your goals
Many runners find themselves shooting in the dark when it comes to training speeds. Running an easy pace that is much too fast or aiming for interval splits that feel impossible can both be incredibly unhelpful when it comes to getting better at running.
In general, the following guidelines are most beneficial for any long-term running plan:
- Easy run: 90 – 120 seconds slower per mile than goal pace
- Tempo: 30 – 60 seconds faster per mile than goal pace
- Race pace: goal pace
- 800s: 60 – 90 seconds faster per mile than goal pace
- 400s: 90 – 120 seconds faster per mile than goal pace
One of the biggest setbacks for most runners training for a goal, especially long distance, is doing too much. It is so tempting to add in a few extra miles or workouts in the hopes of building your fitness even more during training.
However, do so can actually prevent progress, since your body has less time to adapt and recover. Overtraining looks different for each individual, which is what makes it so tricky. Some runners regularly run 40 – 50 miles per week, while others find that 20 miles is best for their goals and body.
The best way to avoid overtraining is to avoid increasing mileage or intensity by more than 10% each week. Doing so will help focus on gradual increases to provide your body with the time it needs to adapt to the increased demands without getting injured or ill.
Find a frequency that works for you
Training plans and schedules look different for each individual runner, depending on their goals, fitness and schedules. Many long-distance training plans are structured with 5-6 runs per week, but this frequency is unrealistic for most.
Learning how to tailor your running plan to meet your needs while also providing the training opportunities necessary to meet your goals is essential.
Begin by assessing your current schedule and determining how often you can actually complete a run. Once you’ve determined whether you’ll be running 3 days a week, 4 days, 5 or 6, you can use that as a foundation for the rest.
Track running shoe mileage
One often overlooked strategy to get really good at running is to track your running shoe mileage and/or rotate your running shoes. Most running shoes last only 500 miles or less, and wearing them for any longer can lead to injury or muscle imbalances.
Whether you choose to rotate shoes or not, a simple way to ensure you never run on shoes that are past their prime is to track their mileage. Keep track of how many miles you’ve run in each shoe, and be proactive about switching them out as necessary. Doing so will help you avoid missed training due to injury or lingering pain.
Throw in some strides and hills
Strides – running really fast for short distances – can have a profoundly positive impact on your running form and turnover. Running hills has been called “speedwork in disguise” as it strengthens muscles and can quickly improve power.
Adding one or the other on to the end or middle of an easy run each week is an effective way to get good at running without requiring any extra time.
Finally, the last, and arguably most important, strategy when it comes to getting really good at running is to rest well and rest often.
Without rest, our muscles have no time to repair damage and adapt to heavier training loads. Our body and mind need time off in order to come back stronger, healthier and motivated than ever before.
Learning how to get really good at running starts with one foundation: a goal. From here, it takes commitment, dedication, consistency and a great deal of fine tuning to find what works best for your body and goals. Put in the effort, and you might just surprise yourself with what you can accomplish!