Want to know how to run like a pro runner?
If your answer is yes, then keep on reading…
Why should you consider training like a pro?
The fact is, if you are serious about reaching your full potential, you’ll need to imitate the strategies of those on top—no need to reinvent the wheel. By training like a pro runner, you’ll be able, without a shadow of a doubt, to achieve your running best.
But, don’t get me wrong here. I’m not suggesting that you should imitate the elites in everything they do—It’s not possible anyway.
Consequently, feel free to learn from the pros but don’t get over ambitious about it. Instead, be realistic and set achievable—yet challenging—goals without going overboard; otherwise, you’ll be setting yourself for a huge setback. (Check this post on how to set the right running goals).
1. Determine your Goals
If you want to train like a pro runner, then the first thing you NEED to do, before everything else, is to determine your goals.
Goal setting is crucial because it’s what will get you out of bed on those cold and soggy mornings—when you’d rather stay tucked in and huddled under the warm blankets. Plus, it’s also one of the best things you can do to ensure growth and progress over the short and the long term.
So what are your running goals?
Are you a beginner runner and just looking to complete a 5K distance without fainting?
Do you want to run the extra mile and finish a marathon distance?
Whatever your goals are, determine them, write them down on paper, then commit yourself to achieving them.
Make Them S.M.A.R.T
As a general guideline, make your goals specific (5K under 20-minute), timely (goal to be accomplished before the 30th of January), and measurable (X amounts of pounds lost every week).
For instance, if your goal is to run your best half-marathon time, then you have to commit yourself to that goal and start putting in the mileage and speedwork needed to get there.
Break Them Down
To increase the probability of success, break your goals down into tasks with smaller benchmarks that monitor your progress along the way.
2. Warm up like a pro
A good warm-up is key to athletic performance. It increases breathing rate, heart rate, and boosts blood flow to the working muscles, increasing performance and getting the body ready for the activity ahead.
If you skip the warm-up, then you are flirting with disaster, risking injury, premature fatigue, and poor performance.
Do the following three-step warm-up routine to get it right:
To kick things off, start your session with a 5-minute gentle walk. Walking is the ideal low-intensity activity that will help you ease your body out of idle mode into workout mode.
Next, if you are doing any sort of speedwork like sprints and/or hill reps, be sure to add strides. Also known as pick-ups, these 100-meters accelerations can help recruit your fast-twitch muscle fibers, increase blood flow to the working muscles, and get your body ready to run at full throttle.
Here is how to do strides safely and efficiently:
Jog at an easy pace for two to three minutes, then gradually speed it up over the course of 80 to 100 meters. Then, slow it down, shake your legs for 30 to 60 seconds, and repeat.
Perform the strides for 5 to 10 minutes. The rule of thumb is, the more intense of a workout you are planning to do—the more strides you do, period.
Last up, wrap up your warm-up with a set of dynamic stretches, in which you do active leg movements that mimic the actions performed while running. Some of the best moves include butt kicks, walking lunges, high knees, air squats, and inchworms.
Once you are done with the warm-up, start out running really easy and gradually pick up the pace until you reach your target running speed.
For more on proper running warm-up, check my post here.
3. Pro Running Form
Running is convenient and does not require a lot of technical instructions.
Nevertheless, if you are serious about making the most out of every run, then you should start paying attention to the way you run—mainly your running form and mechanics as study shows that proper form is crucial for efficient and injury-free training.
Here are a few pointers to help you develop and maintain proper running form:
Keep your body relaxed the entire time, with your head stacked over your spine, core engaged, back flat, shoulders relaxed and loose. If you feel any tension build-up—especially in your neck, shoulder, or arms—breathe deeply and consciously release it.
Run tall with a slight forward lean—with no hunching of the back, or leaning forward too much from the waist while running. This is something I learned from the Chi Running Method, and it has really revolutionized the way I run.
Improve your cadence. Also known as leg turnover, cadence is the number of strides taken while running per minute. According to most experts, the ideal cadence for efficient running is 180, or 90 strides per minute on one foot.
4. Eat like a pro
Proper nutrition can make or break your running success.
As a result, make it a priority to provide your body with the best food with the primary objective of fueling you up, not filling you up.
In other words, what matters is quality, not quantity.
I hate to break it to you, but junk food, like cakes, sweets, fast food, fried food, coke, and other junk food does not make the cut.
Instead, to start fueling like a pro runner, focus on eating high-quality carbs, like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains; also, consume lean protein, such as low-fat milk, beans, poultry and lean meat, and get plenty of healthy fats sources, like avocados, olive oil, and nuts.
Time it right
When it come to fueling for a run, timing is of the essence. In fact, timing is everything.
Here is how to schedule your meals for maximum impact:
Before a run. Look for a light, easily digestible meal that’s high in high-quality carbs for energy. One of my favorite options include oatmeal with a banana, a slice of white bread with a spread of peanut butter, or a fruits smoothie.
For more pre-run meals, check my post here.
Post-run diet. Following a run, and during what’s known as the “recovery window,” go for a mix of carbs and protein to refill your energy stores and speed up muscles recovery. My best suggestion is chocolate milk, or a glass of milk with a banana.
What’s more? If you are planning on a long run—anything above 90 minutes—then you might consider fueling on the run. Some of the best options include a sports drink with electrolytes and complex carbs, gels, chews, and other grab-n-go options.
With all that being said, make sure also to experiment with different options and find out what works the best for you. That’s what matters the most.
5. Hydrate like a Pro
Proper hydration is one of the best things you can do to ensure a good run. And if you let yourself get dehydrated while running, then this is going to have an enormous impact on your performance and training enjoyment.
In fact, nothing can slow you down faster than dehydration.
So how much is enough?
However, and as a general guideline, be sure to drink plenty of water before your workouts, aiming for at least an ounce of fluid for every 10 pounds of body weight within an hour or two before each run.
To better measure your hydration levels, start keeping tabs on your body weight changes before and after the workout. In case you’ve shed weight, then drink at least 16 ounces of fluids for each pound lost.
What’s more? You can also go for sports drinks—especially if you feel like you need more, have any cramping issues, take notice of salt on your skin and clothes following a run, or have a high sweat rate.
6. Breathe like a Pro
According to science, one vital ingredient in your ability to run for extended periods of time boils down to your body’s capacity to supply the working muscles with enough oxygen, period.
As a result, it’s of paramount importance that you learn how to breathe for maximum oxygen delivery.
The Fallacy of chest breathing
For “chest breathers” out there, this can be hard to swallow.
The fact is, chest (and throat) breathing while running is really inefficient and a waste of time.
Why is that?
It’s actually quite simple. Breathing from the chest (typically in a shallow and quick manner) engages a small part of the lungs while also hampering performance and probably leading to hyperventilation.
So it’s quite baaaaad!!!
Therefore, to make the most out of every breath you take, avoid the cruel habit of throat and/or chest breathing in favor of deep breathing—also known as diaphragmatic breathing.
Breathing this way will help you to work your diaphragm to its fullest potential, allowing you to draw the maximum amount of air deep into your lungs.
Master it at home
To practice diaphragmatic breathing, begin by lying flat on your back with your hands resting gently on your stomach, a few inches below your belly button.
Next, and without letting your chest expand, take a deep breath (ensuring that the area below your hands is moving up and down with every deep breath you take), then exhale slowly and in a controlled manner.
7. Plan your Runs Like a Pro
The next thing you might consider doing if you are serious about running like a pro is to start planning your workouts the same way elite runners do: With a detailed action plan designed to help you reach that ultimate goal.
And if this is something you typically avoid, then remember that you don’t have to be making a living out of running to start approaching your training program the same way elite runners do.
The fact is, even if you are just a recreational runner, you are still capable of coaching yourself to achieve running excellence—provided that you are careful and staying within your fitness level the entire time.
Here is how a weekly running schedule might look like:
Monday: Quality workout: Interval session.
Tuesday: Easy/recovery run or cross-train.
Wednesday: Quality workout: Interval session.
Thursday: Easy run or cross train.
Friday: Rest or cross-train.
Saturday: Quality workout: Long run.
Sunday: Complete Rest.
A couple of Warnings
Before you embark on this road, be sure have a base before you commit yourself to a pro training program. If you’ve been running at least three to four days a week for the past three to six months, then you are in a good place.
8. Keep a Running Journal
One of the things that high achievers in all fields of life have in common is that they keep detailed logs of everything they do. This helps them monitor their progress (or lack thereof), look out for red flags and detect (training and performance) patterns.
As a result, start keeping a training log to help you check in with your running goals, keep a keen eye on potential injury and/or burnout and pinpoint what’s working for you and what’s not regarding diet and other lifestyle choices.
In other words, make a training diary your coach.
There are so many ways for keeping a training log, you might choose to keep your training long private or share it with everyone and make it public. Nevertheless, whatever path you decide to embark on, be sure that’s what you want and that it’s working for you.
The Things To Track
Here are some of the things you should include in your training journal so you can spot patterns and see changes over time.
The distance, duration and type of your run. Your planned workout and the real workout completed, including the distance covered, speed and elevation change. The fact is, a training log entry could be as simple as “5 miles in 45:00.
Heart rate. Changes in your day to day heart rate might reflect changes in your fatigue and fitness levels—and if you use a heart rate monitor, then be sure to keep a record of it in your diary.
Pains & aches. These can be the early warning signs of an impending injury or of an episode of overtraining creeping up. Plus, this can also help you pinpoint causes of injuries, which can help you prevent them for the long haul.
Shoes. To mainly help keep track of your shoe lifespan, mileage, fit, and know when it’s time to replace them—every 400 to 500 miles as a general guideline.
Sleep. By monitoring the quality and/or amount of your sleep and how it’s affecting your running performance.
Your subjective feelings. Make sure to rate your daily workouts on a scale of 1 to 10. If you score too many low-number runs in a row, it might be a sign of burnout or overtraining.
Running routes. To help you keep your running surfaces varied and be more clear about your performance and how it changes when you switch from one surface to the next.
I guess that’s it for today.
Please feel free to leave your comments and questions below.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post.
Featured Image Credit- jpo.ct via Flickr