Run Like a Pro: Tips and Techniques from Elite Runners

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Cross Training For Runners
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David Dack

If you’re eager to learn how to run like a professional runner, you’re in for an exciting journey.

Professional runners are known for their dedication, training routines, and techniques that set them apart.

Here are some valuable tips to help you run like a pro:

Why should you consider training like a pro?

Training like a professional runner or incorporating some of their strategies into your routine can offer several benefits, even if you’re not aiming to become an elite athlete.

Not convinced? Let me sell you on it.

  • Optimal Performance: Professional runners follow structured training plans and prioritize quality workouts. By adopting some of their training principles, you can improve your running performance and achieve your personal best times.
  • Efficiency: Pro runners focus on targeted workouts that maximize results. This efficiency can be especially beneficial for recreational runners with limited time for training. You’ll get more out of your workouts in less time
  • Injury Prevention: Professional runners often incorporate strength and flexibility exercises into their routines to prevent injuries. By doing the same, you can reduce your risk of common running injuries and enjoy consistent training.
  • Mental Toughness: Learning from the mental strategies of pro runners can help you develop mental toughness, which is valuable not only in running but also in other areas of life.
  • Goal Setting: Pro runners set clear, challenging goals and work diligently to achieve them. By adopting goal-setting techniques, you can stay motivated and focused on your running objectives.
  • Nutrition and Hydration: Emulating the nutrition and hydration practices of elite runners can lead to better race-day fueling and overall health.
  • Coaching and Guidance: Some recreational runners benefit from working with a coach or using training plans developed by professionals. These resources can provide expert guidance tailored to your abilities and goals.
  • Enjoyment: Structured training and consistent progress can make running more enjoyable. When you see improvements in your performance, you’re likely to find greater satisfaction in your runs.
  • Community and Support: Pro runners often belong to training groups or communities of like-minded individuals. Joining a running club or finding a supportive network of fellow runners can enhance your running experience.
  • Health and Well-Being: Regular exercise, goal setting, and a structured training routine contribute to overall health and well-being. Training like a pro can lead to physical fitness and mental clarity.

How To Run Like A Pro

Without further ado, here are some awesome strategies to help take your running performance to the next level.

  1. Determine your Goals

Setting and working toward your running goals is a fundamental step in training like a pro runner.

Here are some additional tips on how to set and achieve your running goals effectively:

  • Be Specific: Clearly define your goals. Instead of saying, “I want to run faster,” specify a target time or pace, such as, “I want to complete a 5K in under 30 minutes.”
  • Make Them Measurable: Use quantifiable metrics to track your progress. For instance, if your goal is to lose weight, set a specific number of pounds or kilograms you want to shed.
  • Be Achievable: Ensure your goals are realistic and attainable based on your current fitness level, experience, and available resources. Setting super pushy goals can lead to frustration and burnout.
  • Relevance: Ensure your goals are relevant to your personal aspirations and interests. Running goals should be meaningful to you and aligned with your values.
  • Time-Bound: Set a deadline for achieving your goals. This creates a sense of urgency and helps you stay accountable. For example, “I will complete my first half-marathon in six months.”
  • Break Them Down: Divide your larger goals into smaller, manageable steps or milestones. This makes the journey less overwhelming and allows you to celebrate achievements along the way.
  • Write Them Down: Document your goals in a running journal or a digital tracking tool. Writing them down increases commitment and helps you stay focused.
  1. Warm up like a pro

A proper warm-up is essential for running like a pro. It helps prepare your body for the demands of the workout or race ahead, reduces the risk of injury, and improves performance.

Here’s a detailed breakdown of a three-step warm-up routine to ensure you’re ready to run at your best:

  1. Start with a 5-Minute Gentle Walk:

Begin your warm-up with a slow, 5-minute walk. Walking is an excellent low-intensity activity to transition your body from a resting state to an active one. It gradually increases your heart rate, breathing rate, and blood flow to your muscles. This gentle activity helps to prime your body for more intense exercise.

  1. Add Strides (Pick-Ups):

If your training plan includes speedwork, such as sprints or hill repetitions, incorporate strides or pick-ups into your warm-up. Strides are short, fast accelerations that activate your fast-twitch muscle fibers and prepare your body for higher-speed running.

Here’s how to do them:

  • Begin with a 2- to 3-minute jog at an easy pace to prepare your muscles.
  • Over the course of 80 to 100 meters, gradually increase your speed to near maximum effort.
  • After the acceleration, gradually slow down and shake out your legs for 30 to 60 seconds.
  • Repeat these strides for a total duration of 5 to 10 minutes.

The intensity and number of strides you perform can vary based on the intensity of your planned workout. For more challenging sessions, include more strides.

  1. Dynamic Stretches:

Finish your warm-up with a set of dynamic stretches. These involve active leg movements that mimic the actions you’ll perform while running. Dynamic stretches help improve flexibility and range of motion. Some effective dynamic stretches for runners include:

  • Butt kicks
  • Walking lunges
  • High knees
  • Air squats
  • Inchworms

Perform each of these dynamic stretches for a short duration, focusing on form and proper technique. Dynamic stretching prepares your muscles for the specific movements involved in running.

After completing your warm-up, start your run at an easy pace and gradually increase your speed until you reach your target running pace. A well-structured warm-up routine like this ensures that your body is primed for optimal performance and reduces the risk of injury.

  1. Pro Running Form

Proper running form is essential for efficient and injury-free training.

Here are some key pointers to help you develop and maintain proper running form:

  • Stay Relaxed:  Keep your body relaxed throughout your run. Your head should be stacked over your spine, your core engaged, your back flat, and your shoulders relaxed and loose. Tension in your neck, shoulders, or arms can sap your energy and lead to discomfort. If you notice tension building up, take deep breaths and consciously release it.
  • Run Tall with a Forward Lean: Maintain an upright posture while running. Avoid hunching your back or leaning forward too much from the waist. Instead, think about running tall with a slight forward lean from your ankles. This posture helps you align your body for efficient running.
  • Focus on Cadence: Cadence, also known as leg turnover, refers to the number of strides you take per minute while running. Aim for a cadence of around 180, which translates to 90 strides per minute on one foot. Efficient runners often have a higher cadence, and it can help reduce overstriding and improve running economy. You can use a metronome or a running watch with a cadence feature to help you work on your stride rate.

If you’re interested in further guidance, you can explore running techniques like the Chi Running Method, the Pose method,  or consult with a running coach for personalized feedback and tips.

  1. Eat like a Pro

Proper nutrition is crucial for your running success.

To eat like a pro runner, prioritize quality over quantity and focus on fueling your body effectively. Here are some key nutrition tips for runners:

Choose High-Quality Foods:

Opt for high-quality carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. Incorporate lean protein sources such as low-fat milk, beans, poultry, and lean meats into your diet. Include healthy fats from sources like avocados, olive oil, and nuts.

Timing Matters:

Timing your meals and snacks is essential for optimal performance and recovery.

  • Before a Run: Consume a light, easily digestible meal rich in high-quality carbohydrates to provide energy. Examples include oatmeal with a banana, peanut butter on a slice of bread or a fruit smoothie.
  • Post-Run: After your run, focus on replenishing your energy stores and promoting muscle recovery by consuming a combination of carbohydrates and protein. Chocolate milk or a glass of milk with a banana are excellent options.
  • During Long Runs: For runs lasting longer than 90 minutes, consider fueling with options like sports drinks with electrolytes, energy gels, chews, or other portable snacks. Experiment with different options to find what works best for you.
  1. Hydrate like a Pro

Proper hydration is essential for a successful and enjoyable run. Dehydration can significantly impact your performance and overall running experience.

Here are some tips on how to hydrate like a pro runner

  • Hydrate Before Your Run: Aim to consume an adequate amount of water before your workout, typically about an ounce of fluid for every 10 pounds of body weight, within an hour or two before your run. Pre-hydrating can help ensure that you start your run in a well-hydrated state.
  • Monitor Your Body Weight: Keep track of your body weight changes before and after your run. If you have lost weight during your run, it’s a sign of fluid loss through sweat. For every pound lost during your run, aim to drink at least 16 ounces of fluids to rehydrate.
  • Adapt to Weather Conditions: Adjust your hydration strategy based on the weather. Hot and humid conditions can lead to increased sweat rates and greater fluid loss, so you may need to drink more during these conditions.
  • Consider Sports Drinks: For longer runs or intense workouts, especially in hot weather, consider using sports drinks. These beverages contain electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium) that can help replace the salts lost through sweat. Sports drinks can also provide carbohydrates for added energy during prolonged exercise.
  • Develop a Hydration Plan: Create a personalized hydration plan based on your individual needs and the specifics of your run. Experiment with different strategies to find what works best for you.
  1. Breathe like a Pro

Proper breathing is essential for running efficiently and ensuring that your muscles receive an adequate supply of oxygen.

Here are some tips on how to breathe like a pro runner:

Diaphragmatic Breathing:

Avoid shallow chest or throat breathing, as it is inefficient and can lead to hyperventilation.

  • Practice diaphragmatic breathing, also known as deep breathing. This technique involves using your diaphragm to draw air deep into your lungs.
  • Lie on your back with your hands resting gently on your stomach, just a few inches below your belly button.
  • Inhale deeply, allowing your abdomen to rise as you fill your lungs with air.
  • Exhale slowly and in a controlled manner, feeling your abdomen fall as you release the air.

This technique maximizes your lung capacity and oxygen intake.

Maintain a Rhythm:

Establish a consistent breathing rhythm that matches your running stride. For example, try to inhale for two or three steps and exhale for the same number of steps.

Find a breathing pattern that feels comfortable for you, and stick with it to maintain a steady flow of oxygen.

Avoid Breath Holding:

Some runners unconsciously hold their breath while running, which can lead to oxygen deprivation and decreased performance.

Be mindful of your breathing and avoid holding your breath. Focus on maintaining a continuous and relaxed breathing pattern.

Practice Controlled Breathing:

During challenging or high-intensity runs, it’s essential to stay in control of your breathing.

If you feel like you’re breathing too rapidly, consciously slow down your breath and take deeper, more controlled breaths.

This can help prevent hyperventilation and ensure a steady oxygen supply to your muscles.

Nasal Breathing:

Some runners prefer nasal breathing, which involves inhaling and exhaling through the nose rather than the mouth.

Nasal breathing can help filter and humidify the air, but it may take some practice to master.

  1. Plan your Runs Like a Pro

Planning your runs like a pro can help you maximize your training and achieve your running goals more effectively.

Here are some tips on how to plan your runs:

Create a Weekly Schedule:

Develop a weekly running schedule that includes various types of workouts, such as quality workouts, easy runs, rest days, and cross-training sessions.

Allocate specific days for each type of workout to ensure a balanced training program.

Incorporate Quality Workouts:

Include quality workouts like interval sessions, tempo runs, and hill repeats to improve your running performance.

These workouts help you build speed, endurance, and strength.

Balance Hard and Easy Days:

Alternate hard training days with easy/recovery days to prevent overtraining and reduce the risk of injury.

Recovery days are essential for allowing your body to recover and adapt to the stress of training.

Here is what a weekly running schedule might look like:

Into challenges? Give this 30-day running challenge a try.

  1. Keep a Running Journal

Keeping a running journal can be a valuable tool for improving your running performance and overall training experience. Here’s a breakdown of the important things to track in your training journal:

Distance, Duration, and Type of Run:

Record the distance covered during each run, the total duration, and the type of run (e.g., easy run, long run, tempo run, interval workout). This information helps you track your progress and plan future workouts.

Planned vs. Completed Workouts:

Note your intended workout for the day and compare it to what you actually completed. This allows you to assess whether you’re meeting your training goals and making necessary adjustments.

Heart Rate:

If you use a heart rate monitor, record your heart rate data during your runs. Changes in heart rate can provide insights into your fitness level and overall health.

Pains and Aches:

Document any pains or aches you experience during or after your runs. This helps identify potential injury risks and allows you to address them early.

Running Routes:

Include details about your running routes, such as terrain, elevation changes, and surface type. This helps you diversify your training and evaluate performance variations on different routes.

Personal Notes:

Use your journal to jot down any additional observations, thoughts, or insights related to your running experiences. This can be a space for personal reflections.

How To Run Like A Pro – The Conclusion

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.


David D.

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