Coach Mike Mead

Five Things To Do To Make You A Better Runner in '08

Another year has begun and hopefully you have not already strayed from your New Year’s Resolutions. As a runner who may be trying to seriously become better this year. There are five tips you can follow to guide you in the course of the next 12 months.

No. 1 – Set realistic goals. I’ve stressed this before that one needs a plan of action. Take time this month and write down three or four running goals that you can realistically achieve. For example, if you currently run six minutes for a mile and your goal is run 4:50 that will be a stretch. But if your goal is to run 5:40, you can reach this goal.

In addition to writing the goal, include what type of training you believe you need to do to help you get to your goal. Again, using the above example, you may indicate doing 8 x 400m at 82-85 pace, once a week. The more specific you are; the better your chances at reaching your goals. If you hit your goal sooner than planned, you have an opportunity to really challenge yourself!

No. 2 – Keep a training log. I find training logs a valuable tool for runners who do not have a coach. It is a tool that helps you see where you have been with your training in the past and point where you can go in the future. Writing down your daily training will help you -- when you look back -- see how your training has shaped up and provide a source to help build confidence. If you can go back over weeks and months to review how your training has progressed, you can make changes to your future training such as cut back in mileage before a big race, or increase mileage for a competition you may be planning in three months.

When keeping a training log, the basics are keep daily workout notes and total your weekly mileage. Include things like time of the day you run, the weather conditions, details of the specific workout, how you felt and note any physical ailments (sore knee, turned my ankle, etc.) that may have impacted the workout. You can also include in your training log what you ate each day, as well as the number of hours you slept the night before. You might also include if you got in a nap, if you have that luxury. Once a week I recommend that you record your weight and your pulse rate. Weight yourself before you run and check your pulse just as you wake up.

No. 3 – Train consistently. This is perhaps the most overlooked aspect of running, especially among young runners. My high school coach always stressed that for every day you took off from training, it would take you two days to get back to the level you were at before the layoff. Life these days seems much busier and stressful. If you plan to train consistently, you need to also train at a consistent time that fits your schedule. I have to go most days before 7 a.m. if I hope to run; otherwise I get too busy and blow off the run I thought I’d get in later in the day.

If you are striving to be a competitive runner, you pretty much need to run every day and work up to at least two runs a day. If you’re in to running just for the exercise, about five runs a week at 30 minutes each run, should do.

Part of consistent training is also getting the proper work in. Say you’re training to race 10K’s. Running three or four mile runs each day is not coming close for training to race competitive 10K’s. Frequent runs along with volume (length of runs) are the keys to consistent training.

No. 4 – Get a training partner. If you train most of the time by yourself and haven’t seen much improvement in your racing, perhaps it’s time to find a training partner to push you to the next level. The old adage, “strength in numbers,” applies here. Having a training partner has many advantages.

You have someone to help you get through the tough training days. You have someone to observe you run who can make suggestions should you get in a rut or are doing something that needs correcting. A training partner who is a little faster than you can help pull you through challenging workouts and races. A training partner a little slower will be there to keep you in check on easy training days. Most importantly, a good training partner will be there on those days you don’t feel like getting out to run because you cannot afford to stand them up!

No. 5 – Race more (or less). Many young runners these days seem to be “under raced.” That is, they do not race enough in the off-season whereby they get out of “competitive shape.” That is likely why high school kids race more than college runners. High school kids spend more than half the season racing themselves into shape, whereas college runners are pointing for specific races and have fewer opportunities to race themselves into shape. It’s all about the training, as in No. 3 above.

But many road racers need to race less. If you race more than two dozen races in a year, you’re racing too much! When are you spending time to do some serious training if you’re racing every weekend? I hear about some folks running in three competitions in a weekend for many consecutive weekends. I bet these folks are running about the same times over the course of a weekend, if they race the same distance. If this is true, they’re cheating themselves. They are not giving their all since they know they have to save a little for the next race later that weekend. The point of racing is giving your all and if you are you’re likely not going to have much left to run another race in a weekend. Great runners can do multi-races in a weekend, but they are not doing it that often.

If you take on at least one of these five tips just presented, you should see improvement in your running before the year is out. Of course, the more of these you take on, the more likely you will achieve your running goals in the coming year. Good luck!