How to take your running to the next level

If you're training for a race or taking on a physical challenge, you need to improve your fitness though consistent, well structured and healthy training methods. But once you've done all you can to increase your fitness, consider making these lifestyle and training changes to help aid your running success.

Increase your training through distance or time in a low aerobic state

  • The change: Run more kilometres in training or include extra low aerobic work such as cycling, swimming, or low impact movement.
  • The reason: Upping your time training is the best way to improve your aerobic capacity, which increases speed endurance (a fancy way to say how long you can sustain race pace).
  • Caution: Be patient and measured in the increase. Do not make large rapid increases, instead aim for two or three extra kilometres per week (or 10–20 minutes extra) to begin with.

Prioritise recovery and go easy

  • The change: Really strive to make your easy runs feel very easy. In fact, take an additional 30 seconds to a minute per kilometre off your current easy run pace and relax.
  • The reason: Taking it even easier on your current easy runs will allow you to recover better. In turn, you'll be able to run harder on your hard training days, and encourage a bigger adaptation in your strength and fitness.
  • Caution: Be confident in your recovery practice and don't let social competitiveness force you to do otherwise.
An easy run is an important run
An easy run is an important run

Prioritise recovery and sleep more

  • The change: Achieve at least 7-9 hours of sleep each night.
  • The reason: Sleep is when your body can recover the best. Simple.
  • Caution: Besides heightened attention, better core body temperature regulation, better moods...nothing!

Introduce a strength routine

  • The change: Look to include two or three simple 30 minutes whole body strength circuits to your weekly training.
  • The reason: Strength training can help prevent injuries, provide new stimuli for your body to adapt to, and help break up your usual running routine.
  • Caution: Ensure any strength training routine is done with perfect technique. Opt to learn from a personal trainer for the first few sessions to make sure good form is adopted.

Assess your diet

  • The change: Review your diet and find areas where you can include more whole foods, nutrient rich foods (fruits, vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds) and cut out processed foods.
  • The reason: Whole nutrient dense foods can help aid recovery, introduce more fibre to your diet, improve cardiovascular health, protect you from illness, and aid more consistent energy levels.
  • Caution: Processed foods can be well marketed, convenient, and us runners can find good excuses to eat them. Be disciplined and opt for the smarter option by planning ahead and carrying a banana with you at all times.
Introduce strength training exercises into your routine
Introduce strength training exercises into your routine

Embrace a positive attitude

  • The change: Enjoy the process of running, not just its outcomes.
  • The reason: When we enjoy the bad runs as much as the good ones we instantly increase our satisfaction for running. Having a positive mind set can will usually allow you to perform better.
  • Caution: Be selective with your competitive attitude, leave it for race day. Ignoring the numbers can sometime be stressful, so be aware of this and understand, numbers aren't everything in running.

Be persistent and consistent

  • The change: Even if its short one, get out and go for that run. Or at least take 20 minutes out of your day to do some additional exercise of any type.
  • The reason: Adopting running or exercising as a habitual part of your life will have dramatic effects on your fitness and ability. This process and consistent practice will improve your mental strength, commitment, physical abilities, and hopefully, love for the sport.
  • Caution: Don't ignore the need to rest and recover. Always have at least one rest day per week in your training schedule.

Majell Backhausen is an Endurance Coach and Elite Athlete for Salomon, Suunto and Compressport, and an an advocate for simplicity, patience and longevity in the sport of trail running and outdoor pursuits.