Many ultrarunners I know like to keep it simple; put shoes on, head out the door and run. There is nothing wrong with that approach but if you want to improve then the body has to have the right stimulus to force it to adapt and become stronger.
Elite athletes aim to leave no stone unturned in training. They do all they can to provide the body with the right stimulus and recovery to maximise their training. Whilst many of us don’t have the time to focus on training that some of the elites do most of us could improve in a number of ways with very little if any extra time involved.
I’ve listed below 27 ways you can improve your running that don’t need much if any extra time. See how many of these you can implement in your training program.
1. Know when to run hard and when to ease up. Many runners run their easy sessions too hard and that means their hard sessions aren’t hard enough.
2. Spend more time working on your weaknesses – whether its speed, uphills, downhills, stairs, trails – whatever it is spend more time doing it rather than avoiding it.
3. Build up the elevation of your training runs so it matches that of the race you are training for. If there is 400m per 10k in the race then thats what you should aim for in training. Even it the only way you can do that is to run up and down the same hill for hours.
4. Stop static stretching – its a waste of time.
5. Introduce dynamic stretching and do it daily instead of just when you are injured.
6. Add a running specific strength training program to your weekly routine. Thirty minutes twice a week can make a big difference.
7. Focus on running during every hard run. Dwelling on work problems during a hard run isn’t going to help your running.
8. Practise staying positive in every run no matter how bad you feel.
9. Smile when the going gets tough, you’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.
10. Step outside your comfort zone and choose some races that will show up your weaknesses.
11. Make getting 7-8 hours sleep a priority.
12. Stop eating processed food and increase your fruit and vegetable intake.
13. Include walking in your training – you do it in a race so practise it in training. It’s a big component of ultra running so why not train it.
14. Next time you buy shoes try several different brands on, not just your favourites and see if there is a shoe better suited to you.
15. Stop doing the same runs you always do and try a different route.
16. Run with people a fraction faster than you for your hard runs and slower than you for your easy runs.
17. Seek professional advice and get a personally designed running program.
18. Listen to your body and be prepared to have a day off or two when it needs it.
19. Don’t try and run through an injury.
20. If you have a persistent injury seek professional advice sooner rather than later.
21. Do the least enjoyable sessions more often, you’ll probably benefit more from them.
22. Practise your race day nutrition plan in your long run.
23. Do some regular meditation to develop the ability of the mind to stay focussed.
24. Decrease your alcohol intake.
25. Don’t be afraid to every now and then push yourself so hard in an interval session that you cant finish the session at the specified pace.
26. Running on technical trails is a skill so practise it often until its a skill that you have some level of competence at.
27. Don’t be worried about taking a few days off if you are feeling run down. We improve through recovery and if you aren’t recovering then all you are doing is breaking down.