With the new year upon us, I'm sure many runners have running-related resolutions. These resolutions may include conquering a distance you've never tackled, getting into a regular running routine, or running faster than ever. Regardless of what your running related resolutions are for 2010, below are a few 'quick hits', a few simple things you can do that likely will help you perform better, reduce the chances of aggravations/injuries, and/or make the act of running more pleasurable.
Foam Rolling! Pretty much all of my runners have heard me espouse the virtues of this simple tool. You can pick one up at Fleet Feet, Sports Basement, or just about any running specialty store. In short, it looks almost like a large 'rolling pin' without handles. They come in every shape, size, and density imaginable. Get into the habit of using the roller for a little self-massage on ALL your major muscle groups after every run you do and you will reap the rewards in the long haul. I was virtually injury-free in 2009 and I attribute a reasonable amount of this to my religious foam rolling.
Run Farther. Whether it's extending your long runs a few miles every now and then or adding a mile or two to casual, easy runs you do during the week, a few miles here and there can ADD UP! If you tack on an extra five miles per week (versus last year), this comes to 500 extra calories burned per week (on average). Assuming you maintained an average of five extra miles EVERY week (versus last year) during the course of the year (52 weeks), you're looking at an extra 26,000 calories burned! This is almost 7.5 pounds you're burning! (3,500 calories=1 pound) Independent of burning extra calories, this extra mileage will increase your running endurance and stamina.
Run Faster. There are a million different ways to do this. You can throw in some speedplay/fartlek periodically. During your normally 'easy' run, you can run hard for 2 minutes, run easy for 1 minute, run hard for 2 minutes, etc. You can do some more 'sustained' tempo running (5-20 minutes at 10K/half marathon pace). You can incorporate some short windsprints towards the latter stages of your run. Whatever approach you employ, running faster will encourage a broader range of motion, improve running economy/efficiency, and EXTEND your post-run elevated metabolism.
Run at 'target pace'. I work with TONS of runners who say they want to run a certain 'pace' for a given distance, but during the course of their training don't run many miles 'at target pace'. If you don't log a reasonable number of miles at your target pace, how will you ever know if this pace is sustainable for the particular distance you're training for? Furthermore, how will your body ever 'adapt' to running at this particular pace if you never 'ask' it to? You can start out small with a few 'target pace' miles here and there and gradually include a significant number of miles at target pace for your long runs (assuming we're talking about target pace for the half-marathon and/or marathon distance).
Switch off the Ipod, Garmin, heart rate monitor, etc. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting everyone should become a Luddite and start churning their own butter. BUT, all of the latest running technology out there is a curse and a blessing. We have access to ALL KINDS of data which can be great! BUT, look at the Kenyans. Many if not all Kenyan runners do not have access to ANY of the aforementioned technology, yet they somehow manage to dominate virtually every race they enter. How is this possible? Well, there are MANY factors contributing to their excellence, BUT Kenyans are arguably more tuned into their bodies than just about all the other runners on the planet. Rather than 'listening' to their ipod, Garmin, or heart rate monitor, they listen to their BODY! So, try 'switching' off and listening to what your body is telling you. Chances are, your body knows what's best for it. The fastest marathon of my life came at the end of a training cycle in which I didn't listen to my ipod for a SINGLE run!
Try Something Different! WAY too many runners fall into a running routine and just keep doing the same thing over, and over, and over again. Not too surprisingly, some of these folks get bored, disenchanted, burned out, or under perform. It's important to mix things up periodically to minimize injury risk, reduce the chances of burn out, and to perform at a high level. The best runners in the world don't get up every day and run the same distance at the same pace every day. They run hills, they do track workouts, they run on trails, they do speedplay/fartlek, and cover just about every distance and pace in between! While including 'variety' in your routine won't necessarily make you a world champion, it will likely make you a happier and better runner in the long run.