7 Habits of Successful Runners

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Running success means different things to different people.  To some, it’s finally clocking that BQ time after years of trying.  While to others, it’s simply finishing a race without taking any walk breaks.  And while both of these goals are certainly admirable, they’d mean very little to someone constantly sidelined by injuries and excuses.  So for the purpose of this article, we’ll define running success as the ability to get out there, year in and year out, to do and enjoy what you love: Running.  Here are seven habits to help get you there.

Seven habits of successful runnersRain run” by antony-mayfield is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

1. Be consistent

A love for running doesn’t always come easy.  You have to work for it.  Starting off on a running journey is hard for everyone.  Those first few runs suck – there’s just no denying it.  But – and this is where the secret lies – if you keep at it and push through the urge to give up after those first few awful runs, it will get better.  Promise.  And the chances are good that you will get hooked.  Just be consistent.

And once you’ve overcome those initial challenges of becoming a regular runner, it’s important to keep up the consistency.  For there will be many more temptations to skip runs: Rain, wind, sub-zero temperatures, snow, late nights, and the list goes on.  And while skipping the odd run is certainly fine, don’t fall into the trap of making it a habit.  Because before you know it, you’ll be back at square one.  Which is a really frustrating place to be.

So save yourself the trouble and keep on keeping on.

2.  Don’t over-train

There is, however, a fine line between being consistent and training too much.  The trick here is to learn to listen to what your body is saying.  And then to act accordingly.  Are you just being lazy?  Is all you need to get going a proverbial kick in the butt?  Or is your body sending out signals that it’s over-trained and really needs and deserves a break?

We runners sometimes believe that more and more training will equal better results, when, in fact, the opposite is true.  Our bodies need sufficient rest and recovery in order to repair itself after intensive training sessions.  Without it, there’s no getting stronger.

So be brave enough to give your body the rest it deserves.  It will thank you in the long run.

3.  Fuel properly

Ahhhhh, fueling.  Another misconception that many runners have, is that you can outrun a bad diet.  Not true.  Some runners even go as far as admitting that they run in order to splurge on unhealthy foods.  And while there’s nothing wrong with the occasional indulgence in your comfort food of choice, don’t let it become a replacement for a healthy, wholesome diet.

Seven habits of successful runners.

It goes without saying that fueling your body with junk is most likely going to lead to sub-optimal performance.  Not to mention how awful it’s going to make you feel.  So make an effort to fuel yourself with wholesome, nutrient-rich foods and beverages.  It will benefit you on a myriad of different levels.

4.  Never outrun your love for running

It often happens that, in a relentless quest for clocking new PBs and completing more and more races, runners outrun their own love for running.  Don’t.  Find what it is that made you fall in love with running in the first place, and make sure that you never lose sight of that.

Seven habits of successful runners.

Was it the exhilaration of running the trails?  Just you, the fresh air and the beauty of nature?  Or was it the opportunity running gave you to indulge in some constructive me-time every so often?  Whatever it is that you loved most about running in the beginning, give yourself a proper dose of that every week.

Sure, we improve over time and our goals become more lofty and harder to achieve.  But make sure that chasing those new goals doesn’t rob you of what got you hooked in the first place.

5.  Watch your form and stride

Paying attention to your running form and stride will not only help you decrease your chances of injury, but also turn you into a more efficient runner.  Which, in turn, will lead to less frustration and more enjoyable runs.  And although proper running form is a highly debated issue, avoiding the following five common running form mistakes is sure to put you on the right path:

  • A slow cadence
  • Heel striking
  • A lack of mobility
  • A tense upper body
  • Never running fast

Tips and advice on how to avoid and rectify these mistakes can be found here.

6.  Cross-train

We runners can be a stubborn lot when it comes to trying out other activities.  We love running and it’s good for us, so why should we do anything else, right?  Well, according to Matt Fitzgerald, Training Intelligence Specialist for PEAR Sports, balanced cross training can benefit distance runners in a number of different ways:

  • Fewer injuries
  • Faster rehabilitation
  • Greater aerobic fitness
  • More power
  • Greater efficiency

Seven habits of successful runners.

And show me the runner who doesn’t want to improve his or her running, right?  So even though cross training will take up some time that you could have spent running, the benefits might actually be worth it.  More details on how to reap these benefits can be found here.

7.  Run with friends

Running can be a lonely pastime.  And for a lot of runners that’s exactly where it’s charm lies.  But do yourself a favor and buddy up for at least one run per week.  The benefits of running with a buddy are endless, especially when it comes to improving performance and keeping up motivation levels.  Plus, let’s be honest: Isn’t it awesome to have someone who understands and enjoys your runner weirdness?  Pick up that phone and schedule a running date now.

So if you’re serious about being a runner for life, take a moment to think about these seven habits.  Sure, they’re not all second nature and yes, they’ll require some effort from your side.  But spending a lifetime reaping the rewards of a healthy, consistent relationship with running certainly is worth it, right?