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5 Healthy Ways to Become a Better Runner or Train for a Race

Spring is a popular time for 5K charity races, and it’s also a great opportunity to lace up those running shoes to get back into shape after a long winter. Running is a great way to boost your cardiovascular endurance, and you don’t have to be an Olympic sprinter or a world-class marathoner to try it. Yet many people who are new to running rush into it and end up with more than their fair share of injuries and frustrations.

So, here are some tips for how to train to be a better runner and get ready for a race to put those running skills to the test.

Photo credit: hardloperhans via Flickr

1. Focus on Nutrition

Becoming a good runner isn’t just about exercise, because nutrition plays an essential part as well. Before running, choose low-fiber and low-fat foods at least an hour before you hit the pavement. Smoothies are great pre-run options, as well as berries, steel cut oats, and hummus. Rather than indulging in a big fast food meal and a beer to celebrate finishing a good run, choose healthy post-race snacks to perpetuate your momentum and help you succeed in your next race too. Some of the best foods to eat after a run include lentils, kale, broccoli, avocado, nuts, and seeds.

2. Drink More Water

As you begin running, your body will demand more hydration to keep your organs lubricated and to support your heart that is working harder. Being even slightly dehydrated can affect your running performance, so make sure to take a few swigs before and after your run. For longer distances or on hot days, carry water with you to sip in the middle of your run too.

3. Ramp Up Slowly

To prevent injury and fatigue, it’s very important to start with short distances and a slow pace and gradually build up your running from there. For example, you can start your training regimen with 20 minutes of walking and then upgrade to a 30-minute run/walk on alternating days. Even when you’re training for a race, it’s a good idea to take a rest day or two each week. Remember that it takes the body some time to adjust to a new exercise pattern, so be patient with yourself and always be safe rather than sorry.

Photo credit: GoToVan via Flickr

4. Add Variety with Non-Running Workouts

For most people, running each and every day puts too much strain on the body and neglects other aspects of overall fitness. Strength training is very important for runners to build up the muscles needed to support a body in motion. Even if you don’t have time to hit up the weight machines at the gym, try doing bodyweight exercises at home for at least 10 minutes, such as pushups, lunges, and crunches. It’s also a good idea to work different types of cardio exercise into your routine for variety, such as swimming and cycling.

5. Find a Running Community

Some people are inherently self-motivated and can bring themselves to exercise without any outside help. But for the rest of us, it may help to find a community of runners in your area to meet up with and go for runs together. This is a great way to stay accountable to your goals and share your successes with like-minded people. If you live in an area that doesn’t offer running meet-up groups, consider starting one yourself or go online to find a virtual running community where you can ask questions and find support.

Are you trying to become a better running or training for a race? Let us know how it’s going in the comment section below!

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