5 Simple Tweaks for Running Improvement

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5 Simple Tweaks for Running Improvement

women running together
Thomas Barwick/Getty

We all know that it’s tough to overhaul a specific behavior or adopt a new, big habit. Although we may have good intentions to run every day or dramatically increase our mileage, big changes like that can be difficult to implement and easy to give up on. They may also lead to issues such as injury.

But what about small habits that can improve our running?  There are plenty of minor (and easy!) changes we can make to our lifestyle and fitness habits that can positively impact our running. Here are some tweaks that we can stick with for the long run.

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Eat a better breakfast.

fruit and yogurt
Gregor Schuster

Have you ever noticed what a difference the right or wrong breakfast can make during a morning run? One recent morning, I was busy making my kids some French toast for breakfast and decided to just eat that instead of my usual egg white omelet with spinach and cheese.  About halfway through my 5-mile run that morning, my stomach started growling and I began feeling a bit weak and fatigued. A thin slice of French toast simply didn’t have enough calories (fuel) to keep me running strong. And my breakfast choice also meant that I would start feeling hungry a lot sooner than if I had something with some protein in it.

What to do:  Revamping your breakfast can be pretty simple. Try some of these quick breakfasts for runners. You might need to experiment with how many calories is enough for you to fuel a run, depending on your distance and intensity.  If you think a particular breakfast won’t be enough fuel for a long run, for instance, you could always add a banana or other carb to it.

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Use a foam roller.

If you’re not using a foam roller yet, what are you waiting for? I would venture to say that my Grid foam roller is one of my most useful running items. I know that it’s helped me get through runs pain-free and probably saved me from having to go for physical therapy numerous times.

What to do:  Foam rollers are cylindrical pieces of foam that can be used to help prevent and treat running injuries. Using your own body weight and a foam roller, you can perform a self-massage that offers similar benefits as deep-tissue massage such as stretching muscles and tendons, decreasing muscle tension, breaking up trigger points, soothing tight fascia, and increasing blood flow and circulation to the soft tissues. Foam rollers are a convenient, less expensive alternative to professional massages. They're especially helpful if you’re prone to ITB Syndrome and tight calves or hamstrings.  I foam roll after all my runs if I’m feeling tight.

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Plan some rewards.

foot massage
Mike Harrington/Getty

This is such a fun habit to implement! You may already be doing this and not realizing it, but your running motivation will improve even more if you make a concerted effort to plan some rewards for your running progress.

What to do:  Plan rewards for your running, whether it’s something small like a cup of coffee after a morning run or a massage after a big race. For me, I love audiobooks, so listening to another chapter or two is my little reward for running when I need some motivation. Pick some things that you love and promise yourself a treat (don’t always make it about food) after a run or race. Find ways to celebrate your running progress.

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Use running mantras.

runner with hat
Chase Jarvis/DigitalVision/Getty

The mental game can be challenging, but you can make small tweaks to boost your mental strength and confidence. Whether you’re pushing through a tough speed workout or a race, mantras can help get you through the rough patches.

What to do: Pick a short, inspiring phase that you can play over and over in your head while you’re running. Some runners have a few and use them in different circumstances, such as running up a hill or doing a speed workout.

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Run with a buddy.

women running together
Thomas Barwick/Getty

If you typically run alone, running with a friend or a running group can improve your motivation because you know that they’re expecting you there. Chatting with a friend during a run can also make the miles a lot more fun. Running with others, especially during tough speed sessions or hill workouts, can also help you push your efforts and improve your performance.

What to do:  Make regular dates with a friend or family member to run with you. If you can't find anyone who will run with you, follow these tips to find a running group. You don’t have to do every run with a group or buddy, but running with someone else once a week or a couple times a month can give your motivation and performance a boost.  

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