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17 Pro Running Tips Every Runner Needs to Know

Mull over these words of wisdom during your next workout.

By Jen Ator January 23, 2024

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If you want to be a runner, all you have to do is run. It’s that simple. But to improve as a runner—whether that means getting faster, running farther, or simply feeling better during each workout—it takes a little extra intention. 

“As in life, we grow, and we learn, and we hopefully become better,” says Peloton instructor Jeffrey McEachern. “I think it’s the same with running. You sometimes get into a trot, literally, while you’re just doing it the way you’ve always been doing it. But to get back in touch and re-check in how we are running—literally, how our motor is running—is beneficial to everyone.” 

Whether you’re a seasoned racer or a complete beginner (welcome!), you’re never too good to keep getting better. Here are 17 tips from top running experts on how to optimize your runs and training to squeeze the most out of every mile.

Nailing the Basics 

If you’re new to running or coming back from an extended break, lacing up for the first time can feel overwhelming. Here are a few big-picture tips to keep in mind.

1. Keep It Consistent

When it comes to running, anything counts—even if it’s just a few minutes. Yes, seriously. “More than any other sport, running rewards frequency and repeatability,” says David Roche, head running coach at SWAP Running in Boulder, Colorado and a former USATF Trail Runner of the Year at the sub-ultra distance. Running feels hard when you’re first starting, but over time your body gets used to pounding the pavement or the treadmill. “Little stimuli expedite those adaptations with lower injury risk,” he says. “Stacking up runs also reinforces aerobic and nervous system changes, all of which respond to repeated practice.” Layering in lots of shorter runs is what will keep you going stronger for longer.

Unsure of where to start? Try a beginner run on the Peloton Tread—or even a walk + run class.

2. Don’t Overly Fixate on Form 

For such a basic movement, some experts can make running form feel quite rigid—from where your foot should hit the ground to how much your knees should bend. But the truth is, there is no “right way” to run. Instead, Jeffrey says to focus on a single word: Relax. “I often say to people taking my class, relax and take care of your MBP,” which stands for mindset, breathing, and posture. “Your form is connected to your breathing and your mindset. If you’re stressed out about this run, you’re going to clinch up; you’re going to breathe differently. So think of those three things as your anchor to get you into better running form, because together they make a big difference.”

3. Embrace Easy Days

“One of the biggest things I’ve learned is that slow running is also running,” Jeffrey says. “When I started, I was more in the mindset of ‘I’m going to run everyday as fast as I can.’ That always got me to fall off the wagon.” Also known as aerobic base training or zone 2 training, easy or slow runs help improve your aerobic capacity and cardiovascular endurance. They are especially important if you’re a new runner, as they place less stress on your body and allow you to develop consistency and strength over time. On a scale from one to 10, easy-day efforts fall around a four. (You should be able to carry a full conversation during the entire run.)

4. Listen to Your Body

“I think there are so many factors that we tend to ignore and just do something because that’s what the plan says,” Jeffrey says. Work on being in tune with how your body is feeling before, during, and after each run. “If it’s a certain season, if you’re going through something, it all does different things to our bodies. Not every day is going to be the same, not every run is going to be the same, and you have to be OK with that.”

5. Check Your Feelings

Your work meeting went terribly. You had a fight with your partner. Your kids are testing your patience. While running can be great for emotional regulation, sometimes you need to disconnect from those feelings so that you can run your best. “If you take negative [energy] or stress into a run, that will mirror itself in that run,” Jeffrey says. Instead of linking your negative feelings to your run, take a moment to remind yourself that this run can be part of the solution: Imagine feeling lighter, happier, and less stressed once you’re done.

6. Find Good Shoes

You don’t need a lot of gear to be a good runner, but your shoes will affect your experience. Head to your local running store if you don’t know where to start so that the professionals can help advise you on the pair that’s right for you. (Hint: If it’s comfortable on your foot, it’s probably a good match.)

And jot down the date of your first run in them. Most people can get about 300 to 500 miles out of a pair of shoes before the material becomes too fatigued to do its job. If you log your miles, you’ll know when to be on the lookout for a new pair. Looking for an easy way to do this? Consider tracking your outdoor miles and classes on the Tread or in the Peloton App

Picking Up the Pace

Want to dial up your MPH? You won’t become a faster runner overnight, but here are three ways to build and boost your running speed

7. Add Variety

The easiest way to get faster? Run faster—sometimes. “Playing with a variety of speed or intensity during the week can help us to both improve our endurance and our race pace,” says Amanda Brooks, a certified running coach and the author of Run to the Finish: The Everyday Runner's Guide to Avoiding Injury, Ignoring the Clock, and Loving the Run. “I always advocate looking at the total volume of workouts for the week and keeping 20 percent or less at high intensity. If someone is doing four runs a week, they may want to do one speed workout, one longer run, and two easy days.”

8. Head for the Hills

Hill workouts are a specific type of speed workout, when you run at close to an all-out pace uphill for a predetermined time or distance—usually anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds—followed by a recovery period. “Hill repeats are one of the first speed workouts I assign most runners,” Brooks says. “They are an incredible way to build leg power and practice speed without the fear of overstriding and getting injured. They're an ideal option for runners who tend to get injured adding in speed.”

9. Practice Short Sprints

Intervals are generally a defined period of high-intensity effort (say, 30 seconds or one minute), followed by a defined rest period (such as a minute or 90 seconds). “Interval workouts provide a chance for us to practice what it feels like to run at different intensities,” Brooks says. “This means we're working on improving our cadence, teaching our legs what it feels like and mentally learning how to lean into the discomfort.” Regardless of your skill level, you can benefit from this type of workout. You just need to adjust it to what makes sense for you. “For those just starting and doing mostly walking, that could simply mean increasing the intensity of the walk for a segment,” she says.

Going the Distance 

Being able to run for longer without getting tired is a top goal for many. Here are four tips to improve your endurance safely and effectively.

10. Be Patient

The biggest thing that will contribute to building your endurance is running regularly, but it needs to be a gradual build. Ramping up too fast makes you vulnerable to injuries, since your bones, tendons, ligaments, and muscles haven’t yet been conditioned to withstand the impact of running. To successfully build endurance while reducing your risk of injury, follow the 10- to 15-percent rule: However many miles you ran this week, increase next week by no more than 10 to 15 percent. So if you ran 10 miles this week, add on no more than one to one and a half miles next week.

Man runs outside, the best running tips

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11. Focus on Effort

“The most consistent mistake I see runners make when it comes to building endurance is trying to run the same pace for all of their runs,” Brooks says. “The pace you run for three miles might not be the one you can hold for six miles. Learning to slow down and focus on an effort level over a pace is really useful.”

12. Mind Your Ticker

Focus on your heart rate. “Low heart-rate training utilizes the Maffetone formula of 180 - your age to find the maximum heart rate for your easy runs,” Brooks says. “I've found that this helps a lot of runners to understand exactly how hard their bodies are working. Too often we use pace as the guide for [an] easy effort, but [your] heart rate can tell you that it feels harder today for whatever reason, and you need to slow down to keep the effort easy."

13. Reframe Your Perspective

It’s not just your muscles that need training for endurance— it’s your mind, too. “Endurance running means a lot of time alone with our thoughts and that can be an amazing thing, but also a problem if we don't know where to direct them,” Brooks says. “We have to let go of our fear of how hard it might be or what it's supposed to look like and instead tap in to the excitement of trying to achieve something new and enjoying the process.”

Beyond Running 

To improve as a runner, you have to do more than run. “It’s like a recipe,” Jeffrey says. “Even if something is called tomato soup, it’s not just tomatoes. There’s something else in it to make tomato soup. So if you want to be a runner, there’s other ingredients that you need to add.” Here are four extras you don’t want to miss. 

14. Don’t Forget to Unwind

“Imagine taking a pizza out of the oven and just starting to bite into it,” Jeffrey says. “It’s still hot, it’s not ready. Years ago, I would have been the first to say 'Oh, I’ve done my run, finished the workout, let’s go shower and head home.' But there is work and force being put on your body, and it needs an equivalent dose of relaxing. Your body needs a cooldown to get what it deserves after the hard work.” Just like the slice of pizza, a few minutes of stretching and easy walking after your run can make a big difference.

15. Prioritize Rest

It’s a common mistake: In an effort to improve, people run, well, way too much. It’s important to remember it isn’t just your running that builds your endurance and stamina. It’s also the recovery process. Schedule at least one total rest day each week, and make sure to prioritize sleep every night. According to a 2021 study in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance, while the US National Sleep Foundation recommends seven to nine hours of sleep each night for adults, even more shut-eye might be necessary if you’re an athlete.

16. Don’t Skip Strength Training

Regardless of what your running goal is, pumping iron—or even practicing bodyweight moves—will help get you there. “Having better strength in our hips, glutes, and core means we can maintain better form for longer and that makes the run feel better [and] reduces our risk of injury,” Brooks says. “Additionally, we know that it improves our running economy, meaning the body doesn't have to work as hard and therefore we have more energy to run farther.”

17. Plan Your Breaks 

You may feel sore after your runs—and that's OK. The inflammation that causes soreness is one of our physiological signals to adapt. However, on the other end of the adaptation spectrum is injury and overtraining. While some stress is good for you, as your body is able to build back stronger than before, if you keep pushing yourself to run more and rest less, you’ll wind up overtrained or injured. “Because running responds to long-term consistency, it's key to choose some three-day and three-week breaks, so you aren't forced to take a three-month break,” Roche says.

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