How to Be a Good Runner

Five Parts:Running HelpFinding Your StrideMastering the BasicsStaying MotivatedGetting Faster and Stronger

Are you ready to advance your running skills so you can increase your distance and strength?! If you want to become a good runner, make sure your form is solid and you're wearing the right equipment before you start adding miles to your routine. Set a schedule and find ways to motivate yourself to stick to it, rain or shine. Finally, train to improve your endurance and speed by using techniques like hill sprints, tempo running and track workouts. No matter where you're starting from, you can be a better runner if you make running a priority.

Part 1
Finding Your Stride

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    Experiment with your stride. Your stride is the motion your legs take as they extend and strike the ground, carrying you along. Your natural running stride should feel easy, rather than awkward. Everyone’s stride is a little different, although the general form is similar for most people. Once you find your stride, you’ll minimize your risk of injury and gain speed.
    • There are several variables you can experiment with. Focus on how high your knees are in relation to your hips. Focus on how your feet strike the ground and how you push off to create your strides. Some people prefer to strike the ground heel-to-toe, while others prefer to do it toe-to-heel. Find what is comfortable and work with what feels best.
    • Generally, your ideal stride is the farthest distance in between steps that you can make without stretching or straining yourself consistently on a walk or run, but it really depends on your body structure and if you want to run for distance or speed. For a speed workout or race, your stride length should be fairly short, as you have more power with shorter strides. This takes more energy though, and so for a long distance run your stride length would increase. Your body tends to know its default stride length and so from there it's up to you to find out how much you should shorten.
    • When doing faster, short distance runs one would probably focus more on arm movement. Especially in sprints, where the arm movement essentially determines the speed.
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    Optimize your cadence. Another key factor is cadence, or steps per minute. The optimal cadence for a medium to long distance runner is around 180 steps/minute. Many training runners load up music playing devices with music that plays at 180bpm to help align their steps with beats (see How to Create an Exercise Music Playlist). There are some sites that let you sort music by BPM.[1]
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    Adjust your stride to the terrain. If you are running on rough trails, you have to adjust your stride to the terrain. Therefore, stride length will vary rather than being a static length.
    • If on a flat surface that has no obstacles, your stride should be based on what feels comfortable. In other words, a stride that feels like you are really stretching to maximize its length could become very tiring after a certain distance. You could also either experience sore muscles and tendons from over extending yourself. The effort required to maximize your stride length can also be stressful on your feet because you might be springing off each foot and could result in soreness or worse, injury.
    • If running downhill, you might want to increase your stride length to take advantage of gravity. But again, it needs to be done with caution in order to reduce the stresses resulting from controlling your balance and braking to maintain control.
    • Your stride length going uphill is going to be shorter than running on a flat or downhill surface, but how much shorter will be relative to the steepness of the hill, along with your conditioning, strength, and endurance. Take very short, slow, and deliberate strides to "power" up the hill. The pace might barely be above a walking pace but you'll still be using a running motion, not a walking motion. "Drive" your strides with your arms. As you continue training up that same hill, you will be able to run faster and your stride length will increase as you get stronger.
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    Don’t attempt to drastically change your form without instruction. For example, if you've always been a heel-to-toe person, and you want to try striking toe-first, you should work with a running instructor before you try doing it for long distances. Changing your form can lead to injury.
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    Observe experienced runners. Watch the ones who have a smooth easy stride. They appear as though they are almost effortlessly gliding along. The likelihood is those types of runners will finish at the head of the pack.
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    Go by feel. If you are running and you can increase your cadence and decrease your stride length, go for it! And when that becomes too tiring, make a conscious decision to lengthen stride and lower cadence.
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    Directly after runs, many athletes do 'strides,' where they run about 100 meters with the goal of lengthening stride as much as possible while traveling as fast as possible. This helps stretch out muscles after a hard workout.

Part 2
Mastering the Basics

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    Have good posture. Keep your torso centered over your hips and your back mostly straight, with just a slight lean forward. You don’t want to bend too far at the waist, but it’s fine to lean into your run, especially when you’re going uphill. Keep your shoulders back and your elbows bent, pumping them with every stride.
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    Remember to breathe. Breathe in a way that feels natural and easy. Don’t hold your breath or forget to breathe, or you’ll end up gasping for air and slowing yourself down. In running, as in other types of exercise, your breathing is most efficient when you breathe in through your nose and exhale through your mouth.
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    Wear the right shoes. When you’re just starting to run, any old tennis shoes will do. However, if you plan to run several times a week, and you want to start adding distance, it’s a good idea to invest in a pair of running shoes that fits you well and supports your feet. Your shoes shouldn't be so roomy that they slip around, but you also don’t want them to be uncomfortably tight. Leave about ¼ to ½ inch between your toe and the front end of the shoe.
    • Most running stores hire clerks who are runners themselves, and are trained to help you find the best fit for your foot. Try on a variety of shoes and test jog them around the store until you find a pair that feels comfortable.
    • Different shoes are made for feet with different types of arches. For some people, their ankle bends slightly out (under pronation) or slightly in (over pronation) while running, and there are shoes designed to correct these problems.
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    Dress for the weather. If you’re over or underdressed for the weather, your run will not be as successful. A good rule of thumb is to aim to dress for weather about twenty degrees warmer than the actual day’s temperature. That way, when your body warms up, you’ll be able to run comfortably.
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    Stretch after you’re finished. Stretching after your run will help keep your muscles from getting sore. If you wake up tight the next day, you’ll be less likely to run, so it’s a good idea to stretch every time. Do the following stretches after your cool-down:
    • Bend at the waist and touch your toes. Hold for 30 seconds, then straighten and do it again.
    • Bend one knee and grab your foot with your hand. Hold it against your bottom for 30 seconds while you balance on the other foot. Switch sides.
    • Push your toe against a chair or curb so that your foot bends back and your toes stretch toward your shins. Repeat with the other foot.
    • Roll your ankle for 30 seconds. Repeat with the other ankle.
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    Pump your arms. They need to move in the same plane as the running direction. The elbows need to be moving in the same plane as the knees. The forearms should be parallel to the ground. The hands cannot be clenched. Avoid clenching the hands by making the "OK" sign with the thumb and index finger on each hand. The shoulders, arms, elbows, and wrists must be relaxed, not tensed up. The more the arms are tensed the more the torso gets tensed and the running motion becomes less efficient and you get tired sooner.
    • It is OK to occasionally drop the hands toward the ground and loosen up the arms like you are shaking rattles, but that is only occasionally just to facilitate looseness.
    • If your hands look like they are making upper-cut jabs and/or moving side-to-side, energy is being wasted with motions that are askew to the direction your legs are going.

Part 3
Staying Motivated

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    Adjust your expectations. A lot of people do not realize running takes dedication and consistency if significant progress is to be expected. In other words, if someone really wants to be a runner, he or she must carve out at least 3 days a week (4 to 6 would be much better) if one expects to run comfortably for 20 minutes or more for cardiovascular fitness, personal satisfaction, or even competition. Someone with no running or sports background cannot expect to run 10Ks or half or full marathons on just a few week's training unless he or she doesn't care how it feels the next day.
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    Set a schedule, and stick to it. If you really want to be a good runner, the best way to improve is to steadily work toward your goals, never taking more than a few days off. If you tell yourself you’re going to run four days a week, 30 minutes a day, make a commitment to do it no matter what. Rain or shine, good mood or bad one, your mission is to get up and run. Slowly but surely, you’ll become a better runner.
    • It helps to have a set time for running that works with your schedule. Consider doing it before work, so you’ll have it done before your day really gets underway. Or if you want a great way to relax in the evening, schedule in running before dinner.
    • Plan to run under any circumstances. Say it’s spring break, and you've got a week off of work. You might be tempted to leave your running shoes in the closet, but you’ll feel a lot better at the end of the week if you stick to your schedule. Take your running shoes along, even if you’re going away on vacation. You’ll never finish a run and think to yourself, “I wish I hadn't done that.”
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    Don’t be judgmental of your abilities. If you get upset with yourself because you aren't making as much progress as you wanted to, or you’re finding it hard to stay motivated, realize that there’s no reason to condemn yourself. Every day gives you the opportunity to make a fresh start, to get out there again and try a little harder. The more energy you put into becoming a better runner, the better you’ll get. No matter where you’re starting, whether you can run for five minutes or 10 miles (16 km), you will improve if you keep getting out there and running.
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    Occupy your hands. It makes it less grueling if your hands are doing something. Yes, if you are a pro runner this is not the tip for you. You people already know how to keep your hands and intact, if you are a pro runner you probably don't need this article. But for the rest of you, gather around children because occupying yourself is great. Especially if you are just starting out.
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    Make your runs more fun. If the prospect of running is starting to feel dreary, and you’re finding that you’d rather do almost anything else, it’s time to mix things up. One of the best things about running as a sport is that it’s incredibly versatile. You can run anywhere, with anyone, at any time, and feel a rush of endorphins without ever needing more equipment than your running shoes. Here are some ideas to add some fun to your run:
    • Run in a different place. If you always run on a track, find a trail and run there instead. If you always go to the same park, choose a new neighborhood to run around. Even running the same old route backwards can help your run feel fresh.
    • Listen to music while you run. Make a motivating mix full of songs with fast beats that you’ll be encouraged to keep up with. Do not listen so loudly you are unaware of your surroundings. You should be able to hear cars driving or bike bells. A car horn is too late.
    • Lose yourself in your thoughts. Many runners use the time to let their minds wander to far-off fantasies. Let your mind go to its happy place, whether it’s planning a weekend dinner party or dreaming about your next vacation. Vacation in your mind!
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    The after-pampering is so important!
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    Run to the beat of the drum! Or... Your mouth! You have two feet so you can chant two syllable words. Candy! Bouncy! Runner!
    • Run with friends. Some people like to run alone, while others find it highly motivating to run with other people. Find some friends who want to meet up and run a few mornings a week, or join a club or team. You might do it for company, for distraction, or simply for some actual competition!
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    Sign up for a race. Whether you sign up for a 5k, 10k, a 13-miler or a marathon, having a concrete goal will get you up and running in the weeks beforehand. Training for a race is exciting, since it comes with the reward of competing in a race and knowing you were able to finish. After you complete a race, sign up for another one and try to beat your previous time.
    • Keeping track of their personal best times is a very motivating activity for many road racers. If you find you like the feeling of training and racing, there are hundreds of opportunities to do so every year.

Part 4
Getting Faster and Stronger

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    Try the run/walk method. If you’re just getting started, this method can be a very effective way to help you increase your distance and the amount of time you’re on the road. Try running for a minute, then walking for a minute, then running for a minute, and so on. The next time you run, increase the amount of time you’re running and decrease the amount of time you’re walking. Eventually, you’ll be able to run the entire time.
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    Increase your time each week. Try adding 10 minutes to your run every two weeks. Adding just ten minutes to your time will increase your distance by about a mile (depending on your pace), and after a month or two it’ll really add up.
    • If increasing 10 minutes every two weeks seems too slow, try doing five to 10 minutes every week instead.
    • Don’t overdo it, though. Adding too much time and distance too fast often results in injury.
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    Do speed exercises. If you’re happy with your distance and you want to run faster, there are a variety of exercises that increase your muscle mass and allow you to gain speed. Doing these workouts will pay off during your distance runs, when you’ll notice you can cover the same ground in a shorter period of time.
    • Try hill repeats. Sprint up a hill, then jog down. Repeat for a total of four times. As you gain endurance, increase your repeats so you eventually do 16, with breaks in between.
    • Try tempo running. This is when you run at a pace that’s faster than normal, but not quite a sprint. Try pushing yourself to run a mile a minute or two faster than normal. As you gain endurance, increase the mileage.
    • Try track workouts. These involve sprinting short distances with breaks in between. For example, sprint 400 meters (1,312.3 ft) four times, then take a three minute rest, then repeat.
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    Fuel your body with healthy food and plenty of water. As you become a more serious runner, you’ll notice how important it is to keep your body in excellent shape by staying well hydrated and eating wholesome food. The difference between a run the morning after eating pizza and drinking beer and the morning after eating salad and grilled chicken is enormous.
    • Eat whole grains, lean meats, healthy fats and plenty of fruits and vegetables to keep your body in good running shape.
    • Avoid eating fast food, heavy fried foods, and highly processed foods like candy and snack food. These drag your body down and cause you to run more slowly than usual.

Running Tips and Tricks


  • Your mind is everything when you're running, always stay focused and try to set a higher goal each time you run.
  • Maintain strong core muscles, as they do help a lot with running and running related injuries.
  • Try matching your breaths to a number of steps. Breathe in, take four steps, breathe out, take four steps, repeat.
  • Eating a banana in the morning helps. They release their energy slowly throughout the day, perfect for a good jog.
  • Don't give up if you aren't seeing results. You aren't going to see significant drops in your time right away. But, after a couple of weeks, you will notice yourself getting better if you are committed to running.
  • Drink plenty of water every day. Hydration is very important when it comes to running.
  • Make goals and work hard for accomplishing them.
  • When breathing take a big enough breath to almost fill your lungs, but not too much, or you will risk feeling sick. Then breathe out heavily in a short huff, this releases carbon dioxide quickly from your lungs helping prevent sickness, cramp and fatigue. Also when breathing try to find a relation between your stride and breaths for example breathe in two strides then out the next two.
  • Find a running buddy.


  • If your shins hurting while running, stop running immediately. It will probably make it worse if you continue to run (it is normal, however, for muscles to ache during exercise).
  • Run with proper form. Poor form will result in injury. Run in shoes that are "minimalist" because these will make you run naturally and adjust your form to be proper. Shoes that have lots of padding or are "springy" are terrible because they let you run with sloppy long strides that allow bad posture which increases injury rate.
  • Don't overdo it. Running too long of a run before you are ready for it will injure you.
  • Shin splints and other injuries to the legs are common for runners. Ice and rest to recover from injuries.

Sources and Citations

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