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Running is a love-hate relationship:

We sometimes hate it, we sometimes love it, but there’s one constant that always stays the same – we all want to get better at it.

Some of us run to lose weight, some to get sexy legs, get stronger or run a marathon, but no matter what’s your reason if you’re striving to become better you’re in the right place.

Today I’ll try my very best to help you become a better runner, the way I did.

You know why?

Because I just ran my second half-marathon and beat up my last year’s time 2:10:46 for 18 minutes, finishing the race in 1:52:53 and taking 26th place among women competitors.

I just couldn’t believe it – is this true?! How did I do this?

How did I become so good at this?

I tried my best, trained, changed a whole lot of things in my overall training and everyday life and it just happened.

I was so freaking proud of myself!

I had a goal to finish under 2 hrs but this, this was just out of this world!

I ran the whole 13.1 miles without stopping once, I picked up a great pace and followed it throughout the whole run, it was so hard I really went through hell and fire since the weather was too hot… but in the end I just DID IT!

And now when it’s all over I can’t wait to share everything I learned out of this experience with all of you and try to help you become a better runner yourself.

And that’s what I’m going to talk about – the things that are responsible for my success and helped me become a better runner.

The thing is, it’s not what I gave in the day of the race, but what I gave each and every day of the past year and the things I did differently from last year, that helped me become better and stronger runner.

That’s why I decided to make a guide to help every single one of you that have becoming better runner on the bucket list.

It’s a shame for a woman to grow old without ever seeing the strength and beauty of which her body is capable, so I decided to inspire all of you babes out there to have the same desire and challenge yourself to be better, stronger and faster runners.

Everything’s possible, and I know exactly how you can do it.

I’ll give you every single detail you need to become better at running, giving you some of my best tips and tricks to finally get the best out of each run.

These 25 things I changed helped me become better and faster runner and I just can’t wait to pass them on to you!

There’s a whole lot of magic in misery and running is the real proof of that, so let’s do this together!

I Started Setting Goals That I Can’t Achieve

…Until I grew into the person that could.

Yes, I was setting goals daily about my pace and distance and I usually didn’t achieve them, until one day I did.

That’s because I was adding up these goals in order to constantly challenge myself and help me become stronger and persistent, to finally get there and crush them all.

That’s how I crushed 01:52:53 on my half marathon.

I Started Running On Bananas

Bananas are a favorite for runners since forever and there’s a good reason for that.

Not only they are a great source of healthy energy, bananas are also loaded with a bunch of potassium, and magnesium, plus they contain less water than most fruits, which makes them less likely to upset your stomach during the run.

You can literally eat bananas before a race or a workout, and that’s exactly what I did – I usually run 3 hours after my meal, so I made sure to get a banana 15-20 minutes before my run.

The slow-moving sugar plus the electrolytes found in this goddess of fruit can help keep your energy level steady throughout long runs or races. 

Bananas became my “running gels” and my go to energy source whenever I feel like I need it.

I Learned To Control My Breathing

Breathing is so important and we mostly forget about it.

Breathing short and fast is what we all usually do while running while we should work on controlling the breathing whenever things get overwhelming.

So whenever the run becomes too much on your lungs, try slowing down a bit and take a longer, slower breath in.

Hold it for a second and exhale loud and slowly while relaxing the muscles in your face and shoulders.

Also focus on keeping the same even breathing pattern you’ve been keeping since the beginning of the run.

I Started Running More

The first running rule is to run more, and we all know that.

If last year I was running twice a week, this year I started running 4 times a week.

The more you do it, the better you are at it and that’s a fact!

And Longer

It’s not only the frequency of the running that matters but distance too.

You have to challenge your body a bit more each time.

So you could start small and increase your usual distance each week, or you can do what I did – have a really long run (9/10 miles) each week or if it’s too much once in two weeks.

This way your body learns endurance.

I Learned To Hydrate Before Running

Hydration affects running and it’s really important factor especially throughout the hot summer months.

However, hydration has to be done before the run to prevent running on a belly full of water.

“For pre-running hydration, the goal is to drink 5 to 7mL (30mL is about 1 ounce) per .5 pounds of body weight at least four hours before exercising. This means that a 150-pound runner should drink between 10 to 15 ounces of fluid at least four hours before working out.”

The closer you get to the run, the less you should drink so you don’t have a belly full of water sloshing around.

This way your body will feel hydrated throughout the whole run, and you could only take small sips to water your mouth and not feel bloated whenever you take a sip.

If you’re well hydrated you don’t need to drink water during a 30 minute run at all.

Not to mention that running without a bottle feel so much easier, since a single bottle can mess up with your balance adding pressure on one side of your body.

I Learned To Hold My Guns

I never warm up before a run. I just start slower, go through the first mile slower at a comfortable pace in order to help my muscles warm up.

I find the first mile the hardest of all, that’s why I make sure to slow it down and then seize the pace I want in the next miles to come.

They say you can’t win a race in the first mile, but you can easily lose it and that’s absolutely true.

So learn to start slower and then increase your cadence once your whole body is warmed up.

I Started Stretching Daily

This means yoga after every SINGLE run.

Stretching out is so freaking important, it helps your muscles feel lighter, lengthen up and get more flexible.

Running on tight muscles is a bad idea, so make sure to stretch after every run to maximize your flexibility and running performance, and to leave no space for injuries.

I Gave It Time

“Always find time for things that make you feel alive”

And since running is one of those things for me, this time I made sure to give it quite some time.

Nothing can happen overnight – you just be patient and consistent and the results will come.

Never let a week slip away without having a run, it’s a long process, it takes time and dedication, so don’t rush things out and you’ll get better and stronger eventually.

I Started Doing HIIT

Changing my usual strength training to doing High Intensity Interval Training 5 times a week for the past 6 months has really helped my running skills.

HIIT is probably the best way to work on your endurance and build some speed while strengthening those muscles at the same time.

“Incorporating HIIT into our workouts taps into our two anaerobic fuel systems, which can help improve our speed and strength if practiced properly.
When our bodies work at a high-intensity effort over a short period of time followed by a recovery, we are training our bodies to work harder and longer with less recovery.
That moment when you can no longer push harder without decreasing intensity or needing a recovery is your anaerobic threshold (or your lactate threshold, as it refers to the accumulation of lactate levels in your blood).
When you do HIIT, you are training your body to push that threshold and your limits.”

Plus, HIIT workouts are usually all about fast explosive movements that last from 30 to 40 minutes which is not even 2% of your day – no excuses!!

I Started Eating Healthier

If you want to become a better runner, you’ll have to become a healthier one too.

Nutrition is one of the most important things when it comes to any fitness activity including running, and how you fuel up is really important mainly because what foods you choose will determine your overall performance too.

Junk food can’t help you get to your desired energy, so you should really focus on eating real healthy foods.

If it wasn’t that hard to determine what’s healthy and what’s not these days, with so much misleading info out there, so that’s why I decided to write my own nutrition plan that helped me get healthy fit and better at running.

It’s called The Hungry Fit Girl, and you can check it out here:

I Started Ignoring The “Running Rules”

I read about right running forms all the time, when the truth is there are no rules in running.

Every person is different and has a different running style.

There are forefoot strikers and heel strikers, even toes strikers and there’s not right or wrong here.

You just choose what feels best for you and go with it.

I Learned To Run Without Music

Music is an amazing way to get motivated when running, boost your mood and make it fun.

My first year as a runner, I never left the house without my headphones, however you should hear your feet hitting the ground and your lungs breathing in and out every now and then.

Running without music blasting in my ears has given me a whole new appreciation for the sport and I’m really much more in tune with my body now.

It allows you to really pay attention to your breathing which is important and the way your feet hit, plus focus on the effort level and the surroundings rather than focusing on the song that’s playing.

Try it sometimes and you’ll see the difference.

I Got Out Of My Comfort Zone

I used to run most of my long runs on comfortable pace, mainly because I thought that was the right thing to do.

And yes, we should all have those “comfortable pace” recovery runs every now and then, but running should always stay that one thing being all about getting out of your comfort zone.

How else you’re supposed to challenge yourself if you don’t get out of your comfort zone.

Jog every now and then, but when you run make sure to give everything you got and make it count.

I Got Myself New Running Shoes

Running shoes are important. They’re not the most important thing (as some would say) but they’re really important especially when it comes to healthy running.

A good pair of running shoes will make your foot feel lighter and comfortable as you run, can reduce some of the stress placed on the heel, ankles and toes during a run, and even prevent knee hip and back pain.

A decent pair of running shoes can definitely make running more comfortable and safe, however you don’t have to buy expensive ones, just make sure they feel comfortable.

Plus, they’ll work great on boosting your motivation.

And Running Socks

Every runner should have a good pair of them running socks.

You know why? Because they are specifically designed with synthetic fibers in order to help give you comfort and support, they’ll protect your feet and reduce the risk of developing painful calluses and blisters.

And please don’t take blisters for granted, they can put you off your running schedule for days even weeks.

I Overcame All Of The Injuries

Last year I ran with pain in my knee and in my back hamstring.

I haven’t done anything about it, because I thought I couldn’t.

This year, I googled a bit and started using knee support band, which helped me overcome these two things I struggled with.

You should never ignore your body, especially not when it alerts you through pain.

A better runner doesn’t necessary means a faster runner, but a healthier and less injured one.

I Started Accomplishing My Short Term Goals

Become a better runner one goal at a time.

That’s how one by one, I kicked each and every one of them by working hard and training daily.

You don’t need to add up huge goals like running a marathon, just a short term ones, for example “run 8 miles” or “run 5 miles for less than an hour”.

Challenge yourself daily to achieve greater results in the end.

I Tracked Every Run

Not only tracking your mileage, but your pace and progress too.

This will help you learn and determine your pace and your overall running experience, not only to see where you’re going, but also to see where you’ve been and how much you’ve progressed.

I tracked my runs with MiBand bracelet and the MiBand app, however you can use free apps like Strava, Runkeeper or Nike+.

 

I Started Taking Minerals

It’s true that you can get your minerals through proper nutrition, but when it comes to running minerals are lost daily through sweat.

That’s why it’s essential to consume minerals especially magnesium, natrium and calcium.

Magnesium, together with calcium, is essential for optimal muscle function, they’re needed for recovery and preventing injuries.

I consumed magnesium daily followed by a huge glass of water and natrium on my long runs.

I Started Eating The Right Carbs

“Carb load up” is probably one of the favorite phrases when it comes to running.

And yes, we all need carbs for energy, but not any carbs but the once that are essential for our overall health.

This means healthy, complex carbs such as whole grains, brown rice, beans, peas, lentils, sweet potatoes, fruits.

These carbs will work great in providing us energy while making sure we stay healthy.

I consumed them at least 2-3 hours before my runs sided with protein and some healthy fats.

Don’t trick yourself into having donuts to run faster – you can’t find the energy you need in junk foods – there’s a good reason it’s called junk in the first place.

I Learned How To Rest

When it comes to building a training schedule, not running is just as important as running.

Rest days help strengthen your body, sharpen your focus, and reinvigorate your spirit so that you actually want to keep training.

Especially resting before those long runs, when taking a day off is crucial.

When you rest you’re collecting energy for the next training and you’re not leaving room for injuries, and that’s freaking important.

I found a set for me at 3 days on 1 day off, 2 days on 1 day off.

I Learned To Run Tall

The first thing about a right running posture is that it allows you to get more oxygen to your lungs, since the amount of oxygen you can get in when your back is straight and tall is surprisingly bigger.

Plus it feels easier on the whole body.

We all have different running forms, there’s no debate here, but when your chest are up, shoulders back and your back straight, running feels much easier and that’s a fact.

I Mastered My Mind

Well ladies, that same voice that says “GIVE UP” can also be trained to say “KEEP GOING”.

You have to think about running as mind vs body relationship.

Yes your body is tired, but your mind is the one that has the last call, so make sure to work on your mental performance and toughness as well as physical.

I Motivated Myself Daily

I’m in love with running, but motivation is what keeps me going and I cannot lie.

Without proper motivation, I lose interest in most things.

So I keep motivating myself daily, mostly throughout motivational quotes, posters and other runners stories.

They help you remind yourself why your goals are important to you, even when it’s too hard to ever remember what your goals were in the first place.

Ready, Set, GO!

I hope my tips helped you become a better runner too.

It takes discipline, courage, and a whole lot of craziness to achieve your running goals, but with hard work and persistence you’ll get there.

Never stop setting goals and never stop chasing them – that’s the only way to feel alive.

If you like my guide on how to become a better runner, don’t forget to share it with your friends, because running feels so much easier when doing it with a friend.

Til next time, runners!
XOXO,
Monica