Phil P's Top Running Tips - 12th September 2017

Phil - running coach
by Phil - Marathon coach and parkrun fan

Recently, a runner at a group session asked me what is the single most-useful piece of running advice I could give.

I was completely stumped. That's not an easy thing to do. Obviously, it depends on the runner. If somebody is currently doing all their runs as hard as they can, the best piece of advice for them would probably be to slow down a little bit. On the other hand, a runner who is plodding every single session could benefit from some harder work.

So I need something more general. Something that could apply to all runners. I eventually managed, "Don't get injured", which is brilliant advice, I suppose, if not particularly useful (how do you not get injured?).

Anyway, it got me thinking. If there were three snippets of advice I could dish out that would benefit pretty much all runners, what would they be? So, in no particular order:

1. Don't get injured

It's rare you come across a runner who doesn't have a story about the time everything was going really well - they were just about to smash all their PBs - and then dreaded injury struck.

Of course, some injuries are unavoidable. If you fall down the stairs or get kicked in the shin by your niece, that has nothing to do with your running approach. But what about those injuries that could have been avoided? Think back to previous injuries and what caused them. Often, it's a case of ignoring the warning signs (e.g. doing a race when your hamstring's feeling a bit dodgy) or overdoing it (I'll just knock out a twenty-miler after having four weeks off with bronchitis). Examine the causes of previous injuries and work out how you can avoid similar situations in the future.

Other injuries happen because of poor conditioning. Supplementary training is always a good idea. And warming up before sessions and cooling down afterwards is also sensible, as is staying flexible.

2. Have a Goal

This won't apply to everybody. Some people are happy to run for the sake of running and have no interest in how fast they run, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that.

If you're looking to improve performances, however, then it really helps to have something in the not-too-distant future to focus on. This doesn't necessarily have to be a race - although that is the most obvious target. It could be building up to a certain mileage, running a certain number of times a week, or losing or gaining weight.

With a target in mind you are far more likely to adopt a structured training approach and this is when improvements happen.

3. Enjoy it

Another vague recommendation perhaps. But if you genuinely enjoy what you're doing you're going to do more of it and do it better. That doesn't mean every single run or workout has to be fun, but in general you need to be a happy runner to be the best runner you can be.