How to Get Better at Running - 7 Running Tips for Beginners

How to Get Better at Running - 7 Running Tips for Beginners

Did you know that the Army has updated its physical fitness tests?

Long gone are the days of just doing some push-ups, pull-ups, and a jog during the Army Physical Fitness Test.

Oh, the running part is still there, but it’s dead last in a series of six other exercises including deadlifts and the standing power throw.

That means in order to pass the new Army Combat Fitness Test, you need to be a damn efficient runner.

Let’s take a look at the benefits of running as well as some of the best running tips for beginners including running technique, posture, and breathing.

 

Running Benefits

Running is one of the oldest forms of exercise and it’s also one of the most convenient. No gym needed – Just throw on some sneakers, stretch, and get going.

Here are some of the benefits of running that will help you inside and outside of military training.

Weight Loss: Running has been shown to be more effective for weight loss than walking. While walking does promote caloric expenditure and can support weight management, running is significantly better for overall weight loss. [1]

Improved Cardiovascular Health: Studies show that running significantly improves your cardiovascular health and greatly reduces your risk for cardiovascular disease. [2]

Bone Density: Resistance training and running are two of the best ways to increase bone mineral density. One study found that while both are effective, high-impact activities such as running are far better for increasing bone mineral density. [3]

 

Running Tips for Beginners

Benefits aside, it’s time to discuss how to become a better runner starting today. Here are some of the best running tips for beginners and those who want to brush up on their technique, breathing, etc.

 

Running Technique

Let’s start with the foundation of running: your technique. Proper running form is essential for optimizing performance while reducing the risk of injury.


From top to bottom, here’s a checklist of all the things you should be paying attention to while you’re running. It might seem intimidating at first, but you’ll quickly realize that everything works in synchronicity, making it easier to maintain proper form.

Head Placement: Control your head movement by slightly tucking the chin. A good way to do this without thinking about it is by always looking about 15 to 20 yards in front of you.

Shoulder Position: Bring your shoulders back and down. Avoid running with your shoulders at your ears as this will cause muscle tension and strain, thereby affecting your running performance.

Hand Placement: Continuing with the point above, keeping your hands at waist height will help to keep your shoulders down and back.

Hips: While running, strive to lean slightly forward from the hips. Do NOT bend at the waist. Instead, think of it like you’re creating a straight leaning line with your body, relying on gravity to pull you forward instead of forcing a bend at the waist.

Foot Strike: This is a highly debated subject. In short, there is no universally best foot strike. Heel strikes are not as dangerous as they are made out to be, and fore foot strikes are easier on the knees. Many experts recommend the mid-foot strike because it delivers equal pressure to the calf and shin.

 

How to Breathe When Running

You should be inhaling through your nose and exhaling through your mouth as you run. This will allow you to comfortably maximize oxygen capacity while expelling carbon dioxide.

You can also practice rhythmic breathing using the popular 3-In, 2-Out system. This is where you inhale for three strides and exhale for two strides. This will help you balance out your breathing-to-strides ratio.

 

How to Increase Running Stamina and Speed

To increase running stamina and speed, you’ll use a combination of short-duration, high-intensity and long-duration, low-intensity workouts. Each workout will complement the other, allowing you to run further and faster.

This is important as this will allow you to finish the two-mile running test below the required time.

 

STAMINA

For stamina, focus on long-distance running at a slow and steady pace while using rhythmic breathing as mentioned above.

If you’re new to running, start with a shorter distance than your eventual goal. Each week, you can increase this distance by a quarter or half mile, depending on how you’re feeling.

So, if your goal is to run five miles, you might want to start with 1 or 1.5 miles then increase that distance each week or two.

I’d also recommend rucking as this is both a great way to improve endurance and prepare you for real-world drills in the Army.

 

SPEED

For speed, focus on sprinting. Use a system of 50/10 where you jog at a comfortable pace for 50 seconds then sprint for 10 seconds. You repeat this up to 10 times.

For both endurance and speed, try hill running. Don’t worry about going fast at first. Make it a point to maintain perfect form as you run up the hill. Eventually, try to run those same hills at a faster pace.

You can also improve your endurance and speed by incorporating high-intensity interval training into your weekly workouts. These are bodyweight-based workouts that focus on moving fast and efficiently with no breaks in between exercises.

 

Strength Training for Runners

Funny enough, people who want to become better runners often skip over strength training, believing that the only way to become a better runner is with more running.

Resistance training can help to correct muscle imbalance issues, ensuring that you lower your risk for running strains or injuries.

Strength training can also help your muscles work together more efficiently, improving your overall running posture and performance.

Finally, if you are using power-focused workouts with plyometrics, you’ll notice a significant boost in your speed and out-of-the-gate performance.

I’d recommend three full-body weight-based workouts per week. For one of those days, focus on a power workout, performing compound movements with heavy weights, low reps, and high sets.

In lieu of one of your running days, do a plyometric or jump training workout. Exercises include jump squats, jump lungs, butt kicks, knee tucks, and burpees.

 

References

 

  1. Williams PT. Greater weight loss from running than walking during a 6.2-yr prospective follow-up. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2013;45(4):706-713. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e31827b0d0a.
  2. Lee DC, Pate RR, Lavie CJ, Sui X, Church TS, Blair SN. Leisure-time running reduces all-cause and cardiovascular mortality risk [published correction appears in J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014 Oct 7;64(14):1537]. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2014;64(5):472-481. doi:10.1016/j.jacc.2014.04.058.
  3. Rector RS, Rogers R, Ruebel M, Widzer MO, Hinton PS. Lean body mass and weight-bearing activity in the prediction of bone mineral density in physically active men. J Strength Cond Res. 2009 Mar;23(2):427-35. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31819420e1. PMID: 19197207.