8 Smart Tips for Running Stronger and Longer

Whether you’re training for your first 5k or your next marathon, or just trying to get in shape, little things can slow you down or even leave you feeling burnt-out. These hints will help you avoid the potholes and stay on track to your goal.

Last week, I ran my favorite 5-mile route. I was fast and light on my feet, barely feeling the resistance from the 45-pound jogging stroller with my son inside. It was a glorious workout. Yesterday, I did the same loop, but my legs felt like lead, and I was mentally drained and crabby. The minutes crawled by, and all I wanted to do was quit. So I did, 3 miles in.

A bad run can just be a sign of an off-day, but often it’s a signal that you need to adjust your training.

A bad run can just be a sign of an off-day, but if it happens often you need to consider what your body is trying to say. Here are common messages it’s trying to send, and what to do about them.

Drink Up
Dehydration is a common cause of muscle fatigue. To be sure you have enough fluids, drink water throughout each day, not just after you run. Active women need about 9 quarts of water a day, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Men need about 13 quarts daily.) When you’re working out hard and sweating profusely, you may need even more. A simple rule of thumb you should never ignore: If you’re thirsty, you’re dehydrated.

Fuel Smart
When you are challenging your body with hard exercise, that is no time to be skimping on meals, even if you’re trying to lose weight. That said, you want to be sure you’re giving your body not just any food, but a steady supply of nutrient-dense calories. Build your meals around vegetables, fruits, whole grains and low-fat protein, and include healthy fats, such as nuts, avocados and olives. Don’t rely on shakes, nutrition bars or other meal replacements – they may meet your caloric needs, but they don’t include the full range of nutrients your body needs to train hard and recover for the next run.


Sleep Well
Your body requires rest to repair muscle that’s strained by a hard workout and your mind needs at least 7 hours of sleep a day to recharge and stay fresh. If you’re not getting enough sleep because you have a new baby or are feeling stressed about work or personal life, don’t push yourself to keep up with a demanding training schedule. Instead, make adequate sleep a priority and scale back your training. When you’re fully rested, you’ll feel eager to get back to your training.

Check The Weather
Even if you’re dressed properly for the conditions, temperature extremes (cold or hot) and high humidity can sap your energy more than you realize. When the weather is very cold or hot, scale back your workouts or consider indoor alternatives.

Step Up Slowly

“You want to gradually increase your running miles to avoid injury and burnout, and to adapt properly to training stress,” says Marni Submal, a triathlete coach (TriMarniCoach.com) and seven-time Ironman Triathlon competitor. She recommends increasing your weekly mileage by no more than 10 percent at a time. In her own training, Submal tallies her running workouts based on time rather than distance, so that she can keep track of and balance how much she is taxing her body each day.

Stay Focused
Pick a training goal and keep it in your sights, Submal advises. For instance, if you’re increasing your running distance to prepare for a marathon, don’t also work on building speed or strength at the same time. Focus on one goal at a time and give your body time to adjust to the increased demands before you add another goal.

Listen to Yourself
It’s impossible to predict how your body will react to training. If you’re feeling sluggish, you may need to be more flexible with your plan and take more rest days. Continually re-evaluate your training plan and adjust your expectations. “You cannot get stronger, faster, or improve endurance when you are burnt out or even injured,” Submal warns.

Be Flexible
As you train for a specific event, you may come to the realization that you’re not ready for it. If workouts consistently feel like a struggle, reassess whether to try a shorter distance or a more forgiving pace.  I once changed my plan to run a 10K race to go for a 5K instead because I wasn’t feeling my best. It was the smartest decision ever I’ve ever made in my training – I won the race!






  1. Kendall Covitz

    Great tips! I have such a hard time running but when I do get in the in the groove, I enjoy it.

  2. Great tips. I too (recently) have experienced that where one day I can do my route just fine and feel great, and the next time I feel like I couldn’t run a block. I think that instance was due to poor nutrition the days leading up to it. I also recently made a decision to change distances from 8k to 5k in an upcoming run, and it’s been such a mental relief. The race is only two weeks out, so not having to feel stressed about whether I can do it or not has made my runs so much more enjoyable.

  3. i think for me being hydrated solves alot of my problems. when i’m in a zone i drink more water and my runs are more enjoyable. when i forget to do this my runs are harder. There’s one other thing that some times impacts my runs and that’s being hormonal, and i’ve learned to just go with it.

  4. Concerning the recommendation regarding the amount of water to drink daily, Mayo Clinic recommends 13 cups (not quarts) for men and 9 cups (not quarts) for women.

  5. The Mayo Clinic article cited actually states “The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of total beverages a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of total beverages a day.”

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