5 EASY STEPS ON HOW TO BE A BETTER RUNNER5 EASY STEPS ON HOW TO BE A BETTER RUNNER: I ran a marathon, once upon a time. (If you could call what I did “running.” It took me nearly five hours—you do the math.) Still, I did it: laced up my New Balances, pounded the pavement through five months of training, and then went ahead and finished the whole 26.2. Some folks, including my podiatrist (bunions), didn't think I could do it. But as sports psychologists I talked to told me, physical feats are often more about mind than matter. Just in time for those New Year's resolutions, here are five evidence-based tips for upping your running game—or any physical activity you choose.
#1 Set a super clear goal. Edwin Locke and Gary Latham, leaders in goal-setting theory in the 1990s, showed that the more specific your goal, the better you will perform. Hundreds of subsequent studies have confirmed this finding as gospel. So instead of aiming to be a “better runner,” the first thing you are going to want to do is pinpoint a result: add a mile to your longest distance, shave a minute off your most recent race time, or simply get out and do it a certain number of times a week.
#2 Learn to be okay with pain. “Embrace the suck”—a phrase borrowed from soldiers of Operation Iraqi Freedom—has become a useful running mantra of Cindra Kamphoff, director of the Center for Sport and Performance Psychology at Minnesota State University, Mankato, who has completed 11 marathons herself. Running doesn't always feel good, especially when you're just starting out—but if you plan for that, you can prepare yourself to withstand it, she says. Jack Lesyk, director of the Ohio Center for Sport Psychology in Beachwood, agrees: “My first run was a quarter of a mile, and when I finished I thought I would have a heart attack. But I was determined to exceed that distance the following day and the day after that.”
#3 Get competitive. Marketing expert Gavin Kilduff of New York University looked at six years of racing data and interviewed runners about their “rivals”—people of similar age and ability with whom they raced often and felt competitive toward. They found that people ran harder and faster when racing against their rivals. This reminds me of a trick I learned from my dad, one that helped get me through mile 23 when my hips felt as if they were about to burst into flame: Pick out someone a few yards ahead of you and picture yourself throwing a lasso around her waist and reeling her in bit by bit until you catch up and eventually pass her. Then … it's on to the next one. Read More