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The Little Things

Every runner I know wants to improve in some way shape or form, and each runner has some idea of how that feat is to be accomplished. This improvement is usually defined as the BIG thing — runners want to increase mileage, run faster miles, attempt hilly runs, run workouts, etc. Each of these aspects of running are usually considered big things, big pieces of the running puzzle that will lead to success.

However, most of the time, runners forget what can be the biggest thing of all: the little things. The little things comprise all the behind-the-scene routines that go unnoticed or undone. When you look at a professional athlete and you hear them speak about their training you think to yourself “wow, they work really hard–two runs a day and four workouts a week seems tough!” Well, I am here to tell you what you don’t see and hear: top level professional athletes work all day long, their job is not just running but doing all the little things after and before that can make the training they do possible. What you don’t see a professional doing is the ice baths or stretching or the technique drills that take up time each day.

Most of my athletes have a constant drive for improvement, so I often hear the refrain: “Coach what more can I do? How can I get better? I have tried everything!” While I know they’re trying hard, it’s almost certain that no one has “tried everything.” So I want to share some of the key “little” things you can do that will greatly improve your running.

  • Ice baths
  • Hip and core strength training
  • Recovery drinks
  • Proper stretching
  • Striders/form sprints
  • Upper body strength
  • Running on softer surfaces.  Ex:  Go and drop a golf ball on the pavement. Watch it bounce.  Now go drop it on the ground/grass.  Get the picture. Now imagine that the golf ball is your legs.  Running on softer surface, can not only improve your ankle dexterity, but it will help you be less injury prone and recover quicker.

While you may already sporadically participate in the above techniques, it should become a daily part of any runner’s lifestyle. This is why I classify these aspects of running as “little things.”

Ice baths and recovery drinks are the best tools a runner can have for sore tired legs and bodies. Hip and core strength along with upper body weights are imperative in running because you generate most of your power from your hips and core — when your legs die you only have your arms to rely on. Most runners claim that they don’t need arm strength, when in fact it is crucial. Lastly, strider or form sprints: with so much focus on endurance, our bodies forget how to run fast… Remind them! Striders and sprints are a great way to work on your form and technique which is the key element in injury-free running. Added benefits of striders are the speed and quickness you keep in your muscle memory.

Each of these aspects will improve your running efficiency if done on a consistent basis. Sometimes the biggest thing of all is actually many small things together. I challenge each runner to go out and attempt to complete regularly each of the little things listed and I can assure your body will show you the benefits and improvements over time.

Coach James