I used to say I wanted to be the best runner that I could be, but did I really. I was willing to do all the running  necessary to reach my goals, but when it came down to doing some of the little things, I wasn’t always on top of them.

A few years ago, I remember getting up at 4:45 in the morning, having my run done before 6:00am and finding myself sitting in front of the television at 8pm without having completed the scheduled resistance workout.

This wasn’t always the case. As I got older, I found myself spending more time on hobbies I previously neglected in place of running and doing the things I needed to do to stay healthy. The birth of my son in 2011 also contributed to my lack of focus. Getting up two to three times a night to feed him and transitioning into motherhood wasn’t exactly easy. And although he’s almost three years old now, it hasn’t gotten easier, it’s just different.

Running is the easy part

When you think about it, running is actually the easy part of becoming the best runner you can be. I say this because it the one thing we as runners make sure we complete each day. This is not to say some workouts aren’t more difficult than others or there are times when we don’t feel like running, but given all of the other things (cross training, massage, strength training) we need to do to become better runners,  running is the easiest part of it–certainly, the part we’re motivated to do most.

The little things matter

The little things (massage, stretching, strength training, cross training, eating healthy, getting adequate sleep)  must be taken as seriously as running; More if you’ve been injured often.  The “little things” simply cannot be treated with secondary importance. In fact, I’ve found there are some days I spend more time on the “little things’ than I do running.

Picture this: you begin a 16 week training program for a half marathon; Everything is going well, and then 2 months prior to your big race you come down with a bout of patella tendinitis that stops you cold–patella tendinitis that could have been avoided had you been on a strength training & mobility program. When you don’t do the “little things” it is like building a house on a weak foundation. It is only a matter of time before it all comes crashing down.

Everyone needs a coach

To be the best runner you can be, you need a coach. I say this loosely because you can coach yourself and many runners do. It is a lot easier to have your workouts planned than to wonder what you are doing each day, how fast it is, how long it is and whether it’s targeting the right physiological system. But it’s a stress that can easily be avoided by either hiring a coach or getting a plan elsewhere.

If you belong to a group, you may use key workouts as your guide. Long intervals, tempo runs and progressive runs are always easier when you have company. If you don’t have someone to run with,  try running at a time and place when a lot of people are out. I have found just seeing other runners and even joggers and walkers to be motivation in itself.

Do what works for you

Not everyone is interested becoming the best runner they can be. Every runner has goals that are unique to them. Some run seven days a week, some run three and one individual I know, competes in marathons on only one training day per week. So, you can guess what he’s weekly run is–yes, his long run.

Or maybe you’re into the social aspect of the sport or are trying to stay fit so your body doesn’t go south. It doesn’t matter as long as it works for you.

And then there are those who want to be the best runner they can be but have schedules that simply don’t allow for more training. Or they want to be the best runner they can be within a given schedule. For example, being they can be while training only three days a week.

Running is such a personal experience and the role it plays in each of our lives is as varied and unique as each of us.

Your turn: What does it mean to you to be the best runner you can be?

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