Whether it is your first or your 11th run streak, these expert-backed tips will carry you through.
The 2021 Winter #RWRunStreak is here, and this year we have partnered with TrainingPeaks and Tracksmith to get you through the miles! To participate, you just run every day—at least 1 mile—from Thanksgiving (November 25) to New Year’s Day (January 1). That’s all it takes.
We know winter can be the hardest time of the year to stay motivated—be it the weather, the early darkness, the end of marathon season, the travel, or the get-togethers—and that’s why we created this fun running challenge so you don’t hibernate during the holidays. So, for 38 days, stay with Runner’s World each and every day of the Run Streak as we share an expert-backed tip to keep you motivated and pushing forward.
Shop Now: 2021 Limited-Edition Run Streak T-Shirts
“Committing to something is less about having time and more about setting priorities,” says Nicole Detling, Ph.D., assistant professor at the University of Utah, and author of Don't Leave Your Mind Behind: The Mental Side of Performance. As your holiday schedule ramps up, add workouts to the calendar on your phone and consider them meetings you can’t cancel.
Read more here.
“How many runs do you ever regret going on? Nine out of 10 times, you feel better, happier, and have a clearer head for having spent a few minutes out in nature—or the urban jungle. The other half comes from a place of gratitude. Just appreciate the opportunity that you have to be out there,” says Kaitlin Gregg Goodman, pro distance runner.
Read more here.
Remember, no matter what the temperature says, your body is going to heat up as soon as you start moving. A solid rule of thumb: Dress like it’s 15 to 20 degrees warmer than it actually is.
“You should be uncomfortable standing outside as you wait for your watch to sync,” says Elizabeth Corkum, a New York City-based running coach. “If you’re fine simply standing outside, the odds are good you’ll overheat once you warm up into your run.”
The What-to-Wear Tool
You don’t have to be training for anything. Free your mind from the tether of mileage and workouts, and simply run to enjoy it.
“Every once in a while, it’s good to give yourself a tech detox,” says Roberto Mandje, Senior Manager of Training and Education for New York Road Runners. “You’ll find you’re less tempted to chase a certain pace and instead are more likely to run by listening to your body’s many cues.”
The easy day run is the Rodney Dangerfield of distance training: It receives precious little respect.
It’s critical to refuel within 30 minutes to an hour of finishing a workout. Aim for a 3:1 carb-to-protein ratio. Try options such as a protein shake with fruit, a bagel with protein (such as an egg or peanut butter), or cereal and milk.
Generally, trail running is a much more intense total-body workout than road running. Plan your trail run based on time, not mileage, and try looking at it from a bigger perspective, like how long it takes you to do a certain loop or finish a climb in one section.
Read more about trail running.
Dressing in layers is the key to running comfortably all winter. You can start the run feeling warm, then easily shed the layers as your body warms up and you need less clothing. Simply tie unneeded layers such as jackets or long sleeve shirts around your waist and keep running once you’re warm, or plan a loop run so you can drop them off in a safe spot—like your car—when you don’t need them.
You might think running is all about your lower body, but your run technique needs to be dialed in from the top down. That said, don’t look at your feet. “Be sure to gaze directly in front of you,” says Kelli Fierras, a USATF-certified running coach.
Give yourself a carrot: Luring yourself out the door with the promise of a reward at the end—whether it be a catch-up with a friend or brunch—works. “Set a date to meet someone for a run,” says Jean M., a Runner’s World reader in Colorado. “There’s no wimping out when someone is waiting.”
How do you calculate your tempo pace? Without getting too technical, tempo pace is the effort level at which your body is able to clear as much lactate—a byproduct of burning carbohydrates—as it produces. Your body’s lactate clearance is at the same level as its lactate production, meaning the dreaded dead-leg sensation doesn’t set in.
That’s the key difference between a race and a tempo run. In an all-out session, your body bypasses this limit, allowing for fatigue to develop rapidly. A tempo pace, on the other hand, can be held steadily (albeit not too comfortably) for at least 20 minutes.
Running with stiff, tight muscles is not only hard, but it can also set you up for injury if you make it a habit. So doing a few running stretches regularly to maintain or improve your flexibility and range of motion is an essential part of training.
You may wonder: Should you stretch before running or after running? Here’s what the experts have to say.
The Strava Year in Sport 2021 report is out, showing just how much we ran this year. Even as variants of COVID-19 slowed the world down, more and more people picked up new forms of exercise. In fact, there was a 38 percent year-over-year increase in logged activities.
Running longer at a lower intensity will burn a lot of calories, but running short and fast can burn just as many, if not more, once you factor in that higher post-run calorie burn. That doesn’t mean you should only do high-intensity interval training; any good training plan will consist of a variety of running paces, all of which have their own benefits. But if weight loss is a priority for you, don’t skip your sprints!
Whether you’re running outside or just hitting the treadmill, good music can often make the difference between a rave run and a blown goal.
Try a new running mix.
Sometimes a change of scenery can be just the thing to refresh your running routine. Maybe that same old out-and-back is starting to feel a little stale, or your usual path has gotten a tad too crowded for your liking. Whether you’re new to an area, just starting out as a runner, or simply looking for some different views on your daily outing, a running route planner lends some convenience and variety to your fitness journey.
How slow is slow? Well, slow is a relative term. “I actually don’t like to use that word when I coach, because I think it gives people a negative connotation, and then that’s why they don’t want to do it,” says Jessie Zapotechne, a coach with Adidas Runners in New York City and the founder of Girls Run NYC. “Instead, we’ll call it a recovery run or sexy pace.”
What that really means is that you’re running at a pace that doesn’t tax your body. “It’s when you can hold a conversation while running,” she says—and not just with one-word responses.
“The key to running safely on snow and ice is to remember it will take a heck of a lot more energy than running without snow, and you will need to think ahead and modify your pace,” says Jenny Hadfield, running coach and author of Running for Mortals. “Although you will likely not run your fastest on snow and ice, you will certainly get a tough run in and one that will challenge your strength, balance, and focus.”
If you go hard every single day, you’re going to set yourself up for overtraining issues and burnout. A run streak is about varying intensities; running slow (or even walking) helps balance the stress of a workout with active recovery. “Active recovery helps get blood flow back to the muscles so they can heal,” says Tracie Hunter, an RRCA-certified running coach in Zionsville, Indiana. “Those easy efforts also help your ligaments, bones, and joints recover from the stress you put them under in a workout”—a lot more than sitting on the couch might.
Overtraining symptoms to look for that can signal you’re running too much vary, but some common ones runners can measure on their own are things like fatigue, a loss of enthusiasm for running, sleep disruption, changes in appetite, elevation in morning resting heart rate, and of course any running injury, Hamilton says. Always listen to your body—tune in to the subtle signs and symptoms that you’re not tolerating a particular progression in your training. Pain and injury are a sign you may be overdoing it and need to take a break or lessen up on your mileage.
While marathons test our endurance and 5Ks our speed, holidays test our patience. For every family member who supports your passion, there are others who think you’re nuts. Here is how to deal with them.
Rather than trying to improve your fitness during a busy or stressful time of the year, just make it a goal to keep your baseline of fitness. Running three days a week for 20 to 30 minutes will maintain your current fitness level and help relieve stress until you are able to resume a heavier training load.
Joining a squad—others with shared values, passions, and goals—opens the door to a network of meaningful relationships that grow our skillset. Working with others pushes us out of our comfort zone, creates accountability, exposes vulnerability, and gives us a support system to celebrate the highs and work through the lows. Which is why I tell every runner I coach to go find a squad.
As runners, we all want to increase our endurance, but sometimes that means different things. The beginner runner wants to go farther—from two miles to four miles, then to six. More experienced runners don’t see much point in running farther. (Isn’t 26.2 miles far enough?) These runners want to improve their speed-endurance—the pace at which they can cover substantial distances.
One of the other major benefits of the long run is how it teaches your body to use fat as fuel over carbs, says Joe McConkey, a Boston-based exercise physiologist and USATF-certified running coach. “That allows you to be more efficient with your different forms of energy, so you can run faster without depleting your reserves.”
Translation: The long run prepares your body to run more efficiently no matter the distance—even in a short race, when you need energy to be produced and oxygen sent throughout the body fast.
To learn the best moves for getting run ready, watch Coach Jess’s prerun warmup video. Follow along before you head out the door for your next run or write the moves down so you’re prepared for the next time you head out.
Whether you’re a seasoned runner or new to the roads, one thing is true: It takes time to properly train for a marathon or half marathon. Runner’s World recommends 16 weeks to train for a marathon and at least 10 weeks for a half marathon. (And having a training base before your start on your race journey is very helpful.)
To help you get to your finish line healthy and injury-free, we offer 16-week marathon training plans and 14-week and 10-week half marathon training plans for all runners.
Discomfort—mild muscular fatigue or tightness, stomach distress, hot spots on your feet—is typical when you’re going long. These unpleasant sensations seldom merit changing your plan for the day. A specific bodily pain is another matter.
Sara Hall, the second-fastest marathoner in U.S. history, says she cuts long runs short under only one condition—if she’s worried about an acute pain or tight spot that might become an injury if she runs through it.
January 1 inspires most of us to dream big. We’ll run regularly, earn that finisher’s medal, or nab a PR. It’s good to set goals: After all, people who make New Year’s resolutions are 10 times more likely to achieve their goals than those who don’t, says John C. Norcross, Ph.D., a University of Scranton professor of psychology who has studied the follow-through of Resolutionaries. As the saying goes, you can’t hit a target if you don’t have one. But dreaming isn’t enough, and procrastination will make the new year look a lot like last year. So we’ve laid out steps you can take right this minute (and later today, and later this week) to set you up for success for 2021 with some of the most popular New Year's goals runners have.
If you’ve always wanted to PR a half marathon or shave seconds off your mile time but dreaded the speedwork you knew it would take to get there, fear not. Stephanie Schappert, professional runner on the New Jersey New York Track Club, says it only takes a little bit of oomph to get big results, no matter what distance you’re running.
If you’re currently training four to five days a week, Schappert recommends incorporating drills like strides, hill repeats, and track workouts into just one or two weekly runs. Go ahead and use a timer or running watch if you want to know your exact speed, but her advice on pacing is simple: “Try to run faster than you usually do.”
Long runs are a staple of training, whether for a 5K or a marathon. But let’s be frank: Despite the benefits, long runs can be pretty boring. While you might normally rely on the company of others—or perhaps even music or a podcast—during your normal runs, those simple escapes just don’t cut it when you’re trotting along for twice as long. Conversation becomes agonizing, pop bangers non-motivating, and true crime dramas stale. So why, even though it’s one of your most cherished activities, do you sometimes feel overcome with boredom when long running?
Ditch the bulky gloves this season and use our proven layering strategy to stay warm.
As it turns out, thousands of you love going out for a cold run—we asked via an Instagram post for winter running tips and why winter running is better than summer running. Even if this doesn’t sound like you, you might still be looking for ways to make winter running more bearable. So we asked, Runner’s World Coach Jess Movold to offer some tips. What she wants you to know: Getting prepped to get out the door is all about mindset.
This year, we learned how to prepare for every kind of race from a 5K to an ultramarathon. In separate interviews throughout the year, we spoke with your favorite experts and pro runners, and we were able to pass along much-needed advice.
But just in case you weren’t taking notes, here’s a recap of the key takeaways from what we learned in 2021 and how you can use them to prepare for races in the new year.
Best Running Tips 2021
Don’t let your “but” get in the way. If you set a goal to run after work, you’ll never achieve it if you always say “I want to run, but I’m too tired.” “The ‘but’ story will always win in the end,”
Haley Perlus, Ph.D., a sport and performance psychologist tells Runner's World. However, “reframing your ‘but’ story to one that supports your goal is what will help us to break through and be successful.”
Perlus’ recommendation: Instead of “I want to run, but I’m too tired,” tell yourself, “The truth is, my body has been sitting all day and is well rested. It’s my mind and emotions that are tired. Running will give my body good stress and help me recover my mind and emotions.” Perlus says that when you can create a supportive story for the goals you set, that will make them easier to achieve.
Maybe you joined a new running group. Did you find a new pair of running shoes that you just love? Or perhaps you were lucky enough to race a World Marathon Major this fall. Regardless of how big or small the accomplishment, it’s worth celebrating.
So check off everything you did this year. Even if you don’t hit Bingo, be sure to share your card on Instagram and tag us @runnersworldmag. We can’t wait to see how your year went.
Happy New Year!
In a sport that comes down to mile splits and average paces, time-based goals are the obvious choice. But running is about so much more than what your watch or the race clock says, and setting goals that reflect that can actually help you achieve a PR—without obsessing over time.
The best part: Goals that go beyond time also help you become a stronger, more well-rounded runner. And that’s what will ultimately help you reach those bigger time goals.