Become a Better Runner in 5 Steps

Wondering how to be a better runner?

Right now, loving (let alone liking) running may seem next to impossible. How could you possibly enjoy the heavy breathing, itchy legs, sweating, and general feeling like you could drop dead at any moment…all for voluntarily long periods of time?

Today, the secret is out. In this article, we’ve got 5 steps to kickstart your journey and make you the best runner you can be.

How to Become a Better Runner in 5 Steps

If you’ve tried to enjoy running before, start by scratching any memory of that experience from your mind.

Focus instead on the fact that you, for whatever reason, came back to try this again. You clearly care about running or at least reaping the benefits of it.

Let’s first compare your training for race day, weight loss goal, or whatever else you’re trying to accomplish, to the reading of this article.

You’re bound to want to skim through at some point because you need the facts, not the fluff. I challenge you to instead, stay present as you read this article and use it as a ‘practice run’ for the training ahead.

The First Step: Have Patience

how to get better at running

A good training program will include a blend of strength training, mobility exercises, speed workouts, running technique work, all types of interval training, and running (eventually) long distances.

The beauty of this kind of mash-up is that every day feels new and specific. Seeing a calendar full of different activities and daily goals is a lot more exciting than seeing that you “have to run” three miles every day for the next 30 days.

Let’s back up for a second.

Any ‘good’ training program is one that was created out of someone’s careful thought and planning. So, if you look ahead to the Saturday of week 4 and see you’re supposed to run 6 miles (which you’ve never in your life done), you can trust the fact that everything on the calendar leading up to that will prepare you to be ready for your first 6-mile run.

Don’t let the finish line pull focus away from the day-to-day. Trust the process…it was designed to work.

The Second Step: Slow Down

how to get better at running

The biggest killer of progress is comparison.

Again, erase any past relationships you’ve had with running – being forced through the mile run at school, running as fast as you can just to miss the bus, rolling an ankle chasing after the dog – from your mind.

Most peoples’ early experience with running involves maxed out speed, or running somewhere to meet a deadline.

This time, you’re building your running to last.

By slowing down your pace, you can lower your heart rate, make breathing feel easier and more comfortable for longer runs.  Who knows, you might even be able to hold a conversation with a buddy!

  • Best suggestion: Take smaller steps and wear a watch or  use an app that tracks pace so you can see if you’re pushing too hard in the beginning.  In the first few weeks of training, run for time, not mileage.

The Third Step: Treat Yourself Like an Athlete

how to get better at running

…because you are one!

Running supported by strength training and cross-training is a lot more likely to last. Strength and agility work will make you a more efficient runner. They also serve as a second line of defense against poor habits that eventually create injury.

Bodyweight strength training exercises like push-ups, lunges, burpees, and squats can develop strength in an exaggerated version of the range of motion used when you run. In other words, building strength along the edges of your run form (via the movements listed above) will make running itself feel easier.

For a closer look at some bodyweight exercises as they compare to weight training, check out this article.

Having more tools in your toolbox will again lower your injury risk and make you well rounded in anything physical you do, whether that’s yard work, hauling groceries, or playing with your dog.

You’d be naive in this day and age to think that great runners “just run.”

  • Best Suggestion: Regardless of the distance or goal you’ve decided to train for (half marathon, 5K, ultramarathon, 10K), you should add a minimum of 2 strength sessions into your weekly training. These workouts could be as short as 15 minutes but collectively should work the full body in ways that you can measure and improve upon over time. Example: Make it a weekly habit to test the number of quality push-ups or “hollow rocks” you can complete in 2 minutes. Here’s an easy way to do that. 

The Fourth Step: Prioritize Your Recovery

how to get better at running

Your recovery time is crucial for improving your ability and strength as a runner.

Your workouts are essentially just methods for breaking down muscle fibers. Each new stress (in this case, the good kind!) that we place on the body causes muscle fibers to micro-tear as they’re being worked.

The good news is that your body repairs the tears in the days following, and ultimately you come back with more resilience to that type of stress, thus becoming stronger over time.

While our body generally knows how to repair itself, a focused plan for restoration after the workout will pay off big time!

It’s up to us to prioritize this recovery and ultimately lessen the time it takes to be ready for another hard workout. The New York Times did a great article on all this here.

If you still want to be active on one of your rest days, you’ve got options! Check out this list of 11 activities to do on your recovery day.

Get some sleep!

Sleep is the best way to recover. If you’re getting proper amounts of sleep (I’d suggest 7 hours minimum), you’ll be a lot quicker to recover from tough workouts. Plus, you’ll be ready to hit the next one sooner and harder, thus improving your overall fitness one day at a time.

One of the best side effects of increased training is having no problem falling asleep! Putting your body to work will have it ready and willing for a good night’s rest.

If you struggle with this one, you’re not alone. To help, check out these tips to sleep better.

Stretch it out!


Another favorite way to bring the sore, tired body back to life is by mobilizing and stretching regularly. Again, you’re taking your body to new limits daily – be it in the form of a slightly longer jog, 30 lunges instead of 20, or running your fastest mile ever on the treadmill.

If you aren’t giving some love to the hamstrings, lower back, calves, quads, etc a couple of times a week, you can’t expect them to keep putting in work.

  • Best Suggestion: Allot time in every workout to foam rolling, soft tissue work with a lacrosse ball, and regular warm ups and cool downs. Even 5 minutes a day will do the trick. Maintain the machine before it breaks down!

The Fifth Step: Don’t Go It Alone

how to get better at running

My guess is that your previous running goals got derailed when enough “unmotivated” moments added up and convinced you that you’d bitten off more than you could chew.

Remember that the “lows” aren’t indicators of failure ahead. Rather they are a very normal part of the otherwise incredible journey to get you to the finish line (figurative or literal).

Keep this in mind, and you’ll be a lot less fazed when they come up and better able to stay on track.

This can’t be a solo journey.

Sure, you’ll be the one responsible for getting up and out on a cold, dark morning. And you’ll be the one who has to stay on top of the extra laundry piling up from a week’s worth of workouts.

But you don’t have to be the only one responsible for digging yourself out of the days where you don’t feel like doing either of those things. Even the best runners in the world don’t wake up with 100% motivation every day.

Handling those moments to the best of your ability, with an added support system in the form of a run club or online beginner running group, will be the key in moving you forward.

Groups of people going through exactly the same things you are, at the exact same time, hold a special sort of power.

Seeing a photo of someone else in the group who also didn’t feel like running that morning, post-run looking sweaty and proud will definitely get you motivated to get up and get your s**t done.

If your knee hurts or you’re feeling something funky after your run, post something in the group and ask for help. My guess is that most of the people in there have gone through something similar and can share a running tip or two.

  • Best Suggestion: Download The Run Experience mobile app and gain access to the largest community of beginner runners, going through exactly the same things you are. Lean on them, run with them, and share every small victory with people who care!

The *Bonus* Step for Overachievers…

Believe in yourself! The self-confidence you’ll build from following through will make you untouchable. Take things one day at a time and don’t give in to the moments you feel like quitting.

Remember: those are 100% normal and will always give way to the most coveted moments of breakthrough if you let them. You are a runner! 

If you struggle with self-confidence, understand that self-confidence requires trusting yourself. And trust is something you can build. If you want to learn more about trusting yourself, check out these tips.