8 Tips That Will Make You A Better Runner

From a brand-new expert on the topic.

Author by John Devore
Art Credit: Amy Hunt

I ran a whole mile, more or less, yesterday. So I am eminently qualified to give tips on running. A mile, more or less! That’s a big deal for me.

I ran from my apartment to the park, and then around the park, which, to be honest, is a small park. At one point I sort of zombie-shuffled for a half-block, but I still count that as running because I was wheezing the whole time. I’ve been a semi-regular runner for about a month now. I’m proud of it because I usually can’t maintain anything resembling an exercise regime. But now? I’m basically The Flash in short shorts.

My doctor looked at me during my last physical and said, “look, you have to do something.” So I am. I am running. I bought new sneakers that make my feet look like race cars. I have an expertly curated playlist of mostly show tunes and heavy metal. I even bought a Fitbit, but I think it’s broken because I definitely ran almost a mile yesterday no matter what it says. You may be wondering how I — a pear-shaped mortal — was able to pull off such a feat of athleticism. Here are eight tips that will magically transform you into the kind of beginner runner I have become.

1. Stretch

Usually, for me, stretching is what happens when I have to bend over to pick up runaway blueberries. But you really need to stretch before running. I tried running without stretching and it’s not a good idea. There was pain. They say pain is the body’s way of releasing weakness but I’m 70 percent weakness, so it’s precious to me. So do what I do: Stretch for a solid five minutes before running. Your muscles need to be warned.

2. Run

The most important running tip is to run. If there was a way to run without actually running — or sweating or exerting yourself — I would have found it by now. But there isn’t. It’s quite simple, really: You just put one foot in front of the other, faster and faster, until you notice your body is pushing liquid out through your skin. Don’t panic — this is called “sweat.” Don’t stop running, keep it up. The first time I ran I made it two blocks before I stopped and asked myself “do I want to do this?” I said “yes.” Then I ran another two blocks.

3. Keep Running

I’m sorry, but this tip is non-negotiable: You need to keep running. Don’t give up! You can do it. I believe in you.

4. Visualize Your Demons

There are all kinds of important reasons to run. First, it’s a great way to burn calories and improve your overall health. Running also releases all kinds of stress-relieving and depression-fighting brain chemicals. It’s also confidence-boosting. But if you need more motivation than that, do what I do and pretend you’re running from your failures and fears. There they are right behind you! Your intimacy issues and petty insecurities and betrayed dreams! If you keep running, you’ll be forgiven for all those times you hurt the ones you loved. If you run fast enough, you’ll be able to look over your shoulder and see sad, scared, lonely you. Wave “adios” to that loser! Now, keep running and never stop.

5. Don’t Stop Running

Why did you stop running? I didn’t say you could stop running. Keep running, butterball. I’m not joking. Run. If you keep running, you’ll forever be brave and smart and beautiful. Don’t stop.

6. Okay, Stop Running

It is perfectly fine to run for two minutes and then walk for a minute. You can still say you ran the whole time. I do. It’s not a lie. It’s just a different kind of honesty. It’s important that you don’t push yourself too much. Take deep breaths. Get oxygen into your system. Drink water. Cry a little. Ask yourself what the point of life is. Seriously, is it all meaningless toil? Are we all just walking, or running, to the grave? I’d say this isn’t a good time to contemplate existential questions, but it’s always a good time to ponder the void. Now snap out of it. Your break is over.

7. Start Running Again Unless You Need To Barf

Yup. Get back to running. Faster. Faster! But not so fast that your legs turn to noodles and you barf all over your new race-car shoes. No. That’s too much. But, if you can, keep running until your Fitbit almost says you’ve run a mile, then stop and write an article about how proud you are that you ran a mile.

8. Reward Yourself

After I run a mile, more or less, I like to think I’ve burned tens of thousands of calories. So I like to reward myself with a few slices of pizza and a side of ranch dressing. I deserve it. You’ll deserve it too. This is called the circle of life: The more you run, the more pizza you can eat. It’s simple really. There are healthier ways to reward yourself, too. You don’t have to make yourself sick by emotionally eating triangles of cheese and gluten. But, my point is, do something nice for yourself. There are people who would say running is its own reward, but ask yourself who these people are. Marathon runners, probably. And those people are insufferable. All they do is talk about being in peak physical condition and blah blah blah accomplishing impressive goals. If you ran a mile today, more or less, then congratulations. You are impressive. You should definitely do it again tomorrow, and then afterward, eat pizza or, I don’t know, some apple slices.

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A curious exploration of comfort, wellness, and modern life — emotionally supported by Casper. It’s a beautiful magazine published by a mattress. Come on, you know it’s not the weirdest thing to happen this year. The first issue includes a love letter to comfort pants, a skeptic's guide to crystals, and an adulting coloring book.