Want to get better? Get consistent

November 28th 2019

When I improved most as a marathoner, it was during a wonderful two and a half year stretch. I managed to shave more than 45 minutes off my marathon time during this period. In case you're wondering, I wasn't drinking any magic potion(s).

I showed up for my tempo runs on Tuesdays. I showed up for my lung searing session of intervals at the track on Thursdays. Whether I was tired, hung over, or otherwise less than 100%, I ALWAYS showed up for my long runs on Saturdays.

In short, I was ruthlessly, relentlessly consistent. The true 'secret' to becoming a better runner is consistency. If you stay healthy and you're consistent with your training, good things will happen. 

Outlined below are a few tips for keeping consistent. Employ them (consistently) and you'll likely find yourself running farther, faster, and posting personal bests.

How to get better at running?

1. Sign up for a race.

I hardly ever need to be prodded to get my miles in. Running is like breathing to me. A day without running is like a day without sunshine.

But, I have no illusions everyone is wired this way. For many, running is hard work. The runner's high doesn't materialize every time you lace up your kicks.

Blowing off a run can be easy if you had a tough day at work. Skipping a session at the track can be similarly easy if you're stressed. It's easy to rationalize taking a day or two off.

If you haven't done so already, sign up for a race. Few things keep you committed like a date circled on the calendar. You'll be far less inclined to skip a run if a race is looming on the horizon. 

2. Get a plan.

If you're using SportMe Run Trainer, you're in good shape. It's likely we've already created a plan for you. Hopefully, you're following it!

Your plan should include some structure, a gradual progression of mileage, periodic drop back weeks, and align with your current level of running fitness.

There's nothing wrong with simply running for the sake of running. But, if you're struggling to stay consistent and your current running routine has no real rhyme or reason, get yourself a plan. A solid plan is a great catalyst for consistency.

3. It's not bad weather, it's a 'developmental opportunity'.

I grew up in Kansas. Summers were hot, humid, and generally miserable. Winters were bleak, gray, and bitterly cold. If you were lucky, you'd encounter a few weeks during the Spring and Fall that were ideal for running.

But, the rest of the time I was sweating or freezing my ass off. I rarely enjoyed running in oppressive heat and humidity or the bitter cold of winter. But, dealing with inclement weather regularly forced me to develop mental toughness.

It also forced me to develop ways to get out the front door despite less than ideal conditions. I started viewing bad weather as merely a 'developmental opportunity'. The more I exposed myself to it, the better I'd get at dealing with it. 

Decades later, I can count on one hand the number of times I've bailed on a run due to nasty weather. So, the next time you find yourself thinking of skipping a run because of inclement weather, remind yourself that it's a 'developmental opportunity' and get the miles in.

To be clear, if the weather is dangerous or hazardous, stick to the treadmill! But, otherwise, find a way to get outside and get the miles in. A race is VERY rarely canceled due to bad weather. So, braving the elements is actually an important part of your training. 

4. Find a run club or crew.

My first 'run club' was actually my cross country team. Knowing almost nothing about running, I simply tried to hang on. Most days, I'd barely manage to do so.

At the end of each run for the first few weeks of training, I was wrecked. The next morning, I'd be sore and tired. Running was the last thing I wanted to do.

But, I'd show up because I was part of a 'team'. While it was never really indicated explicitly, I knew they were counting on me. Or, I thought they were.

There are few substitutions for 'casual accountability'. Signing up to run with a team, a club, or a 'crew' is one of the best ways to stay consistent.

I've managed a running club in San Francisco for more than a decade. I've had innumerable runners tell me over the years that they simply wouldn't run if not for the company of their fellow runners. So, find yourself a running crew and you'll inevitably be more consistent. 

5. Go Streaking!

I'm not necessarily saying you should run every single day, although a few runners can and do. But, try to get a running streak going. Exactly what this streak looks like is up to you. 

You could aim to get in a minimum of '3' runs/week every week for the next month. Maybe your streak entails getting a minimum of 15 miles in every week for the next month. Set up a streak that revolves around doing a speed workout every week for the next month.

Nail one of these streaks and reward yourself with a beer, a nice meal, or a massage. Incentivize consistency in your running. Doing so has a funny way of encouraging more of it!