by Randy Ashley

1. Plan your running with a goal in mind. Be it to take off pounds or to qualify for the Boston Marathon, having a goal means making a long-term plan which ensures that an athlete takes the proper steps to reach success. Most athletes go for the quick fix, which, in running is usually too much interval work. Most world class athletes will not even begin hard sessions until there mileage has reached a peak. This peak usually takes from 12 weeks to 6 months

2. Stay hydrated. If you wait to drink until you are thirsty, then it is too late. Proper hydration will keep the muscles fresh, limber, less sore, and less fatigued than dehydrated muscles.

3. Do not be afraid to stress your body. Periodically, you must extend your body’s comfort zone to find improvement. A well conceived training plan will have key workouts that are real stress-tests that will allow you to know exactly where you are on the road to your goal.

4. Understand that rest is a training tool. Of all the training elements, rest was the most difficult for me to grasp. I thought that I could keep pounding and just get faster. Once I grasped rest as a component in training regimen, I quickly improved in my day-to-day sessions and then in my races. As I have gotten older and still done some fairly hard training, I have found that an extra days rest between hard sessions is vital to full recovery.

5. Feed your body. If you want to improve as an athlete you must see food as the fuel your body requires to sustain and replenish energy. For endurance athletes, complex carbohydrates (pasta, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables) are the essential fuel to provide your muscles with glycogen to train daily and race the longer distances. Some feel that as a long-distance athlete they can eat anything and get away with it. But this idea is similar to a fool that owns a Ferrari putting the cheapest gas possible in the tank.

6. Consistency is the key. If you lay a long-term plan, sticking to the schedule day after day will bring you closer to your goal. Also, accept gradualness as the only approach. In being consistent, you will gradually get more and more fit. This will get you to the starting line of a race 100% healthy and ready to race hard. Be patient and persistent and you will realize your potential.

7. Seek help in the form of a coach or an advisor. Most coaches are willing to bend over backwards for an athlete that shows a willingness to improve. For most coaches, it is a passion more so than a job and they take each persons goals sincerely.Also, a coach will periodize your training so that you can feel good about what you are doing through all phases.

8. Most importantly, get your ass out the door and run. Running is a freedom with minimal gear requirements. I see people of all types in my neighborhood in Asheville running everyday, and to each of these people, I say, “That’s right, getting’ it done.” So go get it done.