5 Running Tips From an Olympic Runner

Liz Yelling, two-time Olympic marathoner, explains how to run your best — around the block or across the finish line.

Legendary two-time Olympic marathon runner Liz Yelling is a definitive source on successful marathon training. After competing in marathons across the world and winning championship after championship, she knows a thing or two about lacing up and making it to the finish line. Here she shares her five essential tips for running your best race.

1. A Good Attitude is Half the Battle

"Don't be daunted by the prospect of getting started," Yelling advises.

From the first steps out your door to reaching the end of 26.2 miles, the greatest challenge is the one inside your head. Remember your reasons for embarking on the marathon journey and maintain that passion throughout the process.

"It's normal to feel excited about the marathon journey that lies ahead, if, at the same time, a little apprehensive," says Yelling. "Remember, your journey is about having fun, laughing and enjoying every step, stride, breath and ache. We're all privileged to be able to participate, so let's share with our friends, family and strangers and have a happy run every time we lace up and go out."

2. Get a Good Pair of Shoes (and Other Gear)

One of the perks of running is that it requires very little equipment, with no need for weights, balls or helmets. It mostly comes down to your feet, so Yelling recommends that every runner have a quality pair of running shoes that suits their gait.

Yelling explains what the process is like to find shoes that really fit: "Take a pair of your old shoes with you to a reputable specialist running retailer. They will probably look at how the upper and the sole have worn, look at your feet, ask you questions about any injuries, current or previous, and your training."

"They may also watch you run to help them suggest shoes for you to try on. You don't need to buy the most expensive pair of running shoes for them to do a brilliant job. The most important thing is to find a pair that fits you well. Getting the right pair of shoes reduces your risk of injury, so take the time to make the right choice."

In addition to shoes, Yelling also suggests that your gear kit include a pair of sports socks, a lightweight jacket, comfortable shorts, leggings or tracksuit bottoms and a lightweight T-shirt in a functional, breathable material. Wearing appropriate clothing that maximizes your running potential lets you perform at your best.

3. Create a Plan and Stick to It

An important part of any running or exercise routine is consistency, so Yelling suggests that once people have decided they want to run a marathon, they should create a plan and — here's the kicker — see it through to the end.

"First, check with your doctor before starting a new exercise program, then be gentle and start slowly. Don't be too ambitious and expect to run before you can walk. Build up progressively, and add a few more minutes to your walk or run," says Yelling.

When it comes to following through, she has this advice: "Protect your time to run, and don't quit. Double your motivation to stick to your goals by finding a running buddy. After about three to four weeks you should start to notice some differences in how you look and feel. "

Don't expect miracles overnight. Working consistently and at the right level will lay the foundation for successful marathon training.

4. Embrace the Benefits of Running

Running marathons isn't just an enjoyable pastime that lets people rub shoulders with world-class athletes. Yelling reminds runners to consider the good they are doing for their physical and emotional health.

"Regular running helps reduce stress but also may help reduce the onset of aging by boosting circulation to your skin, improving your complexion and maintaining muscle tone and flexibility. It keeps your heart and bones strong, reduces cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, burns more calories per minute than other forms of aerobic exercise, controls body weight, improves posture, boosts your immunity and keeps your circulation healthy. More than just physical benefits, running makes you feel more positive, energized, empowered, motivated and ready to face the world."

5. Find Your Style

Every runner needs to find their own running style to run comfortably, successfully and without pain. Follow Yelling's most important pointers for developing good form:

  • Keep your head relaxed and steady.
  • Let your shoulders hang naturally. Don't hunch.
  • Bend your arms to 90 degrees by your sides and allow them to swing freely backward and forward close to your body, like a pendulum.
  • Keep your body upright.
  • Keep your knees, hips and lower legs in a forward line.
  • Feel relaxed, balanced and in control.

At the end of the day, do what works for you without comparing yourself to other runners. According to Yelling, "There are no style prizes in running. What matters most is not what you look like, but the fact that you are out there doing it!"

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This story was originally published on March 19, 2018.