Become a Better Runner On and Off the Field

Running Tips from Girls’ Cross Country Captain Ali Phair


(Mark Cornelison/Lexington Herald-Leader/MCT)

A woman runs by the windows at Gold’s Gym in Lexington, Kentucky.

Ali Phair, Contributor

Whether you play soccer in the fall, basketball in the winter, or track and field in the spring, running (as much as you may dread it) is a major component of any sport. During games and at practice, you are expected to run well in order to score a goal, shoot a basket or place in a race. That being said, it is very important to understand how to run. It is more difficult than you might think. Running, no matter how much you do it, requires mental toughness, technique, effort and knowledge.

Before going on a run, time is needed to prepare your body. Running requires the use of almost every muscle, so it is important to stretch and properly nourish them. Never run on an empty stomach, or a full one. Running with no food can, and most likely will, lead to having little energy or even the chance of fainting. Running after a large meal will cause your body to cramp up and slow down. Instead, eat lightly, you could maybe have a piece of fruit, about 15 to 20 minutes beforehand. Hydrating before, during, and after a workout is just as crucial to avoid dehydration and fatigue.

You may not think so, but a large number of athletes run incorrectly. I did when I began cross country during my freshman year. By having proper form and ideal posture, injuries are avoided, and you are able to run to the best of your ability. Always make sure to keep your back straight and keep your arms at a loose, 90 degree angle by your hips. Keeping your head facing forward and not at the ground will keep yourself focused and in good posture. Avoid tension in your hands by keeping them in loose fists. Long strides will allow you to run farther in a shorter amount of time. Since your whole body is at work, it is very important to breathe correctly. Focus on breathing completely and constantly and never hold your breath; it will only slow you down!\

When speed and distance are combined, your body becomes capable of overcoming any obstacle.

— Ali Phair

To master anything, time and effort is needed. Depending on the distance of a run, you should be running at an appropriate pace to avoid over-working and fatigue. For instance, you would not run a mile at a sprinting pace. You would not get far before tiring yourself out. Instead, run at a pace that is comfortable for your body, no matter how slow or quick that may be. A variety of workouts are recommended for the best results. Distance is great, but so is speed. Switching between longer and shorter runs helps improve your time. When speed and distance are combined, your body becomes capable of overcoming any obstacle.

Always remain positive and push yourself to the best of your ability. Running is tough for anyone, but it pays off in the “long run.” A healthy, able running body applies to success in any sport. Run with friends or your teammates, listen to music or run a 5K to make it more enjoyable and social. Just remember, whether you run a six-minute-mile or a 10-minute-mile, you are challenging yourself. Therefore, you are a winner!