5 Habits of Successful Runners

You may have read about runners who make racing mistakesrunning form errors, or create running nutrition problems. But what about the runners who are doing it right?  How do successful runners avoid injuries, run successful races, and stay motivated to keep running? Here are some habits of successful runners that keep them running healthy and happy.


Habit: Run in the morning

Woman Running on Beach in the Morning
Southern Stock

Research has shown that runners who run regularly in the morning end up running more consistently over time than those who typically run in the evening. It makes sense. Mornings are somewhat predictable and your plans are less likely to get derailed. There have been many days when I plan on running in the evening and then I get stuck working or something comes up and I skip my run.

Another advantage of running in the morning is that it's usually the coolest part of the day, which is great when you're running outdoors in the warm weather. If you're not a morning runner, try some of these tips for running in the morning.


Habit: Maintaining good upper body form

Runners Warming Up Before Race
Chris Leschinsky

Successful runners know that proper upper body form is crucial to running efficiently and comfortably. Improper upper body form can lead to back pain

Here are a few tips to ensure that your upper body is relaxed and you’re using the proper upper body form:

  • Keep your arms bent at the elbow at a 90 degree angle. 
  • Shake out your arms or raise your shoulders to your ears every mile or so, and then put them back at their ideal, relaxed position.
  • Keep your hands in a loose fist, as if you’re holding an egg and don’t want to break it. If you have them in a tight fist, that tightness will radiate up your arm and lead to tension in your shoulders.
  • If you find yourself hunching a lot during runs when you start to get tired, you may need to work on strengthening your core. Try some of these core strengthening exercises.

Habit: Staying hydrated during runs

runner with water bottle
Cultura RM Exclusive/Mike Tittel/Getty

Smart and successful runners know that they need to stay hydrated during runs longer than 30 minutes to avoid the effects of dehydration. The current fluid recommendations for runners say that they should "obey your thirst" and drink when their mouth is dry and they feel the need to drink. Check out options for running belts and hand-held water bottles so you'll have no excuse for not staying hydrated on the run.


Habit: Strength-training one to two times a week

Forward Lunge Exercise
Photo by Stockbyte

Strength-training to increase muscle strength and get toned (not bulky) can immensely help runners reduce their injury risk and improve performance.

All runners can benefit from strength-training 1-2x a week to build strength and endurance and improve injury resistance. Here are some exercises you can add to your routine:


Habit: Getting enough sleep

Man sleeping
Jose Luis Pelaez

Sleep is important for anyone trying to live a healthy lifestyle, but it's especially important to runners because of the demands that we put on our bodies. Successful runners get plenty of sleep so their bodies can recover and they feel refreshed and energized for their next run.

  • Aim for 7-8 quality hours of sleep a night -- the right amount for most adults. If you're not close to that with your current amount of sleep, try to increase your sleep time in small increments. Aim for 20 minutes more a night one week, and then keep adding ten more minutes each week until you reach the recommended amount.
  • Try not to run too close to bedtime. Although regular exercise will help you sleep better, it's ideal to complete your workout at least a few hours before bedtime.
  • You shouldn't go to bed hungry, but try to avoid heavy meals before bedtime. A full belly can keep you awake. Finish eating 2-3 hours before you hit the hay.
  • Establish a relaxing pre-bedtime routine, such as taking a warm bath and then reading a book or listening to soothing music. Try not to watch TV right before trying to fall asleep.
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