How To Become A Better Runner At Every Level

The benefits of running are multiple – from improved fitness to stress management – but whether you’re looking to get started or already have a few marathons under your belt, there’s always room for improvement. Here, four leading coaches explain how to take things up a level.
By Tor West


Be Patient

“When you’re just starting out on a running journey, it can be tempting to set goals, but try not to focus on the numbers. As a beginner, it’s not about how far or fast you’re running, but rather the fact you’re getting out there at all. Motivation will come and go – and it’s important to understand this – but what you really want to develop is discipline and patience to slowly build an aerobic base. Find the joy in running and don’t let progress define whether you like it or not. Some days, you may not feel like you are improving, but that doesn’t mean you should stop altogether.” – Anthony Fletcher, co-founder & coach at OneTrack

Schedule Your Week

“Look at your diary and think about how much time you can dedicate to training. It can help to work through a programme, such as Couch to 5k, to keep you on track. Running three times a week is a great place to start. For two of these runs, head out for 20-30 minutes, trying to run for the duration. On your third run, head out for around 40 minutes, alternating between running and walking – try running for three minutes followed by two minutes of walking. If you feel up to it, you could also slot in a strength session on a separate day to complement your running. Be sure to warm up, cool down and stretch with each run – no exceptions.” – Emma Bord, PT

Breathe Properly

“Breathing technique tends to be one of the barriers for many people, and it’s often used as an excuse as to why someone ‘can’t’ run. If you’re struggling, it could be a sign you’re going too quickly, so slow down. At the same time, practise inhaling and exhaling through both the nose and mouth, finding a rhythm that works for you so you can take in as much oxygen as possible. If your breathing feels like a struggle, take your run into a walk and calm the breath before picking up again slowly.” – Emma 

Slow Down

“Running faster doesn’t make you a better runner. Aim to run at a pace where you can easily have a conversation. If this means fast walking, start with that. At the same time, doing nothing is the best way to optimise your recovery. There isn’t much evidence out there to suggest we can speed up or enhance recovery. Resting, fuelling and hydration are the biggest hitters in getting you back to your best.” – Anthony 

Try a negative split run, meaning you get progressively faster through the run – IT'S CHALLENGING BUT EFFECTIVE.


Be Realistic

“You’ll automatically know when your body is ready to level things up. For example, if you’re running a race – whether it’s a Saturday morning Parkrun or official 10k – it could go well, and that guides the next phase of your training, or it might not go so well, meaning it’s back to the drawing board. Be realistic with your progress and don’t be too hard on yourself – don’t judge your running day to day or even week to week. Instead, take a step back every three months to assess how far you’ve come and adjust your training accordingly.” – Anthony 

Incorporate Speed Work

“Once you have built up a firm base of easy conversational running, incorporating sprints into your runs is a great way to improve and build endurance. Start out at an easy pace and then run for one minute at a faster, more challenging pace, before scaling it back for a slower minute. Alternate between these fast and slow speeds for 30-40 minutes to see results. Also try a negative split run, meaning you get progressively faster through the run – it’s challenging but effective.” – Emma 


Emphasise Endurance

“If you’re keen to progress, it can be tempting to think that every run should be fast, short and sweet, but increasing your mileage at a slower pace brings many benefits. Building endurance will increase capillary density, allow your body to better use fat as fuel, and make your body more efficient at using oxygen, allowing you to maintain a desired pace for longer. Endurance is key if you want to be a stronger runner. If you don’t have a strong endurance base, your body won’t be able to support speed work. When you have a strong aerobic base, your body works more efficiently, you can digest fuel better and run for longer periods of time with much less strain on the body.” – Alyssa Clark, athlete at Nathan Sports 

Fuel Well

“If you’re running harder and for longer, fuelling your body properly is key. Don’t neglect carbs – they are your body’s primary source of energy, especially if running longer distances. Protein is just as important, as it repairs and refuels muscles post-training. Be sure to stay hydrated – if you’re running for longer periods or are a sweaty runner, consider a sports drink or electrolyte tablets. If you are finding runs continuously hard, it could be a sign you need to fuel and hydrate better.” – Emma 

Get Stronger

“If you want to be a better runner, lift weights. Strength training is hugely important for runners but often neglected. Having a stronger body will decrease your risk of injury and help you improve speed and endurance. Squats and deadlifts will strengthen your hamstrings and glutes, which are essential for running, while unilateral work is also important to strengthen each side of the body and correct imbalances. Lunges, step-ups and core work will improve your balance and stability.” – Emma  

TAKE A STEP BACK every three months to assess how far you’ve come and adjust your training accordingly.


Set A New Goal 

“Nailing a good 5k time has become a popular goal for runners but aiming for a better 3k time allows for more precise training. This kind of focused training helps bring about the gains in running speed you wouldn’t get over 5k. Aim for a pace of just under ten seconds quicker per kilometre than you would for a 5k and use this as a gauge on how hard to push yourself. It’s all about mixing your training up, building in new goals to keep things interesting and working on some shorter, faster-paced runs to improve speed and running ability.” – Chris Stanton, master trainer for Wattbike & British triathlon coach 

Join A Club

“Running solo can be one of life’s great joys, but if you’re running several times a week, doing so with other like-minded people is a good way to stay motivated and learn tips and tricks. Plus, when you’re in a running group, you’re more likely to push yourself.” – Anthony 

Mix Things Up

“Once you get to a certain level, results don’t come as easily. Ultimately, the better you get, the smaller and harder to notice the results get. To keep the ball moving in the right direction, aim for a small amount of progressive overload on some key workouts, such as a tempo or interval session. A little more pace, another rep, or another mile will gently stress the body to help it build back stronger.” – Anthony 

Go Easy

“Some experienced runners can easily tick off 80km a week and bounce back quickly from training sessions. If this is you, remember that not all of these kilometres should be done at a quick interval pace – if you do this, chances are you’ll burn out or get injured. No matter how experienced you are at running, keep most of your miles easy, with some key sessions placed throughout the week and ample recovery time in between.” – Anthony 

Have A Week Off

“Be smart and know when to scale back. Get into the habit of scheduling ‘de-load’ weeks and try doing some runs off-plan, forgetting about pacing, time and distance. If it’s poor weather, use it as an excuse to vary your training and head to the gym, and keep readjusting your goal. Having a long-term schedule can give you more flexibility – for example, I’m currently working on a 1,000-day plan that allows for time off and varied training.” – Chris 

For more information and running tips, visit,, &

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