Running Guide: You won’t get anywhere by softly going through the motions. If you want to run better, you need to train better.


Runner and writer Brian Metzler offer his running guide for 2021 with actionable tips you can adopt now to end off 2020 on a better footing.

By Brian Metzler

Good riddance, 2020! We can’t get rid of you soon enough! While there have been plenty of unsettling aspects of 2020 that we’ll never escape, we can go forward with a new attitude and a new approach to the new normal that is emerging.

No matter if you’re a new runner, a marathoner, a trail runner or a triathlete, here are few ways to stay positive and keep your training heading in the right direction until you have a chance to focus on a race in 2021.       

1. Look forward.

OK, let’s face it, 2020 has been a rough year no matter how you slice it. As a runner, it’s time to get over it and move on. When it comes to your training, it pays to always look forward and never look back.

Whatever new normal presents itself in 2021 won’t impact your ability to re-focus and train for something new. Yes, 2020 threw a wrench into everybody’s plans, but with a forward-thinking approach, we can make 2021 whatever we want it to be!

2. Focus on the Process.

Yes, even though there is a lot of unknown, you need to get back to setting goals — a new marathon PR, your first Ironman, completing a 50K trail race. But you won’t get there thinking about uncertainty of what lies ahead, only the success you wish to realize. To get there, focus more on the process than the goals. Focus on being consistent, going through the daily grind of training and keeping on, keeping on. Your fitness will come and, when the opportunity arises, so will your successful race results.

3. Be realistic.

Shoot for the moon when you make your goals. There’s no reason you shouldn’t go after a new PR. But also be realistic. For example, your marathon PR is 3:35 right now, there’s probably not a realistic scenario that you’ll be able to run 3:15. Aim for 3:25 and give it everything you have. If you’ve completed an Ironman in 14 hours, shoot for sub-13. Or if you’re relatively new, start by shooting for a fast half marathon or 70.3 triathlon first. The more you can focus on a smart, realistic goal, the better the chance you’ll have to achieve it.

Running Guide - train

4. Have fun!

First of all, whatever exercise you do on a regular basis — no matter if it’s running, hiking, biking or swimming — it should be fun! No matter what kind of training you’re doing, you’ve gotta enjoy it. Yes, you’ll have rough days and rough patches, but over the course of every week you should love what you’re doing. Lean into your tenaciousness. Relish in your fitness. Learn to love the feeling fatigued legs. If you don’t like the journey, you won’t like the destination.

5. Make your rituals to become routine.

We all occasionally deal with frustrations that hampered us: fatigue, soreness, wavering motivation, and feeling out of shape after taking a break. The keys to counteracting those down moments are planning the rest of your activities around your running, focusing on your strengths, and reducing or mastering the parts that are constantly a challenge. The transformation from ritual to routine is what makes running really a real pleasure, something that’s really special for people for their entire lives.

6. Rest more.

Remember that the only way you’ll improve as a runner or triathlete is by making sure you get sufficient sleep and rest to match your training intensity and effort. You can train as hard and as long as you want, but if you’re not getting enough sleep, rest and recovery, you’re never going to benefit from the training. Build in rest regular rest days, either with light cross-training or no training at all. And by all means, turn off your devices and screens and go to bed 30 to 60 minutes earlier than you normally do. Your mind and body will reap the benefits, and so will your fitness.

7. Do more alternative training.

If you want to become a better runner, you have to do more than running. Make time for fast workouts, form drills, stretching and even massage. (Either professional massage or self-massage with recovery implements such as a foam roller or Roll Recovery device.) Be diligent about doing strength work three times per week, no matter if it’s yoga, CrossFit, Orange Theory or even just a regular plank routine. Don’t think of it as an additional burden, think of it as a piece of your overall performance puzzle.

8. Be flexible.

As 2020 has taught us, things can go wrong. Unexpectedly wrong. Badly wrong. But the race — and, more importantly, your training —must go on. So if things don’t go as planned or if you suffer an injury or if it rains on race day, take a deep breath, deal with it and move forward. If you can’t run the marathon you planned, use that fitness for an epic long-distance trail run. If your triathlon is canceled, create your own multi-sport endurance adventure from your front door. Endurance sports aren’t about a singular moment, but how consistent and how much passion you sink into them over the arc of a long time — over the arc of your lifetime.

Running Guide - Food for runners

9. Eat better.

You know you can eat better. We all know we can eat better. But instead of forcing yourself into a extremely limiting regime change — such as off of a sudden following a vegan diet — make small, subtle changes. Choose a big, hearty salad over a burger and fries. Snack on fruits, vegetables and low-fast cheese. Avoid deserts except on one or two special occasions per month. You don’t need advice. You just need determined focus tied to your overall fitness goals. And remember, when you finish your goal race, you reward yourself by eating whatever you want!

10. Challenge yourself and be brave.

You won’t get anywhere by softly going through the motions. If you want to run better, you need to train better. If you want to achieve greatness, you have to train that way. Make sure you get out of your comfort zone when you’re training. Your hard workouts should be hard. Long runs should be fatiguing. Strength workouts should leave you sore. But with proper rest and recovery, you’ll start to feel the results of your advanced fitness and that will lead to increase confidence and the ability to push yourself harder.

Once you get to your next starting line, trust your training and repeat the mantra “I am ready” and then go make it happen.

Be brave and challenge yourself with conviction and good results will follow.