What if I told you that there are a bunch of things you can do that will make you faster and stronger—without actually costing you any money? Check out my four favorite free training tips:
1. Sleep. It may sound obvious, but most people don’t prioritize sleep when it comes to training. But here’s the deal: Yes, you have to put in the work, but you also REALLY need to sleep in order to become stronger and healthier. Consider this: You don’t feel motivated, but you know you need to train in order to get faster. How do you know if you should actually push yourself today, or just take it easy? Here’s my test: A) Are you literally so exhausted that you can’t even fathom running hard? B) Do you need to chug a gallon of pre-workout to get your butt out the door? C) After 15 minutes of running, are you still feeling sluggish and unmotivated? D) will you heart rate not go up to anywhere near your max? If you answer “yes” to any of these questions, shut it down, go home, and rest. Turn off the TV early and try to get an extra hour or two of sleep. You’ll be better off in the long run because of it.
2. Stretch. I know everyone was told to stretch in gym class, and then we all just sort of forgot about it. But stretching is really important—for real. Try to identify tight muscles by doing certain basic movements. After you’ve identified them, look up stretches for those muscles and then actually DO THEM. I like to stretch after about the first 10 minutes of my run, and then do a post-workout stretch. Nothing crazy, just a few minutes each time. They key is consistency. Even if you just stretch for 4 minutes, twice a day, that’s much better than no stretching. Dynamic movements, crossovers, lunges, calf stretches, it’s all good. Get limber and move around.
3. Work harder. The tendency most people have is to work “kinda hard” all the time. It feels good to push yourself, but it really sucks to completely destroy yourself. But that’s what you have to do if you want to break through fitness plateaus. So, here’s the plan. Do 80% of your training easy. To the point where you can talk in complete sentences. This might mean walking up steep hills, or running slower than you are used to. Do the other 20% really, really hard. This means you can’t string together more than a few words at a time. These efforts should be tailored towards your specific goal and should progress every 3-5 weeks, before switching up to different exercises or focuses (running a fast mile, or running uphills).
4. Set specific goals. If you want to be a world champion basket weaver, you shouldn’t spend all your time installing carpet. Right? Same thing goes for your fitness goals. If you want to get really good at running up hills, you probably shouldn’t be lighting weights seven days a week. If you want to be a fast runner, you should run fast more often. The list goes on.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should stop drinking protein shakes or doing your favorite WODs with your friends, but if you want to get faster and stronger, you have to really focus on and master the basics before getting fancy and doing (or buying) things that may not even work for you.
Good luck—and I’ll see you on the course.