6 Steps to Run Faster

When you first start running your goals usually center on distance. You may set a goal to run around the block, to run a mile, or to run a 5k. After you run for a while you typically add time to the goal equation. In other words, you begin to ask the question “how can I get faster?” Here are some steps to seeing your times improve if you’re fairly new to running:

6 Steps to Run Faster

1. Consistent slow, base-building running. Over time this improves your cardio capabilities and builds running muscles. The pace of this run is called “conversational pace.” In other words, you can carry on a conversation during the run without getting short of breath because you’re running slow enough to do so. Most coaches teach that 80% of our weekly running should be at this pace. I personally believe that the percentage can be even higher for newer runners.

2. Increased volume. Continue to increase the number of miles you run each week, but do so carefully. Never increase your weekly mileage more than 10% at a time. Every 2 or 3 weeks you should decrease your miles during that week for recovery purposes.

3. Weight loss. Any excess weight that we carry slows us down, so as you continue to eat healthy and lose weight you will naturally see improvements.

4. Cross training. It will be helpful if you do more than run. Stretching, light weight lifting, yoga, cycling, swimming–any of these will help you improve and give your legs a break.

5. Speedwork. Personally, I would not worry about speedwork as a new runner. I would substitute hills for speedwork. Hills are actually speed work in disguise without the pounding and risk of injury. When running a hill, shorten your stride, keep your head up, and pump your arms with the feeling that your elbows are reaching behind you. Your pace will actually slow down while going uphill, but your effort level will stay the same or even increase a little.

6. Cadence. “Cadence” refers to how many steps you take per minute. Strive to increase your cadence to 170-180. A higher cadence ensures a shorter stride. In turn, a shorter stride produces better form and protects against injury. An uninjured runner will be able to train more consistently. All these factors often lead to faster times.

More running-related posts below:

6 Tips for Beginning Runners

Bring on the Rain

You Light My Path


6 Tips for Beginning Runners

ShoesI’ve been an on-again-off-again runner for the past 35 years.  I love running, but on occasion, I’ve allow life’s responsibilities to cause me to set aside my favorite sport for matters that seem more pressing at the moment.  Over the last 7 years, I have been “on-again” with my running and I feel better as a result.

On January 18, 2010, I made the decision to step on the bathroom scale.  I knew I had put on “a little weight” and in my mind I thought I might, for the first time in my life, even weigh close to 200lbs.  The scale rocketed past the 200-mark and finally settled on 218.  I’m 5′ 11″ tall with a small frame–let’s just say that I was much heavier than I imagined.  That moment was a WAKE-UP CALL for me.

The next day I began to run (mostly walk) again and I began to think differently about eating.  Gradually, over the next few months, I lost a significant amount of weight.  I currently weigh around 165, but I still have to work at keeping my weight at a healthy mark.

You may be considering running.  You may want to drop a few pounds.  Allow me to share a few basics things that I would recommend as you begin.

6 Tips for Runners Who Are Just Beginning

1.  Start now.  If you feel any inspiration at all, then begin now.  Of course, if you have any health concerns, it would be wise to see your doctor and get his or her approval before beginning.

2.  Buy good shoes.  Find a local running specialty store and purchase a good pair of running shoes.  Go in the afternoon when your feet have “settled” for the day.  The clerk will measure and fit you properly which should provide you with a shoe that fits snugly around the heel and gives you a little extra room in front of the toes.  After you settle on the right shoe, you can buy additional pairs online at a discounted rate, but initially you should take advantage of the expert advice found at the running store.

3.  Walk a lot at first.  Start by mainly walking.  You will probably be able to walk a mile in 16-18 minutes.  Mix in a little running along the way.  Gradually walk less and run more.  Running coaches like Jeff Galloway say that you should continue to mix in some walking even after you become an accomplished runner.  Galloway advocates a “run-walk-method” for exercise and races.

4.  Keep a running journal.  You can use a simple spiral notebook, a 3-ring binder, a published running log (can be purchased at running stores or bookstores), or a web-based journal (runningahead.com, logarun.com, Runner’s World log).  There’s just something about writing it down!

5.  Keep an eating journal.  I personally found that the biggest key to losing weight was knowing how many calories I was eating.  I used livestrong/myplate.com to track what I ate and to keep a running total of my daily calories.  Other good sites include fitday.com, myfitnesspal.com, and myfooddiary.com.

6.  Subscribe to Runner’s World magazine.  Runner’s World magazine is an excellent source of information and inspiration for beginning runners.  For less than the cost of a nice meal, you can purchase a multi-year subscription.

Many people find that they are more consistent if they enlist a running partner.  I personally cherish the solitude of running alone most of the time.  Please leave a comment if you have any suggestions or questions.


2 Ways to Eliminate Hurry

Speed Limit.25One of the great books on spiritual disciplines is John Ortberg’s book, The Life You’ve Always Wanted:  Spiritual Disciplines for Ordinary People.  You can read my review of the book by clicking here.

One of the spiritual disciplines he talks about in the book is the practice of “slowing.”  Have you ever thought about “slowing” as a spiritual practice?  One of his mentors told him that if he wanted to grow spiritually that he must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from his life.  Listen to a great quote from his book:

Hurry is the great enemy of spiritual life in our day.  Hurry can destroy our souls.  Hurry can keep us from living well….Again and again, as we pursue spiritual life, we must do battle with hurry.  For many of us the great danger is not that we renounce our faith.  It is that we will become so distracted and rushed and preoccupied that we will settle for a mediocre version of it.  We will just skim our lives instead of actually living them.

Most of us battle the hurry sickness, but how can we treat it–how can we cure it?  There are two main practices that can help us swim against our culture’s current of hurry.

2 Ways to Eliminate Hurry from Our Lives

1.  Slowing.  Slowing involves cultivating patience by deliberately choosing to place ourselves in positions where we simply have to wait.  Slowing will seem like such a “waste of time,” but it is invaluable.  Here are some examples.  Deliberately drive in the slow lane.  Chew your food slowly.  Get in the longest check-out line at the grocery store.  Go through an entire week without wearing a watch.  Read each sentence slowly–then read it again even more slowly.

2.  Solitude.  Solitude is a more traditional spiritual practice.  I’m not saying that we should take it to the extreme and join a monastery.  I’m just saying that solitude is the one place where we can gain freedom from the forces of society that will otherwise relentlessly mold us.  When we’re “alone” with God–He molds us!

We need some small measures of solitude every day.  A walk, a run, a short drive, working in the yard, sitting in the car before going into the office, a quiet time–all these serve as moments of solitude.  On occasion, we need longer periods of solitude.  Take an afternoon to yourself or even an entire day.  Go to a place where you will be uninterrupted and alone.  Spend the day relaxing, reading, walking, napping, etc.

Both of these practices have been vital to my spiritual growth and to my ability to hear from God.  By the way, if you haven’t read John Ortberg’s book on spiritual disciplines, you must do so.  Here’s a link to Amazon where you can purchase the book and get started.  I wish I had read this book as a new Christian and learned about the practice of “slowing” and many of the other spiritual disciplines that have helped me to grow in recent years.

Gear Tips for Winter Running

Winter Running Gear

I’m absolutely amazed at the running gear that is available today!  Yesterday morning, I ran before daylight in 13-degree temperatures with a cold, blowing snow and was as warm as toast.  I wore three layers and really only needed two.  Believe it not, I actually got a little too warm about halfway through my run.

Here are a few gear choices that work for me on really cold days:

  • Morino Wool hats, neck gaiters, socks, and  gloves.  I use these products at times constructed of materials other than Morino Wool, but on the coldest days, Morino Wool is hard to beat.
  • Pearl Izumi Thermal Base Layer. I have a half-zip thermal base layer from Pearl Izumi that is a “perfect” design.
  • Under Armour Cold Gear. These products are high quality, but quite expensive.  IMHO, you certainly get what you pay for though.
  • Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp. This headlamp should really be called a headTORCH! The lamp provides 215 lumens, multi-beams, Reactive Lighting, and is fully rechargeable! This is BY FAR the best light I’ve ever worn.
  • Ski Socks.  I have found that wool ski socks work great on frigid days. Since they are very long, they add extra protection on the lower legs.
  • Sugoi Zero Plus Pants. I have accumulated a number of running pants over the years, but when it comes to cold days, I always go for the Sugoi Zero Plus pants. They are much thicker than most running tights and have a great design. I especially appreciate the large, zip pockets. They are available for men and women.

Here is a video that you may find helpful as well as you make winter gear choices. Warm running!

3 Keys to a Successful Year


“Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.”  Philippians 3:13-14, ESV

In the Apostle Paul’s letter to the Church at Philippi, he gives us insight into his personal walk with the Lord.  You could call it a “formula for success” or as I prefer, “keys to success in our walk with the Lord.”


1.  Release the past.  The Apostle Paul said, “….But one thing I do:  Forgetting what is behind….” (Vs. 13).  He is not saying that he actually lost memory of the past, he is saying that he put the past in the proper place–behind him!  He knew that the past can cause us to lose focus on the present and block our vision of the future.  He knew that the past can sometimes riddle us with guilt, lure us, haunt us, taunt us, rob us of intensity and passion, and even cause us to rest on our laurels.  Regardless of what we faced in 2014, let’s learn, let go, and move forward.

2.  Reach for the future.  Paul seems to say, “don’t look back, but BE SURE to look forward.”  He describes it as “…..straining toward what is ahead.”  I can remember running my first 10K race when I was 30-yrs.-old.  Because of my excitement, I started the race at a pace that was too fast for my fitness level.  As a result, my side began to hurt at mile 3 and I desperately wanted to stop and walk.  At that point, I saw my wife standing on the side of the road, so I didn’t want to quit in front of her.  Somehow, I kept plodding along and shortly after I passed the 5-mile marker, I saw the finish line about a mile away.  Something about seeing the finish line lifted my spirits and injected bounce in my step.  I finished fairly strong even though I had almost stopped to walk just a few miles earlier.  Paul seems to say that he keeps the finish line in view and it encourages him to do his best.  With the help of the Holy Spirit, let’s set some goals for 2015–spiritual goals, financial goals, vocational goals, fitness goals, nutritional goals.  Let’s “reach” for those goals day-by-day throughout this new year.

3.  Run for the prize.  What is Paul talking about when he talks about “the prize”?  We know he is not saying that we can live in such a way that we earn salvation because he just said in Vs. 9 that righteousness is “through faith in Christ.”  I believe Paul is saying that he is running for the goal of pleasing Jesus with his life and running for the satisfaction of knowing that he gave his best.  He is saying what he later says in 2 Timothy 4:7, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.”  If God tarries His coming and if He allows us to live to see 2016, I pray that we will be able to say the same about the way we served the Lord in 2015.

PRAYER:  “Lord, please help us remember the lessons you taught us in 2014, but Lord, help us to release last year and not relive it.  Help us to see Your plan and goals for 2015 and strain towards them in the power of Your Holy Spirit.  Help us to cherish your divine approval as our highest prize!  Be glorified in our lives!  Amen.”

You Light My Path

I could hardly sleep last night because of the anticipation of trying out my new Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp at 5:30 am this morning.  I went with this particular model because it had great reviews and was very affordable.  Until this morning, I had never run with a headlamp.  On several recent morning runs, I ran along the unlit path blindly–hoping that I did not trip or step on something.

BUT….this morning, thanks to my Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp, that ALL CHANGED!  I could see!  I could see well!  Now, I couldn’t see everything because it was dark, but I could see the path well.

I was reminded of the fact that God’s Word is like a headlamp.  It lights our path so we can see where to take the next step.  God does not always show us the entire horizon in life, but He promises to “direct our steps” and He promises to “light our path.”  I have personally found God to be very faithful to those promises in my life.

“Your Word is a lamp to my feet and a light for my path.”  Psalm 119:105 (NIV)

“If the Lord delights in a man’s way, He makes his steps firm.”  Psalm 37:23 (NIV)

Bring on the Rain

If you saw me head out the door of my comfortable, dry house this morning during a torrential downpour, you probably thought I was BONKERS, CRAZY, CUCKOO, DERANGED, FRUITY, NUTS, SCREWY, UNGLUED…..or just plain WACKY.  But actually one of the things I look forward to most as a runner is running in the rain.

Think about it for a minute.  When you were young, your parents rarely allowed you to venture outside during a storm and even more rarely allowed you to splash through deep puddles in your good tennis shoes.  But now that I’m an adult (I realize that’s still being debated in some circles), I can do whatever I want.  My two or three top running memories all involve the rain, so BRING ON THE RAIN!

One of my favorite Christian recording groups, Casting Crowns, has a song called Praise You in the Storm.  I couldn’t help but think of the following powerful lyrics as I was having an awesome, soggy moment early this morning:

I’ll praise you in this storm and I will lift my hands.  For You are who You are no matter where I am.  And every tear I’ve cried, You hold in your hand.  You never left my side and though my heart is torn, I will praise You in this storm!

BE ENCOURAGED my friend.  The God of the sunshine is also God during the storms of life.  Praise Him in all things for He alone is worthy!