5 Running Tips That Will Make You Faster, Stronger & Happier

Founder of TMAC Fitness By Todd McCullough
Founder of TMAC Fitness
Todd McCullough is a Los Angeles-based, ACE-certified personal trainer, E-RYT registered yoga teacher, and founder of TMAC FITNESS.

Photo by Todd McCullough

You know the feeling you get when you go for a really great run? Your heart is pumping. Sweat is dripping off of you. Your mind is still. You are in the zone.

Whether or not you know that feeling—maybe you have yet to experience it!—here are five running tips that will make you faster, stronger, and happier. Let's go.

1. Prepare for success.

I will give you the tools to succeed, but you need to do the work. You can't sit here and read blogs all day and expect to improve your running skills. Your shoes have to hit the pavement! To make running something you do all the time instead of just sometimes, I suggest you prepare today for tomorrow's success. Imagine you are playing the biggest game of your life tomorrow.

What would you do the night before? You would check your gear, right? Well, I want you to get in the mindset of winning before you fall asleep. If you like to run first thing in the morning, put your shoes by your bed. If you prefer to run after work, keep a pair of shoes in your car. Prepare for success!

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2. Give hill sprints a try.

If you want to run faster and get stronger, hill sprints are a must. I want you to find an incline that takes you roughly 20 to 30 seconds of an all-out sprint to climb up. Twice a week, do 12 sets of this. Start with a 10-minute jog before sprints and finish with a 10-minute recovery jog after to help flush out the lactic acid. Your speed and leg strength will improve in roughly six weeks.

3. Pay attention to form.

Unless you have been trained by a great track coach, I'm willing to bet you do one of two things: overextend and reach, or drag and shuffle your feet. These are both ineffective ways to run.

Here's what they mean:

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Overextending and reaching

For some reason, people tend to run on their toes and overextend their stride. Pause for a moment and visualize this taking place. When your leg is overextended and you're on your toes, you are only activating your quads and putting way too much stress on the knee. Your glutes are the most powerful muscles in your body, so would it not make sense to have them be the primary mover when running? The best example of this is to watch a wild animal run.

Take, for example, a cheetah or a horse. If you pay close attention, their hips move in a circular motion, not a reaching motion. This circular motion forces you to strike on the ball of your foot, firing up your glutes and quads. This is how you generate maximum force. If you watch a track athlete warm up, you will see them lean against a fence or wall and practice this circular motion of their hip striking with the ball of the feet. They are teaching the body muscle memory so that when they race the body automatically reacts with proper form.

Dragging and shuffling

I call this the grandpa shuffle. You know that nice old guy in the park who thinks he's jogging, but it's more like a walk? While we all love grandpa, there's no power or force being generated in this motion. If this sounds familiar, try strengthening your hip flexors, doing plyometrics with a focus on firing your glutes (or try squat jumps—three sets of 20 reps twice a week).

Last but not least, do hill sprints. If you are dragging your feet sprinting up a hill, you will fall on your face! Hill sprints force you to fire your hip flexors, resulting in a great knee drive.

Practice makes perfect, folks. Work on your form.

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4. Make an awesome playlist.

Music is powerful. You need to create a playlist that taps in to your inner strength. Let me share a quick story with you. One summer in high school, I worked for an insulation company. Needless to say, it was a hard job—especially in the Florida heat.

We spent the majority of our day in a 115-degree attic, or under a house on our backs with bugs everywhere. The only relief came on a quick lunch break when we hopefully found the shade of a tree. We would chug a gallon of water and scarf down a ham and cheese sandwich. As I lay down in the shade wondering how I would get back up and finish the job, I would put on my headset and blast Eminem's "Not Afraid."

It was just what I needed to push through the second half of the day. That song gave me strength. It gave me hope. So now, when I am in a hard workout or I feel defeated at work, I play "Not Afraid." In my mind, I go back to those attics, I go back those lunch breaks. Something clicks in my mind. The pain goes away. I run faster. I work harder. You need your song. Your playlist. So when a hard workout or life situation hits you, scream back, "F*ck that. I am stronger than this. Let's go!" If you do any of our TMAC 20 workouts, you will hear me say, "Flip the switch." This is what I'm talking about.

5. Feel gratitude always.

The longer I spend time in the wellness industry, the more I realize that the key to happiness is living with an attitude of gratitude. After each workout, I take a few moments to relax, take a few deep breaths, and give thanks.

I am thankful to have two legs that allow me to run. I am thankful I have a job to go to. I am grateful I have a roof over my head. I am thankful for the friends and family I have in my life. This needs to be personal for you. But it does not need to be some magic, elegant prayer. Just a few moments to recognize the gifts you have and breathe in those moments. It is a game-changer. Now you get to take this positive energy with you for the rest of the day and hopefully share it with others. That is the secret sauce of life, my friends. And Eminem, of course.

Todd McCullough
Todd McCullough
Todd McCullough is a Los Angeles-based, ACE-certified personal trainer, E-RYT registered yoga...
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