Ask any avid runner and they'll tell you that running is a challenging form of exercise that requires a lot of effort and attention. Nobody would know that better than Kristi Castlin, bronze medalist in the 2016 Rio Olympics for the 100-meter hurdles. Kristi and her teammates Brianna Rollins and Nia Ali made history in 2016 by becoming the first Team USA women to sweep an Olympic track and field event.
POPSUGAR caught up with Kristi and asked for her best tips for everyday folks who are trying to get better at running, whether it's in the name of weight loss or improved cardiovascular health. "One of the most important things I try to tell new runners is to set short- and long-term goals," Kristi said. "This way you never go an entire season or embark on a new running journey and not experience some level of success."
Once you have your personal goals set, whatever they may be, Kristi's first general piece of advice is "to pace yourself." She told POPSUGAR, "Rome wasn't built in a day, so expect to see good but steady results over time." Don't be frustrated if you don't see results immediately. You'll get to where you want to be if you stick with it.
When you've been training for a long time, Kristi says, it's inevitable that you hit a plateau. "The body actually memorizes workouts and adapts to them so there is a constant need for changing things up," she said. "Most of the time a plateau is mental. Sometimes a good mental break in reassessment can always boost that athlete to their next level of achieving success." When you feel like you're creeping up to that point in your fitness level, Kristi suggests you take a step back and look at your training plan and your diet.
"Adding new items to your diet can also help give you the energy and stamina needed to push to that next level," Kristi told POPSUGAR. Maybe you need more carbs or protein, so check in with your daily macros and see what you're lacking. Similarly, incorporating new kinds of run workouts into your routine will help you get faster and stronger. For example, if you've been doing distance runs, try some interval training. And if you've been doing a lot of interval treadmill workouts, try to fit in a longer run.
Finally, don't forget that slipping on your running shoes isn't the only way to improve your running abilities. "Swimming and biking are great cross-training techniques that definitely improve running," Kristi said. "Several of the movements emulate the technique patterns for running as well as for body workouts." During her preseason training, Kristi would "normally incorporate a two-a-day workout plan" that consisted of 20 minutes of jogging and 30 minutes of a jogging pool workout.
Not only does this keep the body guessing, but it also helps you strengthen your muscles and physically prepare yourself to accomplish even more in your next run.