Is there even one perfect runner out there? Probably not, but if there is one out there it isn’t me, that’s for sure! There is a lot more to being a perfect runner than just running and if your want to take your game to the next level you might have to make some changes across other aspects of your life. Rather than being a call to action I’m viewing this post as more of a more realistic look at what professional runners have to do to achieve what they do. If you want to use these things as inspiration then go for it but personally I think of them more as aspirations. In other words they probably don’t fit into my life realistically. Beyond elite athletes lots of ‘regular runners’ practice these sorts of habits and that’s pretty inspiring too. If you’re a long way off from being the ‘perfect runner’ take heart so are a lot of us! But if you want to get better these habits are a great place to start!
They’re hydrated all the time
Hydration status as an athlete is more important than most of us think. Regular people in general probably could do a better job drinking water than they do. We often forget to drink water while we’re working, relaxing, driving, shopping and breathing but perfect runners never do! They are fully hydrated 100% of the time. They probably don’t even need an app or an encouraging water bottle to do it. But somehow they do. While the rest of us struggle or just forget to drink the water we should perfect runners never do.
They have prefect sleep hygiene
There’s probably no better recipe for recovery from endurance training then more than your standard 8 hours every single night. Perfect runners (and triathletes) prioritize sleep above most things in their lives and many will tell you that a daily long nap is part of their success. Maintaining perfect sleep hygiene means going to bed and getting up at the exact same time every single day and making sure they get 8 or more hours every single night, no matter what. This can often also involve getting up super duper early to get their run in before starting their day. If you run at 6 am and make sure you have 9 hours to sleep each night that means going to bed around 8:30 pm. If you have a school aged child that means your bedtime might be earlier than theirs! For most of us early morning training means sacrificing some shut eye. Most of us will also get up early only when we have to in order to accommodate out training but the perfect runner doesn’t do that. Even when they can sleep in for an extra hour or go to bed a bit later they don’t. If that sounds unrealistic to you too you’re not alone!
They take rest days
Just like sleep is super important for recovery so are rest days. Rest days may involve some movement even for the perfect runner but regular human runners still have to go about their regular days. Professional runners can be lucky enough to earn most if not all of their income just from running and they even take rest days. Sometimes we can get into the more is more approach but rest days mean just that. Almost entirely rest. Sometimes we can cross the line and start to use exercise improperly and part of that can be skipping rest days. If you’re not lucky enough to earn an income from running that might mean that your rest day has to still be pretty busy with work or all that life stuff you have to get done. Perfect runners don’t do that!
They cross-train every week
Like on purpose. While the rest of us have a busy day outside running, maybe do a yoga class and we just check off the cross training box for the week perfect runners actually do cross train. We might not even do it at all! But perfect runners tailor their cross training to their needs in that moment. Most of what they do while cross training on purpose is strength training. Personally I work physically during the days usually more than 5 days a week and almost always just count that. Perfect runners don’t factor passion for other hobbies or connivence’s sake. They don’t just go for a bike ride or a paddle because it’s what they wanted to do anyway. They do exercises they probably don’t even like because that’s what supports their running best.
The stick to their nutrition ‘plan’ and have one
More than a few of us run so that we don’t have to watch what we eat. Still others use it as an excuse for a bad diet (raises hand). But perfect runners have probably worked with a nutritionist and know exactly what they should be eating. At the very least they make sure their macros (whatever that is) are on point. They probably even make it a point to get some protein in right after their run. For most of us it’s totally okay for us to even use our running to justify some treats and some diet related laziness. But perfect runners know that proper nutrition goes a long way to making you a better runner. I’ve always wondered what would happen if I did better with my diet one year for half training and changed nothing else. It would be an extraordinary amount of work for me but I bet it would be worth it.
They always wear the right outfit
Believe it or not even though I run in Canada in the winter it’s not always super cold. Spring, winter and fall can be really tricky to pick the right outfit. I actually use this website to input the weather conditions and I follow the outfit that pops out religiously. You can even tell it your intensity and if you want to feel warm or cool. But race day outfits are hard. You have to balance the current temperature with the hourly forecast for the day. I’ve gotten it wrong and worn both too much and too little on race day. Too much is tricky but you ca always lose a layer, roll up your sleeves, shirt or even pants but too little and you’re stuck that way. Perfect runners however are also part meteorologist and dress for the race not the starting corral. While I’m not perfect usually we end up overdressing for a run not under dressing. So keep that in mind.
They have goals
It’s not always to win or even get faster either. Running is something that everyone can progress in no matter where you are right now. You could aim to go further, improve your form, tackle that impossible hill or even go for a PR. You could tackle that hard course, run more or make some running friends. Perfect runners set goals for themselves, divide the big ones up into smaller ones and then go after them. I’m thinking that those hypothetical perfect runners do meet their goals all of the time but I’m not sure that really matters. Even if you never reach that impossible PR you’ll still make progress. If you don’t have goals it’s a hell of a lot harder to make progress. Even if you fall short of your goals all that working toward them does make you a better runner.
The ‘perfect’ runner probably doesn’t exist and most of us aren’t going to get there anyway. No one says you even have to try. But… by looking at some truly admirable habits of other runners we can at least get a little better ourselves. What running habits do you have that others should adopt? Which one are you going to add to your training? Leave it in the comments below!