To become a great runner you need to train hard, but what if there were a few extra tricks for getting better?  What if there was something you could do that would help you as much as those grueling set wind sprints you’ve started tacking onto the end of your workout?  This is your lucky day.  Here’s our list for becoming a better runner without pounding the pavement.

1. Up the Tempo

A study conducted in Britain revealed last year that high tempo music helped cyclists cover more distance in less time.  They were conscious of their change of effort, but more motivated to work out harder.  The same applies for runners, meaning that fast workout mix might actually help you break that mile mark.

There’s one caveat though.  Fast music (or music of any kind) was shown to have no affect on people exercising at 90 percent of their maximal oxygen uptake.  When you’re working hard enough the punishing pace and overwhelming feeling of fatigue overrides the benefits of music.

2. Focus on Form

Runners who run on treadmills in front of mirrors are more likely to check on their running form during their run, and therefore more likely to run more efficiently.  If you’ve got a mirror, feel free to check out that runner’s physique.  If you happen to be outside, remind yourself of proper running form every now and then.  It will only make you faster.

3. Cross Train

Ride a bike, swim, do plyometrics, work on your core.  There’s a long list of activities and exercises you can use to become a more fit and well rounded runner.  Work these alternates into your workout regularly and you’ll see it pay off when you need your strength the most.

4. Wear the Right Shoes For You

Figure out what kind of runner you are (do you overpronate, does your arch collapse, etc and be conscious of buying the make and model of shoes that work for you.  The initial investment pays off in the end.

5. Lace Those Shoes Right

It sounds juvenile, but how you lace your shoes is actually important.  Before you set off on your run, tie your shoes tightly (but not tight enough to create any sort of pain or numbness).  Also, make sure to tie your shoes right on up to the seventh eyelet.  In addition to reducing your chance for pronation and keeping stress off of your foot, tying your shoes right will reduce slippage of the foot when you run, maximizing your efficiency in your shoes and reducing the amount of effort it takes to push off with every stride.  So much for keeping those shoes tied in the same knot for eternity.

6. Performance Socks Actually Work

When I first saw a pair of compression socks that were supposed to make me run faster I thought this was just another version of selling needless elbow deoderant to the masses.  It turns out I was horribly wrong.

It turns out those compression socks that were designed to help increase blood flow in the feet of diabetics not only work, but also help runners.  They work by encouraging oxygenated blood out of the foot so that it can be replaced with fresh, oxygenated blood.  Apparently I was wrong about compression socks all along.

7. Live Well

As a runner, everything you do to your body effects your runs.  Stay away from smoking, listen to your body, and pay attention to what you’re feeding yourself. Maintaining a proper diet is absolutely indispensable for athletes.  In addition to keeping you fueled and ready to go, a good diet will also make you lean and efficient.  After all, carrying around extra weight will slow you down.  For more tips on diet follow this link.

When it comes to drinking, stay hydrated.  As a runner you should be drinking more than the recommended daily eight glasses of water per day.  Check out our guide to hydration for more information on how drinking the right amount of water at the right times can make you a better runner.

8. Get Your Sleep

At the end of the day one of the best things you can do to improve your run the next day is is get a good night’s sleep.  A study at Stanford revealed that when a group increased their sleep to ten hours in any given 24 hour cycle, they shaved a half a second off of their sprint times. Give yourself ample time to fall asleep and try a hot shower or bath before bed or reading a few pages of a good book to make sleeping easier.