Ever heard of Isabella Fons?
I hadn’t either.
But now that I have, I’ve quickly become her number one fan.
Isabella is a 15-year-old high school freshman with her own YouTube channel, where she uploads tons of fun videos about her passions, which range from veganism to running.
She has more than 10,000 subscribers and a very impressive resume, which includes 3 half-marathons, in which she improved her personal record by a whopping 13 minutes. She’s also run for her varsity cross country team and the junior varsity track team.
While she’s clearly adorable and charismatic, I’m mainly drawn to her incredible drive and focus when it comes to running. In this video she shares some of her top tips, which are sure to be a serious source of inspiration and help for newbies.
Oh, and if you want to see what running has to do with turtles and peanut butter, you're going to have to check out the video.
Tip #1 Start small but be consistent.
Isabella starts out by telling you what not to do: don’t go for a 20-minute run if you’ve never run before and then decide that you hate it with all your heart. That’s not the way to get into running.
Instead, get yourself out the door (admittedly the hardest part) and then run for a minute or two and call it a day. But then, get out there the next day and extend your run by one minute. The next day, add another minute.
Before you know it you’ll be running for increasingly longer periods. That’s how you start a great running habit.
Here’s a bonus tip: Grab a partner! Or several! It can be really challenging to stay motivated when you’re going it alone, but if you run with a friend, you can hold each other accountable, support one another, and you’ll have someone to talk to about running! Runhaven highlights a bunch of reasons to find running friends in this great article.
Tip #2 Warm up, stretch and foam roll.
Before running, Isabella recommends doing dynamic stretches, which means that you move around as you warm up (for example, doing walking lunges).
After running, make sure to do some static stretches (like touching your toes) so you’re not sore the following day.
And don’t forget to foam roll! This is a great way to avoid injuries and banish sore muscles.
Bonus tip: You might also have a pre-run snack before you get moving. But not all snacks were created equal, especially when you're about to hit the track or trail. What you want are some complex carbs and a lot of potassium. Try an energy bar, some oatmeal, a banana, or toast with PB and J.
Tip #3 Do a weekly long run.
You need to do a long run to build up your base mileage.
Isabella also stresses that speed does not matter at all. “You could go, like, turtle moving through peanut butter pace" and that’s absolutely fine. The ultimate goal is to spend time on your feet.
Bonus tip: A long run actually has a whole slew of benefits, which include helping you build endurance, strengthening the heart and leg muscles, and teaching the body to burn fat as fuel. If you're serious, this is something you definitely want to incorporate into your training. For guidance on how far to run, check out this article from Runner's World.
Tip #4 If you want to run faster, you have to run faster.
According to Isabella, if you want to improve your time, you have to pick up the pace and include some speed workouts as part of your training. This means running at an “uncomfortable pace”, which will in turn improve your VO2 max.
Bonus tip: One of the very best ways to improve your VO2 max (which is the amount of oxygen consumed per minute; the higher it is, the greater the amount of oxygen received by your muscles, and the faster/longer you run) is through interval training. Other ways to run faster include strengthening your core, jumping rope, learning to breath right, and losing weight.
Tip #5 Learn how to run.
Bonus tip: Nowadays there are tons of cool apps you can use to help you learn how to run and train. Nike+ Running, 5K Runner, MapMyRun, and RunKeeper are all free, while RunCalc is a paid app worth checking out.
Tip #6 Sign up for a race.
It’s important to set a goal so that you’re working towards something concrete, so sign up for anything, a 5K, a 10K. Also, if you spend your money to register for a race, you’re more likely to run it.
Tip #7 Track your miles.
There are many ways to do this. Download an app to your phone (Isabella uses Running Log), keep a journal, or use Runner’s World's new app, Runner's World Go (which replaced its training log in 2015) to keep track of your miles. This is important because you can look for patterns in your training and see where there’s room for improvement.
Bonus tip: Keeping a log actually has tons of benefits. It helps with motivation and accountability, it lets you know when you need to invest in a new pair of running shoes, and it helps you turn your visions into goals.
Tip #8 Practice healthy habits.
That means 1) eating right (whole foods will give you more energy), 2) getting more sleep (that will give your muscles time to recover and get out there to train the next day), and 3) drinking lots of water!
Bonus tip: Other healthy habits you might want to incorporate into your routine to improve your running performance are eating breakfast every day, eating more vegetables and cooking more at home, cross-training, focusing on quality over quantity, and having fun with it!