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Olympic Triathlete Sarah True Explains How To Become A Better Runner

By Lisa Costantini | Aug. 20, 2016, 12:53 a.m. (ET)

Sarah True competes at the ITU World Triathlon Stockholm on Aug. 22, 2015 in Stockholm.

Most people think that running is just strapping on some sneakers and putting one foot in front of the other. While this is somewhat true, there is more involved to the most popular form of exercise. Triathlete Sarah True knows a thing or two about running — her multisport consists of a 10-kilometer run, a 40-kilometer bike and a 1.5-kilometer swim. The 34-year-old — who is married to cross-country runner Ben True — placed fourth at the London 2012 Olympic Games and is in Rio competing at her second Games.

Before the starting gun goes off in Rio, we asked her to share some tips on how to become a better runner — no matter if you’re just starting out or starting to train for your second marathon.

“Running doesn’t feel that great until you get used to it,” True revealed, a statement that anyone who has ever tried running knows, but didn’t know they were allowed to openly admit.

And even though there is no getting used to the pains in your sides and the pains in your feet, she swears it’s not always as bad as it first seems. “After consistently putting in time, you’ll eventually have a breakthrough where it feels easier.” But before you put in the time, she said there are a couple things you need to know.

First, anyone can run, “as long as you don’t have a medical condition that prohibits you from running.” And unlike other sports that require a lot of equipment, True said the only thing you’ll need is “good, high-quality shoes that are well-fitting.” The reason they’re “absolutely important” is because “poor shoes can make running miserable and injury more likely.” Visit a running store to get their recommendations before picking a pair up at the nearest department store.

True admitted that — even though “running can be uncomfortable and hard — she always feels better after a run. Most importantly, she says it’s worth it.
So, how does she make it through a run? “Some of my favorite runs are when I just head out the door without a preconceived notion of how far I'll go. I let the adventure of the run take over!” That’s not to say you can’t get in a good run on a treadmill, but True finds “more enjoyment from runs when I surround myself in a beautiful, quiet place,” she said.

“Running is a great, meditative practice and I really enjoy being in tune with my body and alone with my thoughts.”

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She also suggested listening to your body when it comes to finding your pace. When not doing a workout prescribed by her coach, she does most of her runs “based on feel.” It’s a good idea to start out slow and work up your pace. Always remember, no matter your speed, you’re still moving faster than everyone on the couch.

For those runners who can’t get their thoughts off how painful running is, she advised knowing the difference between good pain and bad pain. “Bad pain is specific; if a particular part of your body hurts, take it easy until the pain subsides.” Or if it’s the all-too-common pain in your side, she said, “focusing on breathing from your belly is the best way to prevent side stitches.”

“Part of adapting to running increased distance or speed means that you might be a bit sore. There's nothing wrong with a little general soreness,” True explained, “it's a sign that you are pushing your body and you'll be fitter and stronger when the soreness passes.”

However, just like any form of exercise, you need to give yourself a break every once in a while, as there is such a thing as running too much.
“If you find yourself getting injured or sick a lot, then your mileage is probably too high,” she said. For those having the opposite problem and struggling to get motivated, True reassured that “you can grow to love it over time. With consistency, it gets easier and more enjoyable.”

Until then she said, “find what keeps you having fun while running. Go with a friend, explore a new trail, or set a challenging goal; avoiding too much monotony or routine will make running far more enjoyable.”

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Sarah True