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The best running advice you’ll ever receive

Performance coach Steve Magness says if you want to improve, you have to master the basics

There’s an almost infinite number of websites, articles and books out there offering training tips and advice to make you a better runner, but performance coach and author Steve Magness wants runners to do one thing: focus on the basics. In a recent Twitter thread, he argues that if you want to be good at anything, nailing the basics will get you 99 per cent of the way there.

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Magness begins his argument by highlighting society’s obsession with quick fixes, noting the harm that’s done by purveryors of scientific mininformation, diet cults, hack culture and those who believe there is only one optimal way to work out.

Magness doesn’t blame runners for falling for some of this information, adding that the basics of good health and training are not sexy or quick to implement, and while they are simple, they’re difficult to do consistently. “It’s why so many people buy supplements to improve their strength, but so few squat two times a week for months, if not years, on end,” he says.

So what do the basics look like in practice? Magness breaks them down into two sections: principles for phyiscal health, fitness and nutrition, and principles for mental health and cognitive performance. His first tip: “Move your body often, sometimes hard, every bit counts.”

His second piece of advice is to avoid foods wrapped in plastic because foods that are heavily proccessed often lose much of their nutritional value. He ads that according to research, the only real indicator of whether or not a diet will work for you is if you stick with it. The actual type or breakdown of that diet not actually all that important.

Getting seven to nine hours of sleep every night is his third piece of advice, and notes that sleep is the best performance enhancer there is. Magness also offers two general rules surrounding sleep: try hard to get sleep and don’t freak out if you can’t.

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His last two pieces of advice for physical health and performance are to not smoke (or seek help in quitting if you already do) and to avoid excessive amounts of alcohol. Both are associated with a number of chronic diseases, including several cancers.

Diving into mental health and cognitive performance, Magness encourages runners to build community. He adds that nothing replaces in-person connections, and social media is only helpful if it’s used as a means to create real-life friendships. “Deep community provides us with spaces in which we can support each other through ups and downs,” he says.

His second piece of mental health advice is to not expect things to be good all the time, adding that the more you try to change the way you feel, the more stuck you’re liable to be. “You don’t need to feel good to get going, you need to get going to give yourself a chance at feeling good,” he says.

Magness encourages anyone to get help if they need it and to spend more time engaging in real-life activities instead of the virtual world online. His last three pieces of advice to runners if they want to improve their mental health and cognitive performance is to read books, work in intervals to focus on single tasks and follow deep work up with rest, and finally to spend time in nature.

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This Twitter thread is just a snapshot of Magness’s full manifesto, so if you’re interested in gaining more insight into how the basics can make you a better runner and overall healthier person, check out the entire article here.

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