Now, I don’t profess to being the quickest runner in the world. My comfortable, not-dying pace is around the eight minute per mile mark, but back when I first started to run in about 2009, I struggled to crack 12 minute miles. I hated it, and I gave up.
Then, long story short, I got into it again. And I got good, sort of. Actually, you can read about my pre and post partum jogging exploits here, if you like. Anyhoo, you don’t just “get” good. Like anything decent in this sodding life, you have to plug in the hours and WORK for your gains, there aren’t any freebies.
So, with the help of my husband because I ran out of brain cells at point three, here are five handy training ideas that will help you to run fast. Well, faster.
1. Hill Training
I know, sorry. This one ain’t pretty so I wanted to get it out of the way first. Hills can be brutal buggers. They place stress on the muscle groups that run all the way down the back of your legs, and they require a very controlled, steady place to conquer them. They make your chest heave with exertion, and can sometimes leave you feeling a bit jelly-legged and light headed. However. Imagine running up three or four meaty hills, then running a mile on the flat. It’s akin to walking with a heavy rucksack and then ditching it – you suddenly feel light, free, and FAST. Plan in one hill training session a week – it doesn’t need to be long in duration or miles – and you will see a positive impact on your stamina and endurance when running your regular flat-ish route.
2. Intervals / Fartlek
My husband swears by these sessions when he’s marathon training. Fartlek is essentially mixing up varying-capacity speed sprints, with slower, more gentle periods of running. So, you might be running through the park. You would jog gently for a few minutes, then eyeball a park bench a couple of hundred metres ahead. You run to the bench, at 70% capacity (so a little bit dead). When you hit the bench (not literally), you resume jogging until you’ve got your puff back. Then, you find something else to run towards, only this time you go all out and run to your max capacity. Repeat as many times as you can manage, switching up between the paces and the distances. Again, this method of training is fantastic for your stamina.
3. Partnered Cardio
Ooh, I think I just made that term up! I do like it though. What I mean is, it isn’t ALL about the running. There are loads of other exercises that offer a perfect partnership to running, and my absolute favourite is Spinning. It’s a form of HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), and it works your cardiovascular system a treat. Part of the exercise mimics running, as you stand up on the bike and literally run with your feet clamped into the pedals. Varying resistance will not only increase your endurance, but it’ll give your key leg muscle groups a cracking boost too. I started to take Spinning classes at the same time as up-revving my running, and the two activities definitely have a positive impact on each other.
4. Consistency is King
I see the most notable improvements to my running form when I run more. Sounds too obvious to be true, right? There’s a fine line between a good, structured training plan and burnout, but it pays to rack up the extra miles. It’s admittedly not as easy now that we’re into the cooler, darker months, but in the summer I would increase my running route to the gym so that I could nail out a decent 5km before even getting to the gym door. I’m not the biggest fan of treadmill running, but I’d make sure I was running at least a mile on it during each of my workouts. September was a half marathon month for me, and it’s the first month I’ve topped 100 running miles. I hit the magic 100 with a mix of hills, speedwork, long runs, short runs, road running, treadmill running, morning runs, evening runs – it all adds up and it all sends your stamina to the next level.
5. Fuel Your Body
Now, I love me some fasted cardio, particularly on a Saturday morning where I hit the gym insanely early and I can’t face breakfast beforehand. However, the key here is that I’ll have eaten well the day before. Plenty of protein, and lots of smart carbs such as oats, grains and pulses. Don’t eat shit and expect to run well. And don’t run dehydrated – your body will go into a sort of panic mode and it’ll be so hell bent on preserving energy and fluids that your run will suffer for it. They say that fitness is made in the kitchen (80% nutrition, 20% exercise) and there’s a lot of truth in that – it is possible to eat for speed. These are a good pre-run snack!
I hope this has helped to inspire you towards your next goal, be it a quicker time at a 5km race or an increased level of endurance to tackle a longer distance. Good luck!
-SJW October 2017