The most important thing I have learned is that just training faster and harder isn’t the best way to actually be a faster runner.
So what is? Read on to discover my top tips…
Embrace slow runs: running slowly during long runs helps you ease your body into the increased stress of running longer, which is key for avoiding injuries and burnout. It’s also the best way to improve your endurance—or ability to last through a long-distance race like a marathon—which is an important foundation to build before working on speed. The best way to tell if you are running easy enough is to check to see if you can comfortably and easily hold a conversation.
Consider runplugging: try ditching your headphones and music. Although music can be motivating, it’s natural to match your running pace to the beat of the music rather than running at the perfect training pace for you. Not only that, there’s no mistaking that it’s safer to be completely aware of your surroundings on a run, regardless of the type of running workout you’ve got planned on a given day. Once a week, go out for your run without your watch, music, or phone. This teaches you to feel your pace rather than relying on numbers or music.
Focus on heart rate: if you are new to running, focus on heart rate rather than pace. With pace-based training, it’s really easy to let your ego get in the way, but with heart rate training, it’s much easier to slow down once you understand the science behind it. After a few months, you will be able to gradually increase your speed and see that you can hold a faster pace at the same heart rate.
The 10 minute rule: start every run with 10 minutes of walking and slow running, and do the same to cool down. A warm-up prepares your body for exercise by gradually increasing blood flow and raising core muscle temperature. The cooldown may be even more important. Stopping abruptly can cause leg cramps, nausea, dizziness, or fainting.
Don’t just run: runners who only run are prone to injury. Cross-training and weight training will make you a stronger and healthier runner. Low and non-impact sports like biking and swimming will help build supporting muscles used in running, while also giving your primary running muscles a rest.
Loosen up: many runners hold tension in their upper body, which can make your regular run feel twice as hard. Try this simple trick to check yourself: roll up a sheet of paper and run with it for a few minutes (as if you were holding a baton in a 400-meter relay). If the paper comes back crunched, you are squeezing too hard! Allowing your hands to loosen up translates into reduced tension in the shoulders and less wasted energy.
Slow down your breathing: breathing is the No. 1 thing that beginners and intermediate runners do wrong. It may be counter-intuitive, but most distance runners are breathing too much. By trying to bring in so much oxygen so quickly, you’re not getting rid of all the CO2 in your lungs. As a result, you’re starving your lungs of oxygen – the exact opposite of what you want. Slow down your breathing, relax a little, and you might find running is much easier.
Join Stan every Wednesday from 10:15 – 11:00 for Beginners Running Club for more top tips and plenty of fun.