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Run Better: What does that mean? Part 5: Run Faster

We all want to run “better”, but what does that really mean? It will mean different things to different runners and triathletes. In part one of this series, I covered 7 key positions of good running form; in part two, I covered what how to run healthy; part three covered what it means to run strong; part four was about running long. This blog post, part five, I cover 10 key points to help you run faster.

In order to run faster it’s important to lay a foundation of form analysis and improvement, strength, durability, volume and remain healthy. All of this forms the basis of your ability to get faster now and stay fast over the long term.

  1. One speed runner. As I assess my triathletes’ running potential, I am constantly analyzing their run paces, heart rate and fatigue levels. All too often I see a pattern of what I call the one “effort” or “one pace” runner. This pace usually equates to a tempo or zone 3 run. Running at only one pace limits your ability to recover properly and run faster. It’s important to train the full spectrum of speeds, paces and energy systems to run at your best.
  1. Baseline: Assessment of current running speed and pace. In order to get faster, you need to know where you are right now. What is your current 5k, 10k, half marathon or marathon pace? By knowing some of these paces, you can begin to determine what paces to target for your hard training runs. Take your average pace from one of these events. It’s best if it’s a stand-alone run event, as this gives you a better picture of your pure running potential.
  1. Measuring and tracking intensity. How do you know how hard or fast you’re running? How do you understand the impact it has on your fitness and health status over time? Measure it and track it. Get yourself a heart rate monitor and/or a GPS device so you know this information. There are so many great devices, apps and tracking software available at a full spectrum of costs. These tools will help you determine if you are training too hard, too easy and help assess your recovery.
  1. Planning: progression and adaptation. These 2 concepts are the real keys to developing your running potential. Progress your hard runs logically and be flexible with your rate of adaptation along the way. For example, if you run 10×1 minutes at 5k pace with a 1-minute recovery jog this week, try 5-6×2 minutes with a 1-2 minute recovery the following week. Flexibility with the process is another essential planning tool. Your rate of adaptation is individual to you and your years of experience running. Adaptation rates will also be negatively or positively impacted by other life stresses: illness, work or home challenges, etc.
  1. Race specificity. Hard run workouts need to reflect the specific challenges and demands of your races, by both distance and terrain (hills, dirt, flat, temperatures, etc). This means both running the type of terrain you’ll encounter in your races as well as at your goal race effort and pace. Many athletes fail to reach or understand their race potential because they lack clarity of their ability in relation to the demands of the race.
  1. Three key hard workouts to incorporate in your year round training plan: 

Strides or pick ups: I like to think of these as building blocks of speed. They help prepare your body for a faster workout or race, help flush your muscles and keeps your body and mind connected to speed even during aerobic development training months. They improve running economy and help reinforce proper running form at fast speeds. Strides can be incorporated at the beginning, middle or end or any running session.

Strides-sample: 20-40 steps or 10-20 seconds quick, relaxed strides, building  speed with 1 – 2 minutes of easy jogging or walking between.

Tempo runs: Tempo runs are defined in many ways and at a spectrum of intensities. They can be done as a single interval, say, 20 minutes, or as intervals, 5×5 minutes with 1 min jog between. At the low end, tempo runs are at about your half marathon pace; on the high end, they can be used as threshold runs. 20-40s slower than 10k pace, HR zone 3-4, RPE (rating of perceived exertion: 6-7 of 10.

Intervals: manipulating work to rest ratio: 

Warm up with easy running for 10 minutes, then run 3-4 x 10-second strides. Run intervals 3-6 x 1-10 minutes at 3k to 10k pace with 1-2 minute jog between. Cool down with easy running and/or walking for 5-20 minutes. This is a pretty big range to work with. This varies with time of year, athlete experience level and    goal race.

  1. Run fast, stand-alone. The process of running faster in triathlon starts with running faster on its own. Over time, you can train your body to then run faster off the bike. But, I want to emphasize, this takes time!
  1. Run off the bike. In triathlon, it’s a given we all run on tired legs. Stand alone runs where your body is relatively fresh as well as runs off the bike both need to be a part of your weekly and monthly training year round. Run off the bike often enough to feel like your running legs have kicked in within 1-10 minutes of starting your run (dependent on how long you’re on the bike and how often you train off the bike). Runs off the bike can and need to be both easy and hard.
  1. Mindset. Hard training hurts! And, this is ok. Open your mind to a new level of pain, a new level of speed and fitness. Your mindset sets you up for success or failure. You do have a choice over what you think and how you prep your mind for hard sessions. Learn to know your body, explore your limits, push them and also honor them. There are days when pushing through is not the best idea.
  1. Overtraining. Pushing too hard too often can lead to overtraining. This is a great example of where more is not better. Recovery from your hard training is where you actually get faster. The pattern goes: hard training (stress), recover (rest), repeat. This is what makes you faster. When pushing to be your best, you want to bump up against the upper end of your limits, but back down in time to let you body recover to a new level of fitness. Everyone has a different rate of adaptation to training. Training hard is an important element to getting faster, to reaching your potential and preparing for the demands of your race, but too much, ultimately, will make you slower.

Consistency is key to running better. Without it, running better will continue to be elusive. A great training plan is a great way to achieve consistency. A great coach is a great way to gain accountability. You’ll feel better and run better every day.

Fall Run Clinic Series dates for 2016: October 30, November 6, 13 & 20.

Confused by any of this terminology or need some help determining how to do your hard sessions? Want to learn what your threshold pace, heart rate, power is? Need help understanding more about how and when to do interval sessions? Sign up for a free consult and together we’ll figure out the best way to incorporate interval training into your plan to get you faster for your big event.