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It is safe to say, that 2018 was a huge year for me in terms of running. I achieved PBs across the board, including my personal highlight – a sub three-hour marathon.

I often get asked what my top tips are on how to improve your running and achieve your PBs, so I have put together my 5 Top Tips to Make You Faster:

Strength Training

So you might think it’s a little odd that I have started a blog post about running faster by not talking about running, but hear me out. I honestly believe that including regular strength training into your weekly schedule is the secret ingredient a lot of people are missing when they are trying to improve.

Strength training has a whole host of benefits to your physical health including:

  • Increased Bone Density
  • Building Lean Muscle
  • Improving Flexibility, Coordination & Balance
  • Increasing Power
  • Injury Prevention


Now before you start panicking that you need to start hitting the weights hard five times a week, fear not. Adding just 1-2 sessions a week is more than enough for you to start reaping the benefits, and you don’t even need join the gym. All you need is some basic equipment such as dumbbells and resistance bands to get you started.

Here are two gym based workouts to kick things of:

Strength Training – Lower Body

Strength Training – Upper Body

 

Speedwork and Interval Training

The sessions that most runners love to hate, but if you want to improve and get faster, these are key.

No matter whether you are looking to improve your 5k or your marathon time, I would recommend adding at least one session a week where you really get those legs going. I personally find the best way to do this is by getting down to a running track, but if you don’t have access to one don’t panic, I would just recommend finding somewhere you can run without having to stop at road crossings – laps of a local park can work well.

Here are two Speed/Interval workouts to get you started:

  • 8 x 400m Efforts
  • 1-2 Mile Easy Warm Up
  • 4 x 400m Effort, with 90 second rest between each rep.
  • 3 minute Rest
  • 4 x 400m Effort, with 90 second rest between each rep.
  • 1-2 Mile Easy Cool Down

The pace of your 400m efforts will be dependent on your current pace/goal but a good starting point would be to run at your 5k PB pace.

  • 3 x 5 Minute Efforts
  • 1-2 Mile Easy Warm Up
  • 3 x 5 Minute Efforts, with 3-minute recovery between each rep.
  • 1-2 Mile Easy Cool Down

The pace of your 5-minute efforts will be dependent on your current pace/goal but a good starting point would be to run at your 5k PB pace.

 

Sloooooooooowing Down

Huh? I thought we were talking about speeding up?! And we are, but believe it or not, sometimes slowing down is the key to speeding up on race day.
Easy runs should make up a large bulk of your training plan. Now again, depending on your current pace and goals everyone’s easy run pace will differ, so it’s important you find what is right for you.

An easy run is exactly what is says on the tin – easy! I personally am a big believer in running to feel, so for me a great way to gauge if a run is easy enough is if you can hold a conversation comfortably for the duration of the run. Another way to workout what your pace should be is to take your race pace (let’s use the marathon in this example) and add around two minutes. So for example if your marathon pace is an average 8 minute mile, for your easy runs you should be looking to run these around the 9.30-10 minute mile mark.
Finally, if you use a Heart Rate Monitor you ideally want to be in your ‘Low Aerobic Zone’ for the entire run, again this will differ from person to person but ideally around 140-150 beats per minute, or 60 -80% of your Maximum Heart Rate.

Easy runs can be used a recovery runs, social runs and just as a way to help to build on your endurance and mileage base. Fundamentally they should just be comfortable and you should feel like you could keep going for miles and miles and miles. They shouldn’t fatigue your body, meaning then when it comes to doing your all important speed sessions, and the race itself, you are feeling strong and that you have that extra ‘something’ in the tank.

 

Rest and Recovery

Do you know what the most important day in any training schedule is? Yep, you guessed it… Rest day! But apart from rest day, ensuring that you recover properly in between your session is also really important. Running and exercise puts your body under stress, so it is vital that you look after it when you aren’t working you are looking after yourself.

So let’s talk about that all important rest day first. Rest days are where the magic happens, it’s where your muscles start to repair themselves and those adaptations from all of your training (and if you are smashing those speed and interval sessions you will definitely need it!) will occur. A lot of athletes can panic about taking rest days, but I cannot stress enough how important they are. Without them you are increasing your risk of over training, which can lead to injury, fatigue and illness.

As well as taking rest days, there are also a number of things you can do to help aid your recovery in between your sessions including:

  • Stretching
  • Rolling
  • Regular Sports Massages
  • Sleep (aim for at least eight hours a night)
  • Refuelling is also a key part to making sure you recover properly. Luckily Science in Sport have a whole range of products that can help make this a little easier for you. For my last two marathon cycles I have used the Science in Sport REGO Recovery Powder after my long runs & tough sessions to help kick start my recovery. The powder contains 22g of carbohydrates, 20g of protein & electrolytes which are all needed to help replenish your glycogen stores, start muscle repair and rehydrate.

For anyone that is currently marathon training I would highly recommend the SiS Marathon Bundle, which has everything you need for before, during and after your training.

 

Consistency

Finally, above everything else, this is the real secret. Being consistent with your training.

With most things in life, change and progress does not happen overnight, and it is the same with running. To put it bluntly, you cannot expect to see results if you don’t put the work in. Finding a routine that works for you is key – for some this may be training three times a week, for some it might be six but as long as you are able to do this consistently, you will start to reap and see the benefits. And also, don’t be disheartened if those changes don’t come straight away. So be patient, put the work in, trust your training and enjoy the journey!

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