If you consider yourself to be a runner then you’re likely out most days come rain or shine. You put the miles in each week, you push yourself on the days that you really don’t feel like doing anything and you pride yourself on training hard each and every week.
But are you actually getting any faster? If not, I’d like to shed some light on why this may be the case and what you can do in order to change this.
Before we start, I would like to make it clear to anyone reading this who isn’t solely looking to develop their performance, to not be offended by what I write below. There are a huge number of people that run each week purely for the sheer enjoyment of running. Maybe it’s a new hobby that you’ve taken up or a way to meet new people, maybe you’re providing moral support to a friend or you might just need an excuse to get out of work or away from home for an hour! Whatever your reason, please keep doing what you’re doing. Joining a running club or a park run is such an enjoyable thing to do, it’s a great way of meeting people and the therapy that running provides is essential for so many people to help them get through their week. Who am I to challenge that?!
This article is for those of you that have genuine intentions of gaining personal bests, but for some reason feel like you’re going backwards instead of progressing. If this is the case then let’s dig into the reasons why this may be happening…
Ask most runners what their weekly schedule looks like and you tend to get a similar response; they will usually train five or six times per week and their training will be split into either the long runs, the steady runs or the interval runs. On the surface this seems like the perfect combination, but the truth may be far from perfect.
You see, although virtually all of these runners will have a fancy heart rate monitor and watch on their wrist, the majority will not really know what to do with them. When you don’t know how hard you should be training or always run in a group and go at someone else’s pace, you’ll often find that you go too hard on the easier runs and too easy on the harder runs. As a result, you end up in no man’s land completing hours and hours of miles that actually impact very little on your overall level of fitness. Do you know your true maximum heart rate?
Doing the same thing each week isn’t training. Training is about pushing beyond your previous best, getting outside of your comfort zone and challenging your body – not running 6 miles simply because it’s a Wednesday and that’s what everyone else does.
I also typically see a mentality from most runners that anything other than running is considered a waste of their time. Why waste 45 minutes in the gym when they could get in a steady 10k instead? This is a battle that I constantly face.
If you want to make improvements, you need to be prepared to do the hard work. Your speed would develop if you got stronger, your knee pain would likely disappear if you developed glutes, the back pain that you experience after 90 minutes would likely go away with some core strength..the list goes on. If your goal is to get faster this year then continue reading.
If you’re still with me, let’s look at some simple fixes that I guarantee will see your PB times improve significantly.
Lack of Sleep
To be clear, the actual training doesn’t make you faster. It is the recovery or supercompensation that you give to your body that allows it to make the adaptations in order for you to improve. Running will place stress on your body and unless you recover properly from that stress, you’ll end up making things worse rather than better.
Many runners use the term ‘over-training’. I don’t personally believe in this concept since the whole point of training is for it to be tough and to push you beyond your previous capabilities. It isn’t that you over-train, you simply under-recover! So if you’re looking to get faster, consider going to bed earlier.
The fuel that you put into your engine will ultimately determine the performance. You wouldn’t dream of going on a long car journey without filling up with fuel and checking your oil and water, but would you train for a marathon on cereal bars and coffee?!
In my experience, most runners will either undereat because they don’t believe they should eat anything before a ten mile run, or overeat because they feel they should reward their efforts with cake! The important thing is to learn to have a good relationship with food. High performance starts with good nutrition – you simply can’t expect your body to deliver if you aren’t consuming good quality protein, fats and carbohydrates. Eat real food first and then seek supplements later. Remember to keep hydrated, since dehydration can have a significant impact on your physical and mental performance.
Is your training appropriate?
First and foremost, decide what you’re actually training for. I meet so many runners who run without any real purpose. They enter the odd 10k or half marathon events but generally they just run for the sake of running. Pick your event and make that your focus.
If you are training for a 10k then is a weekend long run really appropriate? The infamous long weekend run is the staple of most runners training regime, but is it more appropriate to perform a high intensity interval session?
Listen to your body
Injuries go hand in hand with most runners. It’s inevitable that you’ll suffer at some point, however so many injuries can easily be avoided. Achilles tendon issues, plantar fasciitis or shin splints are massive red flags that your running style is off or that you’re wearing trainers that either aren’t appropriate for your feet or are simply in need of replacing.
Back and neck pain are usually indications of poor posture, hip discomfort is often related to being sat down for long periods, general aches and pains are due to a lack of mobility and all of these things can be improved in the gym. Learn how to lift, how to foam roll, how to improve core strength and how to improve mobility and see all of these issues disappear. Whilst you have likely caused most of these issues yourself, you also have the power to correct them. Your body is constantly talking to you and starting to listen to it a bit more is key.
The mantra of Eat, Sleep, Train, Repeat is one that we all know but very few of us follow properly…
Eat – Eat like a king, Eat often, Eat real food and Eat like you’re fuelling a high performance engine – because you are!
Sleep – Sleep to recover, Sleep to improve your mood, Sleep to improve concentration, Sleep your way faster!
Train – Train your weak links, Train for you, not someone else, Train with intensity, Train with a purpose.
Repeat – Repeat this practice day after day, week after week and I guarantee your results will improve.