Running: It’s a love/hate relationship
Some people love running, I am not one of those people. When my trainer had running on the agenda 4 times a week for 8 weeks, I must admit, I cursed his name a few times. But, like anything, the more you do something, the better you get. Years ago, before kids, I ran a half marathon as well as several 5 and 10k races. I have never ran “for fun” again since having kids. I’ve considered training for another race just to keep me accountable but I’ve never actually committed to it. If you’d like to read more about my fitness journey, read, Finding Your “Why”.
You’re probably wondering, “if she hates running, why is she writing about how to be a better runner?” Well, there are a few reasons: 1. if you’re already good at or enjoy running you probably aren’t going to be reading this anyway and 2. within the last 6 months I’ve successfully shaved over 1 minute off of my mile time and 3. I have successfully completed over a dozen races and met or exceeded my goal times every time.
Here are my top 10 tips to improving your running time:
Note: This is assuming that you are properly hydrated, have used the restroom and have also eaten a sufficient meal prior to your run.
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1. Wear proper running shoes – I can’t stress this enough. When I very first started running, I would run in any tennis shoes. I faced chronic shin splints and foot pain and thought it was just my prerogative. Once I invested in my Asics Gel Kayonos, I instantly could feel the difference and my pain was gone. I’m now on my third pair of these and can’t say enough good things about these.
2. Have A Power Playlist – Listen to music with a similar tempo as your running pace and try to keep up. I am a person that gets really into my music so if I listen to songs that I can really jam to I can sometimes get lost in it. Also, for me, I feel really awkward running slow to a fast song and vise versa. To make sure I always have great tunes on hand, I love the app Spotify. It’s $9.99/month for unlimited downloads that you can play back at any time.
3. Push Yourself – This may sound obvious but it’s true. If you can still speak in complete sentences, you can up your pace a bit. It doesn’t need to be anything drastic, but even just 1-3 increments on the treadmill to get your heart and lungs working a little harder. Do this for as long as you can stand to and then go back to your original pace as needed.
4. Mix Up Your Workouts – Your body is like a machine. The more you do something, the more efficient it gets. If you run the same 3 miles at a 5 mph pace everyday, you can’t miraculously expect to get faster. When I was training for my half marathon I ran 3 times per week and completed my race just under the coveted 2 hour mark at 1:58:46. 1 day I would run 3 miles on a varied incline, 1 day I ran sprint intervals and the third day was a long run (6+ miles).
5. Strength Train – You need to also have strong legs to be a fast runner. Look at a sprinter’s physique in comparison to a distance runner. Strong muscles give you the explosive power needed to run faster. Try incorporating squats, deadlifts, leg presses and lunges into your routine to also build and condition your muscles. Plyometrics are also another great way to build up different muscle fibers and increase speed and power.
6. Play Mind Games – running is just as much a mental sport as it is physical. On my current fitness program, I am running for 40 minutes 3 times a week. Like I said before, I HATE to run. But I also am very dedicated to my goals so I do as I’m told. I watch that treadmill clock like a hawk the entire time. Some tricks I use are to tell myself the % of time I have left and also allowing myself to change the song every number of minutes to mentally break up the time.
7. Sprint – The last program I did was mainly strength focused with 10-20 minutes cardio 4 times a week. Those 10-20 minutes weren’t a leisurely stroll through the park. They were an intense burst of energy. There were 3 different variations used: 5 sets of 40 yard sprints with 1 minute rest in between; 1 minute sprints with 45 second rest for 20 minutes and running as hard as possible for 1.5 – 2 miles.
8. Compete – There’s nothing like adding a little *healthy* competition to help incentivize you to do better. This could mean signing yourself up for a race or two to stay accountable. I like race my husband on the treadmill. He is a much faster runner than me so I love trying to catch him.
9. Rest – While it’s great to practice and train, you also need your rest. Overtraining leads to injury and injury leads to setbacks. Ain’t nobody got time for that! Do your body good and give yourself at least 2-3 days rest per week.
10. Repeat – Keep at it! You won’t go from a 12 minute mile to an 8 minute mile overnight. But with perseverance, you will get better. Don’t give up! If you get bored try to find new ways to motivate yourself.