Over the last 6 years, I went from non-runner to a 3 time marathon runner. The strangest thing about running is that there are times you see a ton of progress, but then there are times when you go for months and months and feel like you have gained nothing. This summer, has been one of those plateau periods for me, but then I ran a mile PR of 5:29!
There are some specific things that I have learned and tried to become a faster runner. It’s actually not always about running more, or even running faster all the time! I thought I would share some of my biggest secrets!
Running Consistently: Obviously, you need to run in order to run faster. This doesn’t mean going from 10 miles a week to 40 the next week, but you need to be consistent from week to week and month to month to build fitness! You never want to jump up in total mileage more than 10% from one week to the next, so start where you are at, get consistent with that routine, and slowly add days or distance when you can.
Strength Training: In addition to not adding too many miles too fast, strength training will help you prevent injury. No, you don’t have to become a body builder, but a few 20 minute sessions each week that focus on legs, glutes, and core, will help prevent injury and help you become a stronger runner. Weak glutes are the cause of so many running injuries, so get those squats in!
Recovery: In order to become faster, your body also needs time to rebuild and recover. A mistake a lot of new runners make is thinking that working out or running every day means they’re just tougher than people who take rest days, but these people will end up injured or seeing a decline in results. Training breaks down your body, and rest days give it a chance to rebuild to become stronger. If you skip rest days and keep pushing, your body will just continue to break down. To stay active on rest days, I love restorative yoga to stretch out and keep the blood flowing in my body!
Having a Purpose for Each Run: Another mistake a lot of new runners make is to run every run at max effort. I was one of these people! By running every run as fast as you can, you’re actually just going to break down your body too much. Think of doing 1-2 faster efforts a week, but keeping the rest of your runs at an easy, conversational pace. Its really hard to do at first, but you will realize you can run much harder and faster on days designated to speed, which is going to give you better results in the long run.
Running Workouts vs. Running: For your faster efforts, its good to try actual running workouts, instead of just running fast the whole time. Warm your body up with an easy mile or two, and then do repeats of faster paces, with rest in between. These could be sprinting up a hill, sprinting for anywhere from 30 seconds to 2 minutes at max effort, or doing mile repeats at a moderate to fast pace. The key is to let your body rest in between each set, so that your heart rate can come down a little, and you can give consistent effort each repeat.
One of my favorite workouts is sprinting up a hill at max effort for 45 seconds, and then taking 2 minutes rest in between. The 2 minutes seem like forever the first few sets, but towards the end, it allows me to keep a consistent effort!
Having a Goal: Having a goal time, race, or virtual race on the calendar helps me stay focused and committed on those days I’m not excited about running. Sign up for a race a few months from now, or do a 1 mile time trial at your fastest pace, train for a few months, and see how much you can improve on your time! Even doing a virtual race or time trial helps put me in the mindset of pushing myself.
Focus on the Work: There are endless running supplements, gadgets, and technology out there, that its easy to get wrapped up in it all. The one thing you really want is a new, solid pair of running shoes that are right for your feet. I can’t recommend enough to go get fitted for a pair of shoes at a local running store. Each person is unique and whatever shoe works for me, or one of your friends, might not work for you at all! Save yourself aches, pains, and injury with this one thing! You also may want a GPS watch to track your running time/distance, but a phone works too.
Beyond this, different gels, and supplements aren’t really going to make you faster unless you are running longer distances like half marathons or marathons where you need to replace calories. You may eventually want to get a faster pair of shoes for racing, but this is definitely not a necessity right away. The key is to really focus on your body and your running first! Now go out there and get it!