As a runner I am never happy with my running pace, I always think I should be quicker and if I don’t beat my personal best then I am a misery. I know I am hard on myself (and competitive to boot) but trying to improve running pace is really difficult. It takes people years of running to improve dramatically and you have to be very consistent, around 3 to 4 times a week is ideal and allow yourself to rest. I am no professional and do it mainly to relieve stress of my job and stay healthy, but here are a few tips I have learnt to help improve my running pace.
#1 Go uphill
Uphill running is, in a word, horrific! Sweaty and wobbly is how I usually arrive at the top, but it does improve your running pace. Hill running is a specific exercise for resistance training, it can improve your running form, fatigue resistance and your aerobic power; in particular uphill running appears to increase a greater activation of the quads and calf muscles. Try hill running once a week and see if it improves your pace.
#2 Interval running
Google ‘interval running speed’ and you will get countless fitness blogs shouting about how interval training will increase your pace…and who am I to disagree with them? The workout in vogue at the moment is HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training), where you run at a steady quicker pace and then alternate to a slower pace after ten minutes, keep switching it up and make sure the bouts of intensive exercise count. You should rest well after doing this but it will increase your aerobic ability to go faster.
Stretching before AND after you run is very important, running related injuries from not stretching are nasty and can cause lasting damage. Stretching before you begin running is important to loosen up your muscles; this can prevent injuries and reduces the risk of cramps while you run. Nothing will impact your pace time more then you having to stop due to cramp or having a muscle strain and can put you out of action for weeks. Make sure you also properly stretch after a run too to ease your muscles.
#4 Lift some weights
Contrary to popular belief, if you are a runner you should still lift weights and it can improve your performance on the track. Running can cause serious injury to muscles if they aren’t properly maintained and lifting weights makes your muscles stronger and better able to take the strain of your runs. Strength training in essence prevents injury and running on strong muscles will increase your pace – give it a go and see if it helps you!
#5 Carb cycle
It makes sense that if you are going running you should have the proper nutrition to support it. Running takes a vast amount of energy from your body to support all those muscles and take the strain too! You should nourish your body and give it the energy it needs – if you don’t then you will fatigue quicker leading to a slower pace. If you run in the evening try to have some whole food carbs at lunch (brown rice, bread or pasta), if you are a morning runner eat your carbs for dinner the night before. Working out and giving your body the right energy at the right time can improve your performance considerably.
How have you improved on your personal best? Remember to do your own research and only do what you feel comfortable with before pushing yourself– good luck!