Everyone want to run faster. Setting a new PR is an amazing feeling and there’s no runner who doesn’t love it. Getting to that new PR, however, requires lots of hard work. A big part of running faster is actually practicing running faster and it sounds simple enough. Unfortunately, it’s challenging. Aside from building strength and endurance, the most important part of getting comfortable running at a faster pace is staying relaxed. Relaxed running is smooth, good form running and that means it’s also fast running.
We all practice plenty of easy relaxed running. Long runs, recovery jogs, group workouts. But how often do you practice relaxed running at a faster than conversational pace? Not often. Many runners, especially new ones, equate faster running with harder effort. While that’s true, harder effort doesn’t mean clenched jaws, stiff arms and lifted shoulders. Tension is bad. More effort should lead to a faster pace but no change in form or locomotion. To accomplish that most people need lots of practice. Here are some of Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to start getting acquainted with faster but still relaxed running.
Strides. Strides are an extremely useful tool for improving running form and getting comfortable at faster speeds. These short accelerations can be completed before a run as warm-up or after a run to instill quality movement in tired muscles. You can complete anywhere from 3 to 10 strides depending on the goal. Run for about 100M gradually increasing your pace from beginning to end to finish at 95% effort. These help reinforce good form on tired muscles or before a race and are a good way to practice relaxed running at a faster pace.
Surges. Done during a run or workout, surges are also known as pick-ups or considered a type of Fartlek. Mixing in some faster stretches during a long run will help you get used to running faster without getting tense because it’s very low pressure. There aren’t any strict pace or distance guidelines. They’re a good reminder to maintain to quality running form throughout a longer run when you might get worn out or sloppy.
Sprints. Not only are sprints fun, they’re useful! We won’t all be as fast as Usain Bolt but we can take a page from his book. Those smiles crossing the finish line, bouncy cheeks and soft hands all signal that’s he’s relaxed in spite of how hard he’s working. Practicing sprinting is a great way to teach your body to stay loose and smooth while churning out some killer repeats.
Training for a race is big commitment. There are lots of miles and hours spent getting ready for the event and most of those miles are not spent at goal race pace. Why not? It’s too hard on your body to stay at race pace all the time. Finding the balance between hard workouts and slower ones is important. In fact, the majority of elite runners’ miles are spent at paces slower than their goal speed.
But you have to run fast to run fast! Yes, and while any good training plan includes specific tempo workouts sometimes it’s nice to mix things up. Luckily, your long run is a great place to add some faster miles. Adding race pace running to your long run is a challenge that will get you both physically and mentally ready for a race day effort. As your body adapts to spending time at goal pace, it’ll get easier. It also provides a good chance to practice your fueling strategy.
One of Team ECRP‘s favorite long run with race pace miles workouts is the 3-2-1. It can also be lengthened for marathon training to a 5-4-3-2-1 effort. Run at least a mile warm-up then a mile easy between each section of race pace work. The cool down is up to you. This workout has you spending plenty of time getting comfortable at your goal pace without shredding your legs for the rest of the week.
A second option is to do a fast finish run. Take the first two thirds of your run at normal long run pace then finish fast. That can be at goal race pace or gradually faster all the way to the end. Examples include a 20 miler with 10 miles at long run pace, 8 miles at race pace and a 2 mile cool down. For a half marathon try a 13 miler with 8 miles at long run pace then 5 miles of getting 5-10 seconds faster per mile.
By breaking faster miles into sections you’ll be able to spend more time at goal pace with less wear and tear. It will bring variety to the long run and help those workouts fly by. Be careful not to include them too often, however. These are challenging workouts and you’ll need time to recover.
Running a marathon is tough. Racing one is even harder. Whichever path you chose to cover 26.2+ miles you need to be prepared for the long journey. Getting marathon day ready is more than simply logging those training workouts. Making sure you’re prepared for race day is an important part of any well rounded training plan. Here are four things every Team ECRP knows before they toe the line at their marathon.
Test Nutrition. Everyone has to have something to eat or drink while on the marathon course. While most of us won’t get designated bottles we can still control what goes into our bodies. Find out what they’ll have on course for hydration and fuel then practice with it. It might work for you and it might not but marathon day is not when you what to find that out.
Train in Bad Weather. Not only does training when the weather’s crummy, not dangerous, make you a bad ass, it prepares you for the unknown you’ll face on race day. It’s tough to get out there when it’s cold or raining but it’s also very important. Determine what conditions you could face on marathon day and train in them. Run in the cold, rain and snow and your finish time will thank you.
Wear Your Gear. We all have favorite pieces of gear. That pair of lucky underwear or special pair of bright race day shoes is a must for marathon day. Those pieces are likely well broken in but that doesn’t mean our socks, hats and sports bras are. Never wear anything new on race day especially holds true when you’re covering 26+ miles so make sure whatever you’re going to put on has been worn on at least one or two long runs during training.
Plan for Logistics. Marathon day can be a nightmare even if the start is right outside your front door. There’s traffic, stressed out runners, confused spectators and that guy with a dog on too long a leash. Know where you’ll park, where the start and finish are and where you’ll meet your support afterwards. Having a plan will eliminate race morning stress and help you perform the best you can out on the course.
Use these tips to create a plan that works for you and you’ll ace any marathon day test you face.
Winter. Summer. Each comes with its own set of weather based challenges. From high temperatures to icy roads anyone can get forced into an indoor workout once in a while. While it might seem like the dreaded treadmill is your only option there are plenty of alternative choices that are equally as effective at working you out. As long you’re not ditching all your miles trying one of these alternatives will keep you safely inside and ensure a quality workout.
Water running. If you have access to a pool water running can be a great option. Frequently used as a tool for injured runners to stay in shape while the heal, running in deep water with the aid of a floatation device is a great alternative to dangerous outdoor conditions. Pushing through the water will strengthen muscles and hip joints while still getting your cardio in.
Strength training. Every runner needs strength training. It provides tons of benefits from increased endurance to better form and faster times. There are thousands of options for exercises and classes out there so find something you like. Focus on higher intensity activities with weights on the heavier side to build running muscles. Perform exercises that strengthen your entire body so it can support you for as long as you want to run.
Plyometrics.Plyometrics can fall under strength training or it can be performed on its own. Jumping is a great way to build running power. Whether it’s box jumps, jump rope or lateral bounds jumping around will get your heart rate up while making your quads, hamstrings, hips, knees, ankles and feet stronger.
Yoga. With the massive variety of yoga classes available at most studios you’re sure to find something that will get your heart rate up. Mobility is a big issue for lots of runners but having a good range of motion is incredibly important. This indoor workout will help you stretch, open up joints and relax all at once.
Every runner dreads injury. Not only can it derail all of your recent training effort, it can be painful, uncomfortable and come with a potentially hefty medical bill. The best way to keep logging miles without some sort of boo-boo or broken bone sidelining you is to use preventative care. That can mean lots of things but here are Team ECRP‘s favorite ways to run injury free all year long.
Strength Train. Strength training and cross training are extremely important elements of a training plan that helps you steer clear of injuries. It will help you build muscle to support the pounding your body takes from running. Strength training also makes you a more durable, injury resistant, athlete. No matter what kind of strength training you choose make sure it’s something you like. There are tons of options available out there from Crossfit to spin class so you’re guaranteed to find something fun.
Listen. Pay attention to what your body is telling you on a daily basis and you’ll be able to head off any injury before it happens. Injury free running isn’t a dream. It’s a reality if you’re able to pick up on what your body needs. A day off? An adjusted workout? What about that massage you’ve been waiting for? Stop waiting, rest up and tone it down. No one know what your body needs better than you if you’re willing to listen to it.
Gear Check. From chaffing to shin splints worn out, poorly fitted gear or improper gear can lead to disaster. If you’re tackling trails, don’t wear your track spikes. Be aware of training environment and dress appropriately. Check in regularly with your clothing and especially your running shoes. Crummy old shoes love creating problems from lack of support. Stay injury free by having the right gear in the right condition.
Eat. While every runner has different nutritional needs, eating is important. Eating too much can lead to weight gain and numerous health issues while eating too little means your body can’t recover or build muscle like it wants to. Poor nutritional habits can result in stress fractures, excess fatigue and bad workouts. Consult a professional when designing your meal plan to make sure you’re taking in enough calories to stay injury free.
Can I run? Should I run? Wondering if you’re too sick to run is a common questions for runners. This is a tough question to answer. Everyone reacts to feeling badly differently and we all recover at different speeds. What one person can do with a slight head cold might not work for another. Here are a few tips to help you determine if you should hit that session or stay inside.
Weather. Take into account the weather. Bad weather isn’t going to help you get well. Heading out into cold, windy or wet conditions when you’re feeling crummy isn’t a good idea. Working out can put a lot of stress on your body so don’t make it even tougher but adding adverse outdoor conditions. Have an indoor or cross training session instead of braving the elements if possible and don’t worry about one or two missed workouts. You’re better off being healthy!
Move Around. Sometimes getting up and moving around can help you feel better all on its own. Increasing circulation and putting muscles to work will kick your body into repair mode. We tend to be idle when we aren’t 100% and that can make things worse. If it feels more like lack of motivation than actual sickness, get up and move.
The Neck Rule. If your symptoms are above your neck, say a runny nose and mild headache, you’re good to go. When symptoms present below your neck, such as coughing or weakness, you should probably skip out. The single exception to this rule is a fever. If your temperature is climbing, stay put and enjoy some chicken soup with a movie.
Activity Level. Many tapering marathoners catch colds. Their bodies are so used to repairing and fighting during months of training that when they take a breather the immune system goes bonkers. You’re probably not too sick to run if that’s your situation. You won’t be doing any incredibly challenging workouts anyway, so enjoy those few light weeks even if you’re not 100%.
Training is hard work. There are tons of factors that play a role in getting you to the starting line without any serious bumps in the road. One of the most important, however, is staying motivated and on track with workouts and recovery. The best way to do this? A running buddy!
A running buddy is more than just someone to complain with then the weather is bad or celebrate with when you hit that freshly earned PR. Here are three of Team ECRPs favorite reasons to gather up all of your running friends and hit a workout together.
Better workouts. Whether you’re on the track with your running buddy or a stranger, having some competition will help you push yourself a little bit more. Like going out with the fast crowd at the start of a race, we all want to be in the front. If your buddy is a faster runner, they might pace you for a speed session where you’re more likely to work harder and stay consistent. If your buddy isn’t quite as quick as you, let them help you take it easy on a recovery day.
Socialize. There’s nothing as tasty as those post race beers. It’s even better when you have your training partner to celebrate with after you cross the finish. A running buddy can introduce you to tons of people. A running network is a great way to find your next race, explore new places to run or discover a perfect new piece of gear.
Accountability. It rains. It snows. Outside can be cold or hot or windy. On those tough days when you’re lacking motivation or the weather’s bad, your running buddy is there. You’re going to show up when you know someone is waiting for you. The suffering you endure together creates toughness you’ll need on race day. It makes memories and can help you see the bright side of a not-so-good workout.
The really good news is that you can have as many running buddies as you want. That’s one of the benefits of joining your local running group. You’ll find a friend for any distance or any speed and rock your workout together.
Winter training is hard. It’s dark, cold, windy, snowy or worse. Unfortunately, working out during the bleak winter months is a must if you’re aiming for a spring race. On the flip side, it can be fun to experiment and explore new avenues for staying on track with your training. Here are three ways Team ECRP stays on track to rock their spring races.
Mix it up. Try new things. Crappy weather outside can force you indoors for workouts. That doesn’t always mean the treadmill. Try a spin class or going for a swim. You can easily replace some of your easy aerobic runs with another activity that requires an equal effort without risking feeling like you’ve missed out. You might even find something you really enjoy and want to stick with when the weather warms up.
Find a friend. Or five or fifty or more. Joining a training team or local running group can help you accomplish things you might not have ever imagined. Running with a group can provide you with that accountability that helps you drag yourself out of bed on those dark, bone chilling (until you’ve warmed up) mornings. A group can also help block wind while bringing laughter and memories that will keep you warm for a lifetime.
Be prepared. Have a plan in place to deal with bad weather days. Make sure you warm up before you head outdoors and have a dry set of clothes waiting for your return. Most importantly, prepare your mind. Be flexible with your winter training plan, unafraid to switch workouts to different days or perform a substitute activity. Be sure to listen to your body but realize that pushing through a yucky run or two will only make you more prepared for race day. You never know what you’ll face at the starting line.
Use these tips to power through your winter training and be ready when the weather’s nice to hit any goal you set.
Any runner who has looked to improve their speed or fitness has at least thought about using heart rate training to get better. Heart rate training means using a heart rate monitor either on your wrist or around your chest to constantly measure your heart beat during exercise. This training method bases workouts on target ranges.
Some people have great success with heart rate training while others prefer to run by feel. Here are a few of the pros and cons to training based on heart rate to help you decide if it’s right for you.
PROS Slow down. Many runners get stuck working medium hard too often. That can lead to over training or, even worse, a serious injury. It’s difficult to separate levels of intensity using the talk test unless you’re very experienced. Heart rate training can help give guidance on just how easy the easy runs need to be.
Know your numbers. Knowing what your resting and max heart rates are can be a great gauge of fitness. If one goes down and other goes up you know you’re improving.
Stay in the zone. Just like knowing your numbers can let you know if you’re improving, they can let you know how to work out. You’ll want each workout to be a specific heart rate zone to create the desired adaptation.
CONS Too many variables. There are a wide variety of things that can change your heart rate that have nothing to do with your workout. You naturally have a higher heart rate in the afternoon than in the morning. Hydration, weather, sleep, stress and diet can all also play a major role in how hard your heart works while you’re exercising. This many opportunities for variance make it difficult to compare apples to apples.
Inaccurate. Especially when working at a very high intensity level, most heart rate monitors don’t respond fast enough to really let you know what’s going on. Breezing through a few 100M repeats? No way you’re going to get accurate data off a wrist watch. Receivers can get sweaty and malfunction. They can sense things that aren’t really going on. It might pick up a close by heart rate monitor even if it’s on someone else.
Get stuck. It’s easy to become a slave to data. Paying constant attention to your heart rate can end up stopping you from pushing yourself hard when you need to and that won’t lead to improved performance.
Every training plan includes a long run each week, ten days or two weeks. They can be six miles or 25 miles but they’re a part of any quality training plan. The aerobic benefits are massive while long runs also build mental strength and physical durability. Mixing up your long run by adding a different challenge to it can make training both more fun and more effective. Try one, or all, of these favorites from Team ECRP during your next training cycle.
Slow + Steady. The regular long run, performed at an easy pace, holds the pace steady for its entire duration. This is the best type of run when you’re starting to increase mileage or tackling your first 20 miler. It strengthens your legs and your mind by making you push through the point of being tired. You’ll build resistance to feeling tired and teach your body to burn fat, our best source of stored energy. It also won’t leave you physically or mentally exhausted to the point that you aren’t up for it as often as you should be.
The End. A fast finish long run simulates those final miles of a hard race. The last 10k of a marathon and the last kilometer of a 5k are both challenging when you’re going for a new personal record. A finish fast run will help build strength for late in the race, develop that closing kick so many runners look for and make you mentally strong. You’ll run the last few miles of your run at goal race pace or maybe the last 1.5 as hard as you can. For marathoners, this hard workout is also a chance to check in on fueling and hydration strategies for race day.
The Race Pace. Running miles are your goal race pace is an absolute necessity but not all of your miles should be that speed. Adding them to your long run is another way to push your limits and adjust to feeling tired. After a proper warm-up, do some miles at race pace. Run a recovery mile then do more miles at goal race pace. Examples include 3-2-1 with a mile recovery between or, for marathoners, 5-4-3-2-1.
Surge Run. This run is just what it sounds like. You get to surge every so often and run faster. Start these later in your run, after the halfway point. Pick things up to 5k pace for one minute then recover for five minutes. You can eventually lengthen the surges, decrease recovery time or add more repeats. Like the other long run variations, this type of workout will build strength, mental toughness and resistance to fatigue.
No matter what kind of long run enhancement you choose, it will be a hard workout. Account for the mental and physical toll it will take in your recovery and upcoming training plan.