I Wanna Be Faster!
I Wanna Be Faster!
I have many speedy friends in the running community. On my best day, I am a middle-of-the-pack runner. What does that mean? Well, if coyotes attack my running group on the trails (something I am certain will happen some evening), my friends will escape without even breathing heavily; I will be a tasty coyote dinner. If there is a zombie apocalypse, I will be just fine with my 5K pace of 8:30/mile. If the zombies can hang in there past 3 miles, I am brainfood.
If you are a slower runner, you might be tempted to compare yourself to your faster friends and decide that it’s no use trying to improve your time. I disagree. While I don’t compare my running times to those of other people, I do like to set my own time goals and then beat them. There is nothing like the feeling of a PR, especially if you pay yourself five bucks for every PR (See my post about paying yourself for running). So, how can we run faster, even if we don’t run like Meb? Here are some tips for any runner. Use what you like; there is no one plan for everybody.
This is the number one technique (obviously) to getting faster. If you google the term, you will see lots of different methods. Choose anything you want to try; try everything! I like to do speedwork twice a week, and here are some of my workouts:
10s20s30s. This is a great beginner’s method. All you need to do is count or use a watch if you don’t like to count. After a warmup, I run for 30 breath cycles (more on this in the next tip) at an easy pace, then 20 cycles at a moderate pace, then I sprint for 10 cycles. If you are using a watch or the clock on a treadmill, you can do 30 seconds, 20 seconds, 10 seconds. Repeat for 2-4 miles; then, cool down.
Intervals: Warm up for a mile. Run 400 meters (or a quarter mile) at 5k pace. Recover for a minute by walking or slowly jogging. Repeat up to 12 times. Cool down. When you feel comfortable with this pattern, you can either speed up your pace or lengthen your running to 800 meters (or half a mile) for up to 8 intervals. Cool down.
Tempo Runs: Warm up for a mile. Run 3-6 miles at half marathon pace. Cool down. Increase your speed and your middle miles as you get more comfortable.
Your ability to bear discomfort has a lot to do with your breathing. As someone who bore two children, one without an effective epidural, I can tell you that breathing is the number one non-drug way of managing pain. Running faster is a matter of working with discomfort and even sometimes pain. How do you breathe when you run? I read an article (Boy, a better blogger would have that reference for you here, but I can’t find it) that claimed that in-out breathing patterns should be grouped with footstrikes, and they should be in uneven number cycles in order to alternate each side. This is how I breathe when I run: three breaths in (I chant in my head, “In-In-In) and two breaths out (“Out-Out”). Each breath occurs when my foot strikes the ground. It takes practice, but it really helps me to run faster and endure the discomfort that comes with it. I even have mantras that go with those cycles: I am Strong (In-breaths), Runner (Out-breaths); I am Fast, Runner; I Got This, Runner.
Here is something I learned when researching speed work. Do you know why we call 400s or 800s Intervals? The interval part isn’t the running, which is what I originally thought. The interval refers to the recovery. Recovery and rest are super-important for overall health, and you won’t get faster if you don’t respect this. When we work hard, we cause minute tears in our muscles. Protein and rest repair those tears, and the muscles become stronger. If you don’t consume protein, and if you don’t rest, you will continue to strain those muscles, and they will get weaker instead of stronger. It’s that simple. Take a rest day between difficult workouts. Do yoga. Stretch. You’ll be better and faster for it!
Use your newfound strength to race at the Cleveland Marathon series! If you want 10% off registration for any of the races, use my code RUNCLESTEPHANI10 !
Whether you run speedy or slow, I hope you run happy, Peeps!
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