If you have been running for a while and you pace has hit a plateau, do not worry. There are many ways you can increase you running speed and smash through your PB’s. Before I explain how, just take a moment and give yourself a pat on the back for having a performance based goal rather than a weight scale goal. By committing to improving your running speed, not only will you be healthier, fitter and stronger, but your body will naturally change shape (for the better).
1. Ramp up the gears
The first step is to understand that you do have higher gears. You probably feel most comfortable running in gear 2 or 3, but you do have gear 4, 5 and even 6! I like to categorise these out of 10. Your recovery pace will be somewhere between a 3-5/10 which is equivalent to your 2nd or 3rd gear. Start by adding short, fast intervals to your runs. These can be as little as 20 seconds at your 7/10, or 5K pace. You want to try and maintain your 7/10 pace for up to 3 minutes before attempting your 8/10 pace. Once you can achieve 3 minutes at 7/10 pace, try an 8/10 for 20 seconds. This pace is also known as your ‘mile pace’. So the pace you would use to run 1 mile as fast as you can. Work up to maintaining your 8/10 pace up to 2 minutes before practising your 9/10 pace. The 9/10 is almost all out and you should only be able to maintain this for up to 60 seconds maximum.
By altering your gear like this, you are training your lungs, muscles and mind to withstand more stress through the body.
2. Get stronger
A strong body is the foundation for movement. Without proper leg strength, you are limiting yourself and won’t ever experience the real power your body can produce. Being strong doesn’t mean 6 pack abs, or looking like a bodybuilder. It is a merely the ability to recover faster, produce greater force and prevent injuries. Running is a series of repetitive bounds over time which can put up to 3 times your bodyweight through your joints. Having sufficient strength will allow you to run with proper form for longer, and you will be more explosive when leaving the ground. The ideal is 2-3 resistance sessions on non-consecutive days per week to reap the benefits.
Stick to mainly compound exercises alongside running specific conditioning. Examples include squats, deadlifts, lunges, rotations and stability work.
3. Know your nutrition
Let’s face it - we are what we eat. If you were to fill up on slow releasing carbohydrates, healthy fats and quality protein regularly, your body will be in the best place to recover and perform when you need it to. However, poor food choices will equal poor performances both mentally and physically. If you are serious about performance (or aesthetic) based goals, your nutrition must be in order. Of course, you aren’t a robot, so 20% of the time, let yourself go and eat what you wish. Just don’t confuse this with 80% of the time eating nutritionally dense foods.
4. Rest and recover
The time spent recovering is arguably the most important when trying to work towards your goal. Sleep, days off and stretching are all vital to ensure you are refreshed and ready for your next training session. Too much exercise without rest can put unnecessary stress on the body and the chance of injury is greatly increased. Do yourself a favour and plan your days off as well as your training days, get 7-8 hours of quality sleep and stretch after your training sessions.