Four ways to improve your running in a year.
Do you want to run better? Run further or faster? Read on to find out my own experience on how to improve your running in a year!
This time last year I was in a world of feeling very sore and sorry for myself. I’d recently just completed an 11km trail run with my friend, and I was quite unfit, unprepared and unfortunately hadn’t adequately fueled properly prior to the run. This resulted in a “bad” time (what I considered bad), and a poorly executed run.
After living in Darwin for 2.5 years, where running took a back step – one of the fitness pursuits I wanted to get back into was running. I moved back to Melbourne in late 2014, and it took me till May last year, for a catalyst like an awful feeling run to motivate me to improve my running.
It was that point in time that gave me the motivation to run – run more, run better, run longer and quicker!
Where it all started – the pain.
1. Goal setting = baby steps
The first step in achieving anything is setting goals. Without these, you have nothing to base your training, training plan or nutrition on. You also have no structure to your workouts. Each year, I generally visit event/running list sites and check out fun runs and running events that I’d like to participate in. My “go to” runs in Melbourne & Geelong have generally been Run Melbourne, Run 4 the Kids, River Run Geelong and added in others as I’ve seen fit.
At this point in time I have a think about what sort of running I’d like to do – do I want to improve my speed, or just focus on increasing my distance. This determines, what distances I want to run in each event and when.
Action: Write down your next three fun runs you will run in and pin them up
2. A training plan is key
Last year I spent a considerable amount of time working with a running coach at the time, as well as getting advice from the internet and friends on working out a training plan for my planned runs. After my awful experience in May, my next goal was my first half marathon in over 2 years (and second ever), at Run Melbourne in July – which meant a solid training plan to stick to and 2.5 months to train. I also had the Sydney Running Festival Blackmores Half Marathon booked in September, and an aim to do the Sussan Half-Marathon in December too.
With three half marathons planned in one year, I knew that I would have to stick to my training plan or fail.
Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it – Oprah Winfrey
What Oprah says is true! With running, you especially need to stick to a training plan. If you’re aiming to run your first 5km, why not try Couch 2 5k? That handy program will have you running 5k in just nine weeks. With training plans, it’s vitally important to take rest days and not over train. For beginners, I’d recommend no more than 3 runs a week, with an interval run / hill run, a short run and a longer run programmed into your week. When it comes to increasing your mileage, aim for no more than 10% increase each week.
As for cross-training and weights, I can’t recommend improving your core strength enough for running. Back strength is vital! As for weights/ strength work, I also can’t go past hiit/plyometric and body weight movements like lunges, box jumps, squats, jumping squats and more! Thanks to my PT, Loudy over at Mind Body Blitz for improving my running strength & speed!
Action: Get a calendar out and write out a workout plan. Write in pen, grey lead – whatever. Just get it down!
3. Run nutrition – find what works for you
Last year I didn’t trial enough workout fuel types in my training runs. I knew that toast & peanut butter and a banana were my long run breakfast fuel, but for shorter runs (5-10km I generally run fasted). However, where I fell down was that I didn’t trial gels, chews, jelly beans or electrolytes during runs.
I ran into an issue at Nail Can Hill (the trail run where it all started in May) – where I ate Butter Chicken the night before (BIG MISTAKE!) In Sydney I drank electrolytes untested, and ran into issues (although I’d also had the flu that week).
By the time the Sussan Half-Marathon rolled around I knew what worked and what didn’t. It all comes to trying out what works for you, your stomach and your energy levels.
Action: Test, test and test some more.
4. Enjoy the journey
Don’t forget to enjoy the process! The above photo was taken after my second half marathon last year. I went into it with the flu, and didn’t have my best run – but I enjoyed it and the time I spent with my girlfriends over the weekend!
Throughout the winter, it’s tough to find the motivation to train – but knowing there is a goal in sight is what gets you through it all. The friends you make through running are amazing too – the support you receive, text/calls of motivation and support are fantastic.
Then there’s the runs that simply feel ah-maze-ing!
A run begins the moment you forget you are running – Adidas
This was exactly like my run two weekends ago. I tacked the Nail Can Hill run yet again, this time with a lot more training, preparation, a stronger core and stronger legs to back me. In the year I’ve spent running since that awful experience I’ve learnt to trust a training program, trust my strength, learn to adequately fuel my runs so I don’t run out of energy and most of all have fun. The results speak for themselves, I beat my time from 2015 by 10 minutes, and beat my 2011 time (from when I was super fit, and also ran a 10km in 50 minutes) by just under a minute!
Action: Get out there, and run!
So – what have you learnt from your running experience? I’d love to hear about it!