Wednesday, May 23, 2012

How to Run Faster

I turned my walk into a run nearly 4 years ago. I wogged along for quite some time before I timed myself or tracked miles. When I finally got around to timing a run, I was around a 12 minute mile pace.  Through the years I have gradually seen that pace dip lower and lower.  It's one of the factors that drive me in my training.  I'm competitive and have high expectations of myself. I like charts and graphs showing progress. I like improvement.  I thrive on results. Running is pretty elementary to me. Keep it simple and you not only get better, but you will fall in love with the run too. The latter being most important for the long term.

One of the most popular questions I receive from readers is... How did you get faster?  I wish there was a magical formula, but I do have a couple theories that have worked for me...

**  CONSISTENCY  **
Just do it. Every damn day. If you take extended breaks, don't expect your running to pick up where you left off. Fight through the slumps (we all have them!).  Even if that means just 1 mile a day, just don't ever ever quit.

**  LIGHTEN YOUR LOAD  **
How much weight you're pulling along has a great influence over your running speed. While this may be self-explanatory, I have been amazed at what a difference 10 lbs can make both in my training and racing. I don't live and die by the scale, but over the years, I have learned one thing... my running speed has a direct correlation to the number on the scale. Research has shown that, on average, runners get two seconds per mile faster for every pound they lose.  Let's do the math... when I started running, I weighed 60 lbs more than I do today and ran about a 12:00 pace.
60 lbs x 2 seconds = 120 seconds  
If the research is correct, I should be running exactly 2 minutes per mile faster.  And by golly, YES!  It's just about right on, as my average pace now waivers around 9:45.

**  INTERVAL TRAINING  **
Lastly, the type of training you do makes a huge difference in your race times. When I started doing speed intervals last spring, I was leary... and scared!  They sounded complicated and the foreign-looking formulas (2x200m, 3x400m, 4x400m) confused the crap out of me. But once I started figuring it out and actually running them at full steam, it became fun. Fun in the sense that my times got faster as the weeks went on. Even now, running intervals has become a bit of a game for me (especially when you run them with friends!).

So let me break down the intervals I did yesterday as an example... I ran 4x400, 4x800.  The first number is the quantity (4), the second number is the distance (400 and 800).  The distance is almost always listed out in meters.  400 meters (or 1/4 mile) is one lap around a standard track (4 laps = 1 mile).  An 800 then is 1/2 mile or 2 laps around the track.

Always start with a warmup of 15-20 minutes of running at an easy comfortable pace. Then it is highly suggested to do some butt-kick and knee-lift drills; five minutes will suffice. When running short intervals like 200-400-600's, your pace should be fast and difficult. Talking sentences should not be a possibility, but you should be able to still gasp out a "We're rocking this!" to your partner.  Upon completing each interval, take a recovery interval (RI). I suggest jogging or walking a 400m or at least 3 minutes.  Then hit the next interval fully recovered.

Using my stopwatch, I compete with myself on every interval.  I make a fun game out of trying to beat my previous time or keep them as consistent as possible.  My goal yesterday was to keep all my 400m under the 2 minute mark.  Until last week, I had never hit a sub-2 minute lap.  I was beyond thrilled to crank out 1:54, 1:53, 1:43, 1:48 yesterday! Proof that my recent interval training is working.

I'd love to hear that you read this and give the track a try! I'm happy to answer any more questions you may have about intervals. More in-depth reading on interval training here.

My buddy Anna & I hit the track yesterday.
She's fast and a challenge to keep up with!
By golly, don't forget to hydrate!
Summer is here and track workouts can be taxing without any shade cover.
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22 comments:

  1. I appreciate the interval breakdowns... they definitely are some intimidating looking code numbers!

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  2. I read that you should have a basic running foundation of 6 months before starting speedwork, I am now entering into my 8th month and have just started speed work. I am very overwhelmed by the "mathematical" equations, but I like how you explained it. So far I have only done a couple of speed focused workouts and used a 30-20-10 (jog 30 sec, 10k training pace for 20 and then 10 sec sprint, lather rinse repeat for 5 min, recover for 2 then start again) interval that I read about on Runners World. I start training for my first half in 2 weeks. Should I include one speedwork per week? Thanks for the timely article.

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    1. Yes, I should have mentioned a base first. Intervals once a week is plenty. Good Luck with your first half!

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  3. Perfect timing! I've been holding steady onto my 12:40 mile pace for a while now and I was curious about how to change it. Thanks for posting this!

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  4. . Going to the track tonight! I didn't like intervals at first but they kind of grew on me.

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  5. Thank you for this! I am trying to get faster...I think yoga is helping too :)

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  6. I totally agree! As I'm thinning out, my endurance is getting better & my time is lowering. I love seeing faster times!

    Sarah
    www.thinfluenced.com

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  7. Love the "wogged", that is definitely how I felt when I first started with my run/walk intervals. I have managed to shave 2 minutes off my time and lost about 25 lbs.

    Think of it like running with a 10lb. backpack and how much easier it is without it!!

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  8. How do you know if you are allowed to use a track and when? I only see them at the schools and don't know if I'm allowed to be there.

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    1. Just call the school and ask. Some have hours and restrictions and others not... but MOST public schools are open to the public. The closest one to me is really weird about the inner grass - no walking on it... but others are fine with my kids running all over the place.

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  9. Great list... it's funny, the key to running faster is RUN FASTER! That's how I did. Pushed myself on shorter distances and it translated to faster times on longer distances. Great post.

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  10. "She's fast and a challenge to keep up with!" Puhlease gurl you totally held your own! And pushed me to keep going when it hurt! Love doing intervals with you! PS: Love that pic, some sexy bitches right there!

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  11. This is a really helpful post as I transition into speed work for the summer. I need to do better about running daily (even if it is just a mile) and these extra 15 lbs aren't going away on their own!

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  12. Lots of good information here. Good luck with your running, Jess.

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  13. Is doing a tempo run and speed intervals the same or similar? I am planning on my first tempo run, at least on my own, tomorrow for Building Steam! You and Anna are both super inspiring! Last question, how many days should you allow between speed intervals and a race?

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  14. Thank you for the tips! I've finally built what I consider a good enough platform to get more serious and start to focus on improving speed.

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  15. I think I did an interval run more than tempo, since my faster runs were at a 2 min per mile faster pace instead of 20-30 sec faster! Lol

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  16. Jess-I did my first track repeats! I only did 2 100m repeats! I ran 100m walked 100m ran 100m walked 100m. So how is that stated, 2x100m? I have to run at Building Steam tonight, but while hubby and I went out for a walk/run and were near the HS track we decided to try track repeats! Will definetly be doing more! I avoided the track in school and now I want to conquer it! I have been reading this post several times because I really want to improve my pace and I love your tips! Thanks!

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    1. That is awesome Mindy!!! 2x100 is a great start. Try to do them once a week... increase qty and distance as you feel ready. So excited for you to conquer that track!! :)

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