Easy running might seem pointless. How can you get faster if you don’t actually run faster? The truth is you can’t. To improve speed, running economy and endurance you do have to run faster than you are comfortable. But you don’t have to do it all the time, nor do you want to. A balance between hard and easy workouts is the best way to build fitness without risking injury or burnout. The purpose of easy running is to build a foundation. Building this foundation is how your body adjusts to the stresses of road running over time and will ultimately lead to improved race times and a lower risk of injury.
Easy running will help you earn stronger bones, tougher joints, improved running economy, develop slow twitch, fat burning muscles and increased aerobic capacity without beating yourself up. You need fast days to work on turnover and VO2max but easy running days are not necessarily ‘junk miles’ because you’re still working towards a goal. As long as each run has a purpose your time and effort is never wasted.
That’s because going as fast as you can all the time is asking for trouble. Your body has to take care of itself after hard workouts. It has to repair damaged muscle, expand blood vessels and learn to process more oxygen. An easy workout helps clear out waste from muscles, improve circulation and might actually help speed muscle recovery. If you push all the time, those processes never get to finish their jobs and you’re inviting overtraining and burnout. Alternating hard and easy running workouts gives your body a chance to make all of the positive performance enhancing adaptations it can.
Make sure your easy running is just that. Easy. Aim to be at least one minute slower than your goal race pace for the duration of an easy workout. As your fitness level increases it can become hard to slow the pace down. It’s important to remember what the goal of each workout is when you’re out there feeling like you’re not accomplishing anything. Your body has to have time to adapt to training stimuli so you can ultimately increase your performance level.
Training for a big event can be stressful, exhausting and financially draining. Sometimes it feels like all you’re doing to training, eating, working and, hopefully, sleeping. When training becomes a drag it can negatively affect your performance. Here are four ways to keep training fun and reach your goals.
Focus or refocus. Get focused on what your goal is. Maybe it needs to change. Make sure you established an attainable goal to begin with. If you’re training for a marathon and you dread that next long run it might be time to think about switching to the half. Taking the pressure off and revisiting your original goal later will give you a chance to figure out what you’re really in it for without risking injury.
Relax. Odds are there won’t be someone waiting at the finish with a check to reward you for all the hard work. Don’t take your training too seriously. Remember to laugh. Keep training fun by taking it lightly. Yes, it’s good for you but your life doesn’t depend on completing that Ironman. A sprint tri and a few cocktails with friends is probably better. Balance your workouts with everyday life things, not worrying about missed sessions or that last split.
Race more. Adding a few 5k races to your marathon training plan or a duathlon to your Olympic triathlon schedule will give you a break from your routine, give you a chance to gauge your progress and hang out with some other runners. Find a race here to keep training fun, there’s one every weekend!
Change sports. Have you been running and running and running so much it’s a chore? Maybe your body and mind are craving something else. Try hitting the weight room or a month of spinning classes. Just like rechecking your goal, switching up the main activity you practice or learning something new can be just what your body and mind need to keep training fun and avoid overtraining.
Use these tips to keep training fun for the entire length of your program and hit your next fitness goal with ease.
Ultimately the goal of any runner who wants to hit a competitive goal, from breaking a 2 hour half marathon to nailing a sub-15 minute 5k, will have to work on having quicker feet. Running faster is hard work and can sometimes become frustrating. Here are four key elements to becoming a speedier runner and hitting your next racing goal.
Form. Running faster than you currently do is hard work. It’s even harder if your elbows are swinging way out, you’re heel striking or breaking at the hip. Developing proper posture, a mid-foot landing and solid turnover can be the first step in running faster. Having good form should be the base of any quality program and since we all move a little bit differently, it’s a good idea to get together with a coach for a gait analysis before making any drastic changes.
Turnover. Moving your feet faster, increasing cadence and stopping overstriding will help two things. First it can decrease your risk of injury. Increased turnover can help stop heel striking, meaning your foot spends less time on the ground, and it’s hard to get injured in the air. Second, it can make you faster and more efficient. Elite distance runners have an average cadence or step rate of 180 steps per minute reaching upwards to 220spm in elite sprint races while less experienced runners can hover around 165. Getting out there with a metronome to help you find your current beat then trying to stay on it as you increase the speed for several 100M striders is a great way to start upping your turnover and get used to running faster.
Power. The more power you put into the ground with each step, the more will be returned to your legs for the next one. Strength training is the best way to build power. Exercises like box jumps and jump rope mimic the muscle needs you have when running. Sit-ups and push-ups are great for posture and mid-line stability. Sprinting up hills and squatting under loads (with supervision) will build legs that are ready to race.
Practice. To run fast, you have to run faster. If you want to run a 2 hour half marathon, 9:09/mile pace, you’ll need to spend some time training faster. Building VO2Max, improving form and increasing turnover all come from getting out there and pushing yourself hard. Interval and tempo sessions are the best way to work on these things and need to be included in each week’s training plan.
Find a coach to help you get started and you’ll be running faster by the end of this training cycle.
No matter where you live, if you look out the window early on a Saturday morning, you’ll likely see a group of runners smiling as they trot by. Those happy runners are probably all members of a local running club and you can easily join their ranks. Not only is a running club easy to join, there are tons of other benefits to getting involved with a bigger group as well. Here are a few of the good things you get when you team up with your local running club.
Runners are social. When they aren’t actually running, they love to talk about running. They drink beer and talk about what they’re fueling their long runs with. These people can relate to all of the things your non-running friends think make you crazy. Group runs and activities build strong friendships no matter what your speed.
Motivation. Bailing on an 18 Miler a few weeks before marathon day because of bad weather? Not if you’re supposed to meet the gang. Runners want to be out there with friends. Miles go by much faster with some conversation and encouragement. The accountability running with a group provides will help you stay on your training plan and hit any goal you choose.
Guidance. There is inevitably going to be a runner with more experience, speed or injuries than you. Want to run a race? Someone can probably give you the details. Running with someone faster will help make you faster. Hearing about an injury means you’re less likely to get it. A big group of runners is a library full of knowledge that’s just waiting for you dive in.
Safety. Early morning and night are both dangerous times to run on the road and trail. With a group or at least one friend who has the same workout scheduled on the same day to join you, you’re a whole lot less likely to get hit by a car or worse. Two blinking red lights are better than one.
A few more extras that come with joining usually include discounts at running stores and races as well as community service opportunities. To find the closest local running club to you, check out the RRCA website and search by state.