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Struggling to run faster? If you've hit a plateau in your race times, then follow these tips to help you improve your personal best.
1. Don’t get hung up on pace Doing speed sessions week in and week out, can produce different results. Although it’s good to measure yourself by your speed reps, you shouldn’t worry if you’re not as fast one week as the next. Take a less formal approach by swapping timed and measured reps for a Fartlek (speed play) session. See Speed, Interval and Fartlek Training Explained for more information. Warm up for 10 minutes and then just run fast slow between two points, for example lamp-posts or trees.
2. Heart Rate TrainingWorking to heart rate is a great way to measure your success and keep you motivated. If you’d like some more information on your heart rate see What is Heart Rate? Motivation for Running Training. For a tempo run of three to eight miles aim to get your heart rate to 77 to 83 percent of max if you’re a beginner, or 82 to 88 percent if you’re experience. For intervals aim to get it between 95 and 98 percent of max.To find out your max heart rate, have a look at Maximum Heart Rate Training for Runners.
3. Change your training venueIf you train on the road, try a session on the track, or better still do some speed work (to heart rate or time) off-road, or swap speed for a hill session. See Hill Training Explained for more information.
4. Race!If you can’t get motivated to do regular speed sessions by yourself, try a weekly or even once a month parkrun 5k; being in a race setting will motivate you to run fast, and for most runners a 5k race won’t take too much out of you the following week.
5. VisualiseWhen you run fast visualise your heroes running on the track. Okay, you may be round around the edges, and not look like a cheetah – but you can imagine you do. Even the best use images of other great runners to inspire them. Wallace Spearmon, a US sprinter who came in third in the 100M to Usain Bolt in Berlin told the New York Times: “I’ve got to go home and work twice as hard, three times as hard, and put a picture of Bolt above my bed.”
6. Mix it upAdapt your workout if you’re feeling tired, and remember there’s value to every session, even if it’s not as fast as the previous week. After running a PB at the Brighton Half Marathon, I was feeling very tired. I ran hard sessions on Monday and Tuesday so when it came to Wednesday’s planned 7 x 1000m I had nothing in the bank. Instead of dropping the session, I adapted it and ran the 1000m reps at just over half marathon pace. I couldn’t get my body to work at the goal 5k pace, but I still got a good workout. And I was motivated to carry on, safe in the knowledge that my body was still getting a good workout out of its comfort zone.
7. Test yourselfUse a speed test to motivate you. Frank Horwill was a coach at Serpentine Running Club and he devised the 1500m pace test. Take your 1500m time per lap, and add four seconds to it (i.e. your time in seconds/ by 15 to get your 100m, and then x 4 to get a 400m lap). For women you should add three seconds. So if you run 7min/1500m, then your 400m pace is 112secs/400. From this, you can work out your potential over different distances, as follows:
You can then work out the pace for 100m and multiply it by 30 for 5k, 50 for 5k, 100 for 10k and 210 for a half marathon (21k). So in the above example the potential times would be, 14:30 for 3k, 25 minutes for 5k, 52 minutes for 10k and 1:52 for a half marathon.
For more motivational advice see our Motivation for Runners section or, if you're training for the Virgin London Marathon 2012, see our Marathon Training section.
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