Learn to Run Clinic 3 Recap

The third and final clinic of the year covered how to get faster at the 5K distance. The assumption being that you have built a good foundation of running–your endurance has increased but now you want your legs moving a little faster to decrease your training or race times. The Run@Work Day Committee brought back the panel style, this time inviting two Run@Work Day participants who faired quite well (speedy!) in past Run@Work Day events. I rounded out the panel, again (because I just can’t stop talking about running and I did have a good race in 2013).

“Run fast, kick butt” -Rob’s wife

Rob, a top finisher at the Run@Work Day 5K and avid runner, started off the afternoon clinic. He ran a little in college, but really took off when he was 40 and set his sights on a marathon, which he completed at age 41 (and as many do, bonked at mile 20 i.e. completely ran out of energy in the later stage of the 26.2 mile race). Rob is a big fan of the camaraderie and friendly competitiveness that a running group offers. In regards to getting faster, he shared there are two key things to remember: everyone can get faster and there are no shortcuts. 

Rob emphasized the importance of consistent training. Find a training plan that works for you and use it. Be sure to increase intensity and distance, but not necessarily at the same time or in the same training period (i.e. slowly, at first). Even as you progress, do not increase your distance from week to week by more than 10 percent (as a general rule). In fact, start with a run/walk program and progress from there. Hal Higdon and Runner’s World provide several good training programs. Another important component of training is incorporating core workouts (planks, sit-ups, etc.), cross training (swimming, cycling, etc.) and to back off (rest days) as needed.

To run fast, run fast

Kelsey, another top Run@Work Day 5K finisher, has been running since junior high through college in track & field. She echoed Rob’s suggestion to be consistent in your training. Kelsey also urged the attendees to train at a faster pace. Finding a local outdoor track or indoor track is a great way to get in those faster speeds, such as an interval workout. Another type of speed-based workout is a fartlek which essentially translates to ‘speed play’. A fartlek workout involves running at a moderate to faster pace, then for a shorter amount of time or distance, run faster, then settle back into your starting pace.

Before even getting to those faster workouts, Kelsey noted that a good first step is getting metabolic test (a local gym should offer the service for a fee) to help determine some baseline measures, that you could then use to gauge your running, in conjunction with a heart rate monitor (typically a watch plus chest strap combo). You could also skip all that tech, and just follow the talk test… if you can hold a short conversation that means you’re running a nice easy pace, if you can barely mutter a single word, chances are you’re running hard.

Kelsey touched on motivation as well. Be sure to really consider if you’re not heading out the door because you simply don’t feel like it or you are actually worn out and should take a rest day or two. Dedicate yourself to running fast.

Know where you are right now, and then work from there

My own faster running has come from training for longer distances, that incorporated both increasing my endurance and an emphasis at running specific distances at specific paces. It was hard work! I’d set my Garmin watch for a given pace and then it’d beep at me if I was moving five seconds too fast or too slow. The key for that type of training though, is that I knew I had built a good foundation of training (months of training), before getting into that faster and harder stuff.

Here are a few basic tips I shared with the group:

(Some definitely overlap with the other two panelists, so I think that means we’re on the right track!)

  • Find fast friends and training partners (run with them, occasionally; not for every workout)
  • Run a race to test your current fitness
  • Select a pace goal (ideally based on that ‘test race’)
  • Take rest days (your body needs rest in order to improve fitness)
  • Do yoga and foam rolling as part of your training
  • Start a run with walking and dynamic stretches
  • Stand more throughout the day so your muscles/tissues/ligaments are ready to run later
  • Eat well every day and figure out a diet that works for you with running

My semi-random thoughts on injury prevention:

  • Don’t increase your volume drastically from one week to the next
  • Don’t run if you’re in pain; address the issue with your doctor, chiropractor, physical therapist, fitness instructor, etc.
  • Build strength with weekly hill sprints (find a hill, run up it quickly, jog/walk down it slowly, repeat)
    A clinic attendee made a very good point on this tip–lifting weights and body weight exercises are another great way to build strength

And finally, a few more specific tips for getting faster:

  • Increase your mileage to beyond the 5K distance, so that the 3.1 miles feels easier, endurance-wise
  • Follow the 80/20 rule by running SLOWLY for 80 percent of your workouts and FAST for 20 percent of your workouts (it is common for runners to fall into a pattern of running moderately 100 percent of the time–don’t do that)
  • Select a 5K pace goal and run shorter intervals at a faster pace
  • Try this workout (originally found in the Bulletproof Diet Book) once a week… 5:00 warm-up jog; run hard/fast for 30 seconds, run easy/jog for 90 seconds, repeat the 30 sec/90 sec cycle for up to 15 minutes

What are your questions about getting faster? Do you have any advice for someone that wants to run faster? Share them in the comments!

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