6 Ways To Get Faster, without upping your training

fast runner on roadMost of us would like to be able to run just that little bit faster. Improve on that 10k PB, even if it’s only by the smallest amount. Or maybe you’re trying to maintain the times you did when you were a bit younger? It’s not so easy once you hit 40 is it? Whatever your situation, there are plenty of simple things you can do to shave more than just a few seconds off your time. Here are six of them.

1. Extend your sleep time.

We all know that chronic sleep deprivation causes you to function below par. For those of you with children, think back to when they were babies, and the permanent daze you were in. (Maybe you going through that now).

Sleep experts reckon seven to nine hours of sleep per night for adults is the right amount, whilst teens should be getting nine to ten hours a night. If you’re falling asleep before your head hits the pillow, and have to wake up to an alarm every morning, then you’re probably not getting enough sleep. If you take about 20 mins to travel to the land of nod, and wake up without an alarm, then you’re probably getting enough -as long as that is more than 7 hours a night.

Simply getting the right amount of sleep will improve your performance, but studies have shown that by taking it a step further and extending your sleep time to 10-11 hours a night over a period of several weeks, your performance will improve measurably.

How good is that? And don’t worry if you’re the type who tosses and turns the night before a big race worrying you will sleep through your alarm! The sleep you get the night before a race doesn’t have nearly as much impact on your performance as your penultimate night’s sleep does.

2. Lighten Up

You’ll go faster if you can lose a few of those extra kgs you’re hanging onto for that famine that never comes. As a rule of thumb, for every 1% loss of body mass – primarily as body fat-there will be an approximate 1% increase in running speed. If you’re looking at weight loss as a performance booster, don’t crash diet for two weeks before a race. Instead, gradually lose a few kgs at a rate of about 500gms a week. Dramatic weight loss may adversely affect not only your performance, but your health as well.

Let’s have a look at the maths.
Current Weight = 65kgs
10km time = 50 mins ie 5mins per km, or 12kms per hour

If you lose 1% body fat
weight loss = 650 gms – that’s not a heap in anyone’s book
10km time improves by 1% ie, 50 mins x 99%=49.5

So there you have it. A 30 second PB by losing 650 gms.

3. Make sure you have lightweight new(ish shoes)

The heavier your shoes, the slower you will run (see point 2), so going for a lighter weight model makes sense.  Generally you will need to transition into lighter weight shoes over time to reduce your risk of injury.

Newer shoes could be slightly lighter as well – the older the shoe, the more chance it has to gather moisture. Buy 2 pairs of shoes you like, and keep one pair for a bit of dry weather training to wear them in, and for racing. Every little bit helps.

4. Let your body recover

Be sure to include plenty of recovery time in your training program. That means amount of time between training sessions, as well as including a recovery week every 3-5 weeks. It also means tapering before an event. As a rule of thumb, marathoners will start to taper 3 weeks out from an event, 2 weeks for half marathoners, maybe a week for 10ks, and anything shorter at least a few days to a week. That means reducing your mileage substantially, and listening to your body. If it’s telling you it’s tired, it is. Let it rest.

Other important recovery strategies are

massage – find someone who can give you a great sports massage, and also learn how to massage yourseslf
sleep – as discussed above
good nutrition – a good recovery drink after long runs which has electrolytes as well as a 3:1 or 4:1 carbohydrate to protein ratio. A diet rich in fruit and vegetables and unprocessed foods.

5. Good Hydration

Your performance can start to decrease when you lose as little as 1% of your body weight in fluids. That could be as little as 2 cups of fluid, depending on  your body weight. It’s such an easy thing to rectify. Find out more about hydration for running performance.

6. Attention to detail

As well as paying attention to all of the above, be prepared on race day.

Try out a few pre-race breakfast strategies before race day so see what suits you best.

Try out your nutrition strategies for the race during training. Never take gels, chomps, sports drinks etc in a race that you haven’t already tried. You could find you’re making a pit stop at the loo. High concentrations of simple carbs can cause all sorts of intestinal upsets.

If your race is in the morning, get up early to train so that you are replicating race conditions as closely as possible

Know the course (or not, depending on your personality). For me, I look to know where I’m running, where the hills will be, where the drinks stations are, etc. Others don’t seem to mind, but if you’re like me, try to run over at least part of the course in training.

Don’t delay your training session if it happens to be raining when it’s scheduled. It might be raining on race day

Bring layers of warm clothes you can discard on race day. Keep them on even after you have entered the starting area. You could be waiting quite a while till you start.

Bring toilet paper with you. Bad enough to have to use a smelly port-a-loo if you have a last minute attack of nerves before the race, but VERY bad if you find an empty toilet roll holder!



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Six Secrets to a Successful Fun Run


Secret #1: Consistency

Probably the most important thing with any training program is being consistent. If you’re not consistent with your training, and you are continually starting a program, then missing sessions, your body won’t be able to build on previous training to get fitter and stronger. You will be continually having to go back to the beginning and start again. If you miss a few sessions of your program and don’t drop your training down a bit when you start again, you risk injury as a result of stepping up your program too quickly. The single biggest roadblock to success I see with my clients is a lack of consistency in training.

The good news is, it’s quite easy to be consistent if you plan your training. You just need to be well organised.

Diarise your training time now. Take a pen out and write it in on your calendar, mark it in your electronic diary, however you do it, block your training time out now, for at least the next 6 weeks.  Make sure everyone knows that is your time.  Organise someone else to have your kids, dogs, cat, fish for that time. Don’t let anything get in the way of your training. Make sure you get out rain, hail or shine (but not electrical storms)! Tell your boss you can’t work back as you have an appointment, if working back is going to eat into your training time. If you had a doctor’s appointment you wouldn’t cancel it, so why cancel an appointment you have with the most important person in your life, YOU?

You’ll need to set aside time for 2-5 training sessions a week, of between 30 and 80 minutes (depending on the distance you are running and the level of training you want to do).


Secret # 2: Set Yourself  a Goal

Write your goal down. Set aside some time to think about what your goal is. Is it  to complete a fun run without stopping, or to run most of the way, or to raise a certain amount of money for charity, or to beat a previous best time, or to win the event outright? Whatever your motivation, write it down, say it out loud, put it out there. Be realistic about your goal. It’s great to aim high, but there’s not much point in aiming so high that you never quite hit your goals. Anyone who has an HR department in their workplace will probably have sat through lots of goal setting sessions, but it’s worthwhile reminding you here about setting SMART goals.

Your goals should be Specific – what are you going to do, how are you going to do it? A general goal would be “ to improve my running”. A specific goal would be “to improve my 5km run time by 15 seconds by the end of this training period” or by a specific date.

Your goals should be Measurable.  Create a goal with measurable progress so you can see the change occur. eg I will beat my previous best time, or better still and more specific, I’ll beat my previous best time by 30 seconds” or “I’m going to run every step of the way”

Your goals should be Achievable and Attainable.  For a goal to be attainable, achieving that goal needs to be important to you. If you don’t really mind what time you complete a 10km run in, then setting a goal of 60 minutes for 10km is not really going to motivate you to train to achieve that time. If what’s really important to you is losing a couple of kgs, and you’ve chosen running as a way of helping you to lose those kgs, then set yourself a weight related goal, rather than a goal centred on running. If however you are driven by beating your husband in a 10km race, set that as your goal. It will be far more attainable if tie your goal to what’s really important to you.

Your goals should be Realistic. This does not mean “easy”, it means “doable”. The goal needs to be realistic for you and where you are at the moment. I would be driven by the thought of beating my husband in a fun run, very driven in fact, but I also know that this is totally unrealistic as there is no way I will even come close to beating him unless he breaks both his legs. So setting myself a goal of beating my husband in our next 10km fun run is setting myself up for failure from the start, and I know. Instead of motivating me, the goal would totally demotivate me. I’d be better off setting myself the goal of improving on my personal best time by a greater percentage than he improves on his. That would definitely give me some bragging rights!

Your goals should be Timely.  With no time frame tied to it there’s no sense of urgency. Setting a clear time frame gives you a target to work towards.


Secret # 3: Be prepared to run slowly

This is particularly relevant if you are just getting back into running after a log break, or you have never really run much before. It’s important for a number of reasons. Like any sport, if you start out too hard to soon, you increase your risk of injury. Running puts quite a bit of stress on your body. The faster you run, the greater impact on your body.

Running slowly also allows you to run more, both in a single bout of training and cumulatively across your training program. The greater volume of training can be more beneficial for aerobic adaptations such as increased capilliarisation and mitochondrial density.


Secret # 4: Be prepared to run fast

You need to fresh enough after your long runs to be able to put in a good effort in interval training sessions to reap maximum benefit. You won’t be fresh from your long runs if you run them too fast, so being prepared to run fast (in some sessions) means you need to run slowly in other sesions. In a nutshell, running intervals will get you fit quick. Regular interval training will enable you to run faster for longer. It helps you to practice running faster without killing yourself, as you have recovery breaks, (or intervals) between each work bout. It can be tough runnning intervals on your own, so come along for a free trial at one of our interval running training groups, and see how running with a group can up the intensity.


Secret # 5: Increase your distance gradually

The rule of thumb for increasing your mileage is to keep it under a 10% increase each week. This applies to your total mileage, not just the length of your long run. This will help to minimise the risk of overuse injuries, or over training. Over training simply means you’ve trained too much and you are not giving your body enough time to recover. The training effect actually takes place when you are resting, not when you are training, so remember to include one week every 3-5 weeks where you ease off on your mileage.


Secret # 6: Plan your training.

Most campaigns come unstuck due to lack of planning. You rarely get the best out of yourself if you don’t have a training plan, guiding you towards your goal. Once you’ve set yourself a goal, write yourself a training plan and stick to it. The length of your training plan will depend on your goal. If you’re training for something even just 4 weeks away, a plan will help you get the most of the training time you have left. If If you need help with a training plan, Hooked on Health offers on-line training programs for all fun run race distances, from 4km to Marathons and beyond.


Find out more about our online distance running training programs.