Improving Your Run Time

Want to run faster? As you become more comfortable running, you may start to wonder, how can I boost my speed and cardiovascular fitness? While running training with intervals of time or distance is essential for this, strengthening your body and cross training are also key to making mileage gains or dropping your run times. They’ll also help with injury prevention, another huge key to keeping your running on pace.

YYC Fitness spoke to Tammara Francis, November Project co-leader, group fitness instructor, personal trainer and boxing instructor for some tips to improve your speed and shoot for that elusive PB.

Francis recommends 3 focussed runs a week where you are either running intervals/tempo, running hills or doing a long run.

For running intervals ( run/walk or rest for different times) or tempo runs (run at specific speeds for distances) you may want to use a treadmill, track or a relatively flat and uncrowded pathway. The Glenmore and Foothills athletic parks which are both open until September 30 are free to use during specific hours. While grueling, the workouts engage your mind and are great for your cardiovascular system.

If the thought of this doesn’t sound that appealing to you, don’t worry you’ll also get to run for the hills. Hills build leg and lung strength, and give you the foundation of fitness you need to get faster both on hills and in the rest of your running. Once a week, incorporate a variety of hills that take 30 to 60 seconds to climb. As you go up hill, work on staying relaxed. Keep your gaze straight ahead, your shoulders down, and envision your feet pushing up and off the leg, and the road rising to meet you. On the way down, don’t let your feet slap the pavement and avoid leaning back and braking with the quads. That will put you at risk for injury. Try to maintain an even level of effort as you’re climbing up the hill and as you’re making your descent.

As you get fitter, add more challenging hills with a variety of grades and lengths. Calgary has a multitude of diverse hills for people to tackle.

As for the long runs there is a multitude of good paths and trails, including the almost completed Greenway for you to try and get some good mileage in.

For the rest of the days, Francis recommends recovery runs or cross training. This variance in running/cross training keeps your exercise regime from getting stale. Francis also believes cross training equals injury prevention, and longevity in your running. 

While running plans and training schedules seem easy to implement, it can often be easy to fall of track. If you do, don’t make up for lost time. Lots of people get hung up on running a certain number of miles/kilometres per week, and if they miss a day or two, try to cram in extra miles. This can easily lead to injuries. Stick to the training plan as best you can but when life gets in the way—or you feel fatigued or sore—it’s okay to put the workout off until another day, or skip it all together. Rest days are also important to have in the schedule. “Rest days or active rest days let your muscles heal, you put a lot on your body when you run, so taking that time to let your body adjust is just as important as the workout itself,” Francis said.

Another key to running your best is taking care of your body. Sleep as much as possible, keep hydrated and make sure you’re well fueled before the run. Stay well fuelled, keep hydrated, and get as much sleep as possible. Sleep gives you the recovery your body needs.  A healthy diet will help your performance and help you recover from runs/workouts.

Before the run eat a low-fibre, low-fat meal or snack approximately one hour before the workout/run. Here are some ideas:

  • 1 medium banana with 1 tablespoon of nut butter
  • 1 bagel with jam or honey
  • ½ cup steel cut oats with skim milk/dairy alternative topped with 1 cup of sliced blueberries, chia seeds, nut butter
  • 2 oz. pretzels with 2 tablespoons of hummus

If you’re running long distances aim for 30 to 60 grams of carbs per hour when you’re on the run. Even if you’re not hungry or tired, to prevent bonking, keep refueling at regular intervals. 

When you’re racing there’s a reason the saying is “mind over matter.” Every race creates a mental hurdle for people. “You have to be prepared to feel everything, but it’s how you push through that in order to finish is where the mental side kicks in. Being ok with being uncomfortable, feel your pain, then move on, and being mindful of each movement you make and how it impacts everything else,” Francis added.

To keep your mind occupied during the painful parts of a race try thinking of mantras, saying cool words for each letter of the alphabet, and taking in your surroundings to distract yourself.  That being said make sure you don’t keep running if you have a legitimate injury or have reached your physical limit. 

Follow the above advice and you’ll be ready to set a new PB at your next race and will hopefully be having fun along the way.

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