5 Easy Steps to a Personal Best
I get asked all the time what is the best way to get better at running. Here’s 5 easy steps you can take to help get you started.
1. Set a Goal
The first thing you should do before you start running and training hard is asking yourself the question…..
What do I want to achieve?
You may just want to run now and again to keep fit as you enjoy running – which is completely fine! Keep doing what you’re doing and enjoy it!
But if you’re looking to beat times and position well in races, then this needs a bit more planning and specificity.
I would always recommend entering a race, and writing that date in your diary as well as a target time or position! This can be YOUR GOAL! From this, you know what distance you’re covering and how long you have to train for it. A good time frame is 6-12 weeks.
You can also start to work out what sort of times you want to run by determining your own fitness level now! Only by doing a time trial or practice race can you know how fit you are. Don’t be scared to do this – it’s better to know EXACTLY how fit you are then have no idea at all.
Once you know what your goal is, then you need to put plans into action. Write out your plan, whether it’s 4 weeks, 6 weeks, 12 weeks and STICK TO IT! Keep referring back to your goal that you wrote down in your diary at times when you’re motivation is lacking. HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT GOAL TO YOU?
2. Lose Excess Weight
A lot of people carry excess weight when running. It’s important that you find your optimal weight to be able to perform to your best. This means losing body fat. Excess body fat serves no purpose in running and just makes you have to work harder to carry the weight. Think of your body as a car that is fully loaded. If there is lots of excess weight, the car won’t move so well, and wastes more fuel than it would if it was lighter.
This is exactly the same as carrying excess weight in a race. The best way to lose excess body fat in my opinion is to follow a gluten and wheat free nutrition plan – whilst eliminating processed foods and dairy and limiting alcohol consumption. This only needs to be for a short period of time initially, before you can introduce SOME foods. By following a nutrition plan rich in meat, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables and LOTS of water – you’ll lose excess fat, increase your energy levels and recover better from training runs. All of these will help you to become a better runner.
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3. Train Fast
Sounds simple right? Well, running is a pretty simple sport. Train Faster, Race Faster.
If you’re only running for long periods of time at a slow pace, your body will adapt and will get REALLY GOOD AT RUNNING SLOW! I haven’t met a person who has a goal to RUN SLOW!
Change the speeds that you train at…
Do some sprints
Do some 2 minute faster efforts with rest periods in between (walk, or jog)
Run 3 miles at a faster pace than you would for a jog
I see so many people who think it’s all about running LOTS and LOTS of miles, and they get pretty good at running LOTS and LOTS of miles… but when they’re not hitting their targets for races and aren’t happy with their performances…. WHAT IS THE POINT OF IT ALL?
If you want to achieve a time in a race, this means you want to run fast. So you’re training should reflect that. BE SPECIFIC!
4. Run How you Feel
On days when you’re not feeling so good, it’s important that you don’t push yourself too hard. This may be after a tough training session the night before or if you’ve had a hard day at work etc. Don’t panic and think you have to push your body to its limits every time you run. If you’re feeling very tired, just leave it and then do your session the next day when you’ve had more rest.
Also, get to know the difference between good pain and bad pain.
An example of good pain is when you’re legs are burning from the training intensity, or your breathing rate is higher – these are good stressors on the body and will help to improve you.
Bad Pain is when something is hurting – such as an injury or headache.
If you’re feeling any bad pain whilst running – take this as a sign that something is not right. Stop, or slow down. Don’t run through an injury, as that injury is likely to become worse. Rest up and recover.
5. Be Consistent
Focus on getting consistent weeks and months of solid training – you should be looking to get a variety of training such as strength and conditioning, hill running, trails, intervals, and tempo runs. Endurance is not built after 1 or 2 weeks – it is built up over weeks, months and years.
For example, don’t kill yourself off in training on a Monday and then not be able to train for a week. Take small steps and make training something you enjoy and can do at least 3-4 times per week.
Doing a 4 mile run three times per week is better than doing one 12 mile run per week. You’ll also be able to run faster in those 3 runs than you would in the 12 miles – again going back to TRAIN FAST (Step Number 3).
Being consistent in all of the 4 Easy Steps above will help you to improve MASSIVELY! Consistency is always the key.
Thanks for reading.
Luke is the North East Running Leader of the Year and coaches runners of all abilities with Run Eat Sleep.
He is also the South Shields parkrun Event Director and Hosts the Run For Fun Podcast.
Luke runs for Gateshead Harriers and has Personal Bests of 15.39 for 5k, 32.11 for 10km and 70.57 for Half Marathon.