"To improve upon an athlete's personal best, we should not look at the training that he has already done; rather, we should look at the training that he has not already done." -Renato Canova
As Mr. Canova has said, to seek improvement, examine your past training and see if anything is missing. Do not perform more of what you have been. Perhaps in the list below, you will see something that you have not already done. As we know, the most common way to get out of a training plateau is to try something new!
You do not run in groups.
This is applicable to speed workouts and to recovery runs. Just like you are more likely to accelerate faster at a green light if there is another car next to you, at the track you will be more likely to successfully hit all of your goal paces for a speed session or tempo run if other people are observing you. During a recovery run, you can run at the pace of the slowest group member. This will perhaps slow you compared to what you would have done solo. Plus, the occasional group run will likely increase your enjoyment of the sport!
You do not run often enough.
While this is not possible for many athletes, elites will often train 10-14 times per week. Want to run faster? Run more. For us non professionals, even getting out for second, very short recovery run after work will benefit you.
You do not run enough volume.
As you saying goes, “practice makes perfect”. Running is a practice. A practice of forward movement. Aside from the obvious physical benefit of running more, you’ll simply become better and more comfortable at the movement of running.
You do not perform enough key workouts
Always doing long slow distance or constantly going medium easy too often will not help you improve beyond that level. You need to provide stimulus for your body to improve.
Your training plan does not progressively improve.
The key workouts each week should progress as the weeks and months pass. For example, an athlete may begin with 8 x 400m at 800m race pace. It can progress to 8x600m at that same pace, or perhaps 14x400m at the same pace. Either way, it’s building in speed and/or distance!
You are not running fast enough.
Regardless if your goal is a 5k or a marathon, speed work pushes your upper level up, and speed work impacts all race distances. If you cannot hold 6:55 per mile for a half marathon, forget 7:15 for a full marathon.
You are not resting properly during speed workouts.
Do not be afraid of extended periods of rest between repetitions of intense running. While your overall workout may be slower or shorter, you will benefit more from running 400m reps in 1:20 with 2 minutes of walking rest than running those reps in 1:30 with 1:00 of jogging rest.
You do not warm up
I distinctly remember my only grade school track meet. I refused to warm up before my race because I thought it was silly to run before a race. Luckily I know better now! Very slow running with short bursts of quick strides, followed by dynamic stretching, will ease your body into a race or key workout. It’s simply a mistake to not perform a warm-up before hard efforts.
You are discontent
Relaxation and rigidity are important in running, but they must come at the correct times. Immediately before striking the ground, the leg muscles of elite runners tense more than those of new runners. This helps increase the elastic recoil, and “pop” those quicker athletes off of the ground and back into the air. Outside of those split seconds, any tension in the body is likely to simply prematurely fatigue you. You must be able to relax while running.
Your technique is lacking
In almost every other sport of repetition, the movement is perfectly practiced. Swinging a golf club, kicking a football, hitting a baseball, or the freestyle in a pool. Yet, people feel they can simply run without a second thought of how they are doing it. This results in overstriding, cross-over gait, excessive vertical oscillation, inefficiency and injury.
Have you added something to your training to get you out of a slump? Discuss and share!
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