Do you feel like you’re running in place even when you’re running as hard as you can?
Many runners feel that way, so you’re not alone. Because if you like running, then chances are you want to run faster. Especially if you run any races. Hey, it’s natural to want to beat your time from your last race. Or to set a PR (personal record). After all, who doesn’t want to run faster?
But even if you aren’t into races, or you are not super-competitive, or you just run for fun and fitness, you still probably want to run faster. It’s human nature.
Yet the formula for running faster isn’t always simple to figure out. There’s no single workout plan that is “guaranteed to make you run faster in 6 weeks or your money back.” Well, maybe there is … but that doesn’t mean it actually works!
Why is running faster so hard to achieve?
You see, there are several factors that can influence how fast you can run. Here are the top 3:
- Your genes
- Your effort
- Your running plan
The first one (your genes) you can’t control, obviously. Sure, you can maximize the physical skills you were born with. And even the slowest among us can still run faster with the right type of training. But not everyone can be Usain Bolt!
The second one (your effort) you can clearly control. But if effort is all you rely on, you probably won’t see much change in your running speed. Especially since too MUCH effort can actually be counterproductive!
The third one (your running plan) – well, that’s where you can really make a difference in your running performance!
There are lots of good running plans – which can be both good and bad. The key is to find one that fits your schedule, your current ability level, and that you can “tweak” to fit your needs. But even the best plan still has the potential to “flop” if you are making these 5 mistakes:
1) You run too much
If a little is good, more is better, right? Wrong! When you first start out, you’ll see improvement when you run more just because your body is getting used to the new activity. But over time, running too much – either too many days a week, or too many miles, or both – will lead to burnout, not success. So you need to have a plan that works right for your fitness level and goals. Then follow it. As you become a more advanced runner, you will need to run more to improve more. But you can’t force that to happen – gaining speed takes time. And be sure to listen to your body, especially on those days when rest is better than pushing harder!
2) You run too little
On the other hand, if you don’t run enough you won’t get faster either. There’s no magic number for the correct number of days to run, but running more than five days will probably get you hurt (unless you’re an experienced veteran). And running less than three days a week won’t give you enough time on your feet to see any improvement (unless you do a lot of cross-training with other aerobic activities). There are plenty of sample running plans to follow that will point you in the right direction. But don’t be afraid to tweak them a little as you learn what works for you, and what doesn’t!
3) You run too fast, too often
If you want to run fast, you need to train fast. Makes sense. But like many things in life, too much of a good thing leads to diminishing returns. So true with running! Speed work has its place in any running plan. But only in moderation. If you run fast every run, you’ll just be pushing yourself quickly into the ground! Be strategic about training fast. And spend most of your running time at lower intensity (meaning, run slow!) so you allow yourself to run more frequently and efficiently.
4) Your running is too inconsistent
This might very well be the single most important factor of all – running consistently! Being consistent doesn’t mean being rigid and running through injuries or missing family events or running every single day. And it doesn’t mean you have to run the exact same number of days, week after week, month after month. But you do need to keep on running if you want to keep on improving! And yes, sometimes you have to run when you DON’T have the time, or DON’T have the energy, or just DON’T feel like it. The only way to get faster at running is to keep running regularly.
5) Your running is too random
One of the best running workouts you can do is a fartlek. A what? Yep, a fartlek. Basically, it’s a term for running a variety of different intervals (like running fast until the next street sign, or sprinting from one tree to the next). These random “bursts” of speed can be VERY effective (and make for a fun speed workout!) But being too random with your running plan will not give you the results you want. If you use too much variety then you’ll never build up your speed or endurance. Ideally, you want to gradually and strategically build up your miles and increase your pace – your speed will improve as you stick with it!
Running is one of the BEST activities for people of all ages. It’s fun. It’s a great workout. It’s relatively inexpensive (but please don’t skimp on a good pair of running shoes). And it can be very interactive and socially enjoyable, especially if you join a running group or sign up for a race.
So if you want to get faster – either to improve your race time, or just to feel “awesome” while you run for fun – do yourself a favor, and find a really good running plan, stick with it, and before long you’ll be running faster than ever. Here’s to being the best runner you can be!
Featured photo credit: Photo from Funk Dooby via flickr.com