Running is, for many, an incremental process. You shave a minute off here, go slightly further there, and build up stamina until you reach your target, rather than making huge changes to your training suddenly. This steady and measured improvement is regarded by many as one of the best ways to improve your running, and we've put together some top tips to help you meet your targets...
1 Set A New Goal
Ok, so you've nipped that 60 minute mark for the 10k. Previously that has given you the motivation to keep training, but now that you've achieved it you should set yourself a new goal. Always ensure that whatever goal you set yourself is achievable, for example, you could aim to reduce the time it takes you to run a 10k by 5 minutes, or even aim for a half marathon later in the year.
2 Increase Your Strength
Try having a hill rep-session once a week, on a hill that takes you about 2 minutes to run. Run fast up the hill for 2 minutes, then run back down at an easy pace for a little longer - you can repeat this 6-12 times to help increase your strength.
3 Try Different Runs and Routes
Vary the terrain on the longer run days - hitting the hills, flat out on the flats or just going with a different person can all be great ways to vary your running and challenge and motivate yourself further!
4 Increase Your Leg Speed by Adding A Speed Session
You can do this anywhere - you don't need to be on a track, you just need a couple of lampposts or a watch. Jog to one lamppost, then run faster to the next, or try jogging for one minute and running faster for the next. Alter the speeds and distances you do these at so that shorter runs are more difficult, but longer runs are more moderate. Interval training like this can be a great way to improve your speed - but don't forget to warm up and cool down well before and after intense sessions!
5 Add A Day
Perhaps, until now, two days a week has been sufficient to help you improve, but fitness is very sports specific, so if you're serious about improving your running, then nothing will help more than more of it! It's best not to get too attached to only one form of exercise though, so remember to cross-train in the pool, or on your bike on a day when you don't run.
6 Keep Well Fuelled and Hydrated
If you want to perform well, reduce injury risk and improve your recover time then these must be two keystones in your training regime! If you are as little as 2% de-hydrated your performance can drop by 10-30%. Drink plenty of non-caffeinated and non-alcoholic fluids before, during (if appropriate) and after sessions. Eat something light within about 1 or 2 hours after your training as this is when your muscles will be most receptive to refuelling.
7 Listen To Your Body
The more you run, the more you will get in tune with your body. If you are feeling good, then try running a little bit further or harder - but by the same token, if you feel unusually tired or any aches or pains it might be better to go a bit easier on yourself, as these can be warning signs that you are overdoing it. If something doesn't feel right then have an easy day, or give yourself a day off.
8 Avoid Injury
Nothing is more frustrating than injuring yourself and all your dedicated training coming to a halt. Here are a few top tips for keeping injury at bay - but don't forget that if you are injured, you need to let your body heal before you start pushing it again!
- Don't up your milage by more than 10% a week.
- Always have a good warm up and cool down at either end of your session.
- Ensure that you are wearing appropriate footwear.
- Maintain your core strength. It can only take a few simple exercises or a regular yoga or pilates class to keep you in top form.
- Try having a sports massage every so often to help release tight muscles and promote recovery!