Make improvements by training smarter - for the recreational runners

You can go running every day, but will that make you run quicker times?  Of course it depends on how you train, how you recover, how you fuel and the risk of injuries.  Many recreational runners seem to train hard but they do not all train smart!

Think about your training and ask yourself - How often do I get out of breath during training?
If the answer is "never", or "rarely", then you need to make some changes and give a little more time and thought to how you train.  Don't leave getting out of breath until race day.  You need to experience it at least once per week during training.

Also, pay close attention to what particularly limits you. If you want to go faster, you have to extend those limits, otherwise you will stay right where you are.

Examples of limits
“I should stick within a specific heart rate”
A HRM has some value such as providing feedback but it is only a tool, not the be-all and end-all of training.  There is nothing wrong with getting your HR up towards its maximum that your breathing will allow.  In my opinion it is better to judge effort based on your breathing and how you feel.

“I should only run at a specific pace per mile/kilometer” because my training program says so"
Try a pacing chart and regularly reassess your level.

“I should only run at maximum speed during races”
A runner who trains and never gets out of breath won’t give his/her heart much of a workout either.

“But I have made improvements!  Firstly, I could only manage 2m, then I could complete 5k and now 10k”.
Okay, that is improvement, but what is next?  to complete a half-marathon?  a marathon?  Then what?
Why not reduce the distance and aim to get faster, even if your real goal is the longer races.

“Oh but isn’t running faster the harder option?”
WRONG! Running a 5 hour marathon is harder than running a 3 hour marathon, so why not do it quicker!  You need to train to run faster for longer

'Anaerobic' running - in layman's terms, it means running that gets you out of breath e.g. sprinting, whereas 'Aerobic' running is usually much slower and is easier because you are not out of breath e.g. jogging.  Somewhere between the two is known as the 'Anaerobic threshold', which can be described as
the exertion level between aerobic and anaerobic training, or, the point during exercise when your body must switch from aerobic to anaerobic metabolism.
This is the level of exertion beyond which your muscles start using more oxygen than your body can inhale, absorb, and transport.  You end up in oxygen debt as the muscle produce more lactic acid than your body can cope with.

One of the skills is to find your anaerobic threshold (aka the sweet-spot) running pace and incorporate this type of running into your training regime.  By training at this level the aim is to improve your Anaerobic threshold, which is an improvement on your ability to recover from strenuous exercise.  As this improves, so will you running times improve.

Running components
To run your best you need to improve on a variety of fronts.  Although distance running is largely about endurance, there are six primary components of fitness:
-  Endurance / stamina - the ability to keep going for longer
-  Speed – the ability to run quicker
-  Strength –all round fitness and power to continue when your body is fatiguing
-  Flexibility / Suppleness – improves mobility, improves performance
-  Running technique - the art of running efficiently and faster
-  Psychology – a runner's inner strength

When you train, always try improve in one of these areas and your running will improve.  Even if you are on a recovery run, you can still make adjustments to minimise bad habits.  It does not matter whether you are an elite athlete, a recreational runner of first timer.  It’s about being the best you can be.

Enjoy your training :)

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Oct 12, 2014

Derek Larner