I get asked this question quite often. How do you increase your pace? I don't have all of the answers, and I'm not a running coach but I thought I would share some insight into what has made me a faster runner. I have always had some speed under my feet, but it was never for a long period of time. I was a soccer player, so I would run in short spurts. I wasn't a fan of the loops around the soccer field at the start of practice. Running was meant for punishment, not for your actual athletic event. Oh how the times have changed me.
So, how do you do it?
Well isn't that insightful? What I mean is, if you want to be a runner, you are going to have to start running. And if you want to be a fast runner, you are going to have to be consistent. I understand that there are off seasons but if you sign up for a half marathon, train then take 3 months off not running at all and then start training again, you aren't going to be super successful on getting faster. If you continue to run all throughout the year keeping your base and then adding as races come along, then you are going to be able to focus on your speed more.
2. FIND YOUR PURPOSE
So, why do you want to get faster? That seems self explanatory as I think that we all would love to better ourselves and our running speed. Maybe it's just me but I have to have an intrinsic reason that I'm doing what I'm doing. I have found my passion and my calling and I love the sport of running. This is deep to my core, and means so much to me. If I'm just superficially running just for the glory of getting a faster speed, I feel that my heart wouldn't be entirely into it. This would mean that at the end of the half marathon that I was running 7 min miles, I would have lost heart. This definitely means that at mile 20 of my marathon, I would have lost heart because my entire body was screaming at me to just stop running. It took passion and PURPOSE to make those times.
3. DON'T JUST RUN TO LOG MILES
I think that with training for anything unless you are a serious athlete (this is including myself), you look up a training regimen online and you don't worry about getting in those special kinds of runs. You just hit mileage on the days that you are supposed to. You do all of your runs at medium pace whatever your feet feel like on that day versus specified slow vs fast paced training runs working on different things.
4. EDUCATE YOURSELF
Learn about tempo runs, fartleks, hill repeats, speed interval training and negative splits. As I mentioned above, you want to have variety in the speeds that you are doing each run. You want to train your body to work harder at higher mileage. You want to train your body to be accustomed to what normally would feel like sprinting but what becomes a pace that you can hold for endurance races. You want to make sure that you know what your race is going to be like. Everyone knows that the Boston Marathon has a lot of hills so you are definitely not going to be able to improve your speed at the marathon if you are not training hills. Look up the races that you are going to do and be familiar with the track. If you have it available to you, then it would be awesome if you could train where you were going to race.
5. FUEL APPROPRIATELY
This is huge. I think that runners tend to be the type to just eat whatever whenever and that's awesome to an extent however I have found when I target my nutrition to my runs, then I have MUCH better success. Just yesterday, I didn't have food ready right before my 10 miler. I had ate breakfast, but I always have a second breakfast, and I wasn't able to get that in. I was FEELING it big time by mile 6. I go to every run, and every race with the mindset that I'm not going to do anything that is going to jeopardize the success that I could have so that means that everything that I put into my body is used as an instrument to how well I can perform.
I got really bad about feeling my macronutrients with crap (aka doughnuts and poptarts and such) and I realized how I need to be aiming so much more for micronutrients. I am beginning to take supplementations so seriously to avoid injuries. I think that women should be really cognizant on getting in Calcium every day, and I also take a multivitamin. If you run for over an hour (8+miles) then you should be supplementing a lot more nutrition. I tell my clients 50-100g extra in 100% carbohydrates but if you don't count macros, it just important that you are hydrating and refueling.
Everyone is different but I DO NOT carb load the night before a race. I eat more carbs for sure, absolutely! But, there is this notion that you should go out and slam an entire plate of pasta. HECK NO! I would feel like absolute crap the next day and be sluggish for the run. I add in extra carbs that I know that I will utilize but it's much more calculated.
6. LIFT WEIGHTS
This is one of the single most important things that I have done to increase my pace. For me personally, I gave up running for a while and for 6 months to 1 year I focused on lifting. This was also during the time that I was into competing so it gave me other goals to focus on rather than the lack of running. I really was able to put size on my legs and build my strength in my calves. This has been huge. When I came back into the sport of running, without even trying, I was faster. It just came easier because I had more muscle. I continue to cross train because it's very important to me, and I'm a huge advocate for hybrid training combining lifting and running.
I started to pick two things out of this list that I thought were the most important, and I can't even do that. It's an all encompassing thing. It's not easy to increase speed but it's definitely possible. It is going to take time, and you aren't going to get super fast overnight but if you put in the work over months and years, then you will look back and think about the days when you "used to run" that pace and now are much faster.
With love and running,