Offering actionable advice makes my head spin. I love training tips that work, and they’re easy to apply to your program no matter what kind of race you’re preparing for.
Last week, I was interviewed by John Sifferman for nearly 90 minutes and I said the word “actionable” at least 38 times. This is important to me.
We discussed the most powerful ways runners can run faster and prevent more injuries. More importantly, I shared lessons I’ve learned from nearly 15 years of running (many of which I learned the hard way after failing or getting injured) and have helped thousands of runners set new personal bests.
These programs routinely address the major problems I see in training. When I start training a runner – whether it’s a one-on-one training program or a training review – they fill out an extensive questionnaire that gives me insight into their running background.
This questionnaire allows me to see what they’re doing right, what they’re doing wrong, and why they’re struggling. Sometimes, it’s a simple solution – usually, it’s a combination of training improvements with impressive results.
Today, I want to share four viable ways to improve your running. They will be very simple and very easy to implement. In fact, if you start running after reading this post, you can start today! I’ve also included a few articles related to each of the training tips.
Start doing strides 2-3 times a week
It’s incredible how many runners don’t do strides on a regular basis – in fact, many don’t even know what a stride is.
Strides are the 20-30 seconds of acceleration performed after an easy run. They can be done almost anywhere – a parking lot (just be careful!) , your street, a long driveway, or a field. Start out running at an easy pace, then gradually increase the speed until you reach 95% of your maximum effort. Hold for about 2-3 seconds, then gradually slow down until you stop. This is a stride.
Rest 30 seconds to a full minute between each stride, starting with four strides and increasing to six or eight. Keep in mind that the strides are relatively short, so while they’re quick (well, a few seconds), they shouldn’t be difficult at all – they’re fun!
Don’t be a trick pony when you’re getting strong
Make sure your core and strength training challenges your body in all three planes of motion: back and forth, lateral and rotational. Because running is all about back and forth movement, it’s important to move in different planes of motion to stay in motion and improve your resistance to injury.
Here are some exercises that can help you do this:
- Lunge forward and rotate your torso to the sides and back as you do so
- Side planks
- Side leg raises
- Side lunge
- Hay Bale with Exercise Ball (Squat down with the exercise ball, then as you get up, lift the ball to your side. As you turn the ball to your side, rotate your torso and watch it.)
Running creates imbalances because it is repetitive motion on one plane of motion. Counteract these imbalances by moving on multiple planes to stay healthy.
Learn to love the negative splits
Negative splits simply mean that the second half of the run is faster than the first half. If you can, you should negative split most of your long runs, workouts, and races.
Negative split runs in training will increase your confidence to do so in races – when time really matters. When you train your body to run faster when you’re already tired, you’ll also get a better aerobic boost (like, more endurance!) .
It’s easiest to do these types of workouts on an out-and-back run where you can accurately time each half. Any workout on the track lends itself to negative splits because you can monitor each interval down to the second. Have fun!
Run different types of long runs
Long runs don’t have to be at the same pace. In fact, you can squeeze more fitness out of your long runs by varying the terrain and the pace you run in the later miles.
Three of my favorite long run variations include.
- Hilly Long Distance Run: Run a couple long hills in the last 2-5 miles, or a 5-10 minute long hill in the last 1-2 miles.
- Long sprints: Start a short fartlek workout with 1-2 miles left in your long run. My favorites are 8 x 30 second 10k paces with 1-2 minutes of jogging recovery or 6 x 1 minute tempo paces with 1-2 minutes of jogging recovery.
- Progression: Gradually increase the pace over the last 2-5 miles of your long run so that you end the run at your pace or 10k pace. This is definitely an advanced workout, but it will help you gain more endurance as you teach your body to run faster when it’s fatigued.
These are a slightly more advanced version of the standard long run, so progress smartly by starting on an incline, then doing a fartlek long run, and ending with a progression.