I’m well on my way to my coaching certification (read about my journey to coaching here). There is so much information to absorb and to compare & contrast to my 40+ years of running and racing experience.
As I’ve focused more on the technical and physiological aspects of running, I keep noticing runners in Facebook groups asking about how to get FASTER.
That’s what we all want, right? Keep improving and moving forward – get a Boston Qualifier, break 2 hours in a half marathon, get that PR (Personal Record). But, most of the advice I see immediately suggests intervals and speed work.
There are so many ways to run faster, and intervals and speed work have their place (and I’ll be talking about them in a couple of weeks), but the first thing you need to is to do pause and PLAN.
The plan is the most important part of running faster. Legendary Coach Jack Daniels says that you must always be able to answer the question, “What is the purpose of this workout?” If you don’t have a schedule of how far & how fast you are running, then you very likely don’t have a purpose for each run.
Without a plan, two things can happen — and, they are the complete opposites of each other!
- You can flounder. Without seeing that 3 miles written on the calendar for today, it’s so easy to just hit snooze and sleep in. “I will run tomorrow,” you might say to yourself. Well, tomorrow it will be cold and dark, and that extra hour sleep will continue to entice you.
- You can over-do it. Last fall I was in pretty good shape and I was running a lot. I was building up the mileage week after week. I was enjoying seeing those big numbers on Strava and I kept increasing the mileage until I injured my hamstring. If I would have planned out my autumn running schedule there is no way that I would have written down those big mileage weeks. It would have been a better thought-out strategy of increasing my mileage for a couple of weeks, and then resting and recovering for a week before I started building again. (We’ll look at the magic of building up your mileage next week!)
Where should you get your running plan? The answer to that question depends on your goals, how far away your goal race is, your experience, and many other factors. There are tons of great coaches out there to help guide you in your plan to run faster. (Message me and I can help, or I can point you to a another good coach.) There are also lots of good books – I’m reading a bunch of them right now, and I will be reviewing them here soon. But, some classics are “Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide” by Hal Higdon, “Hanson’s Marathon Method,” “Advanced Marathoning” by Pete Pfitzinger, and many others. Also, check out your local running stores and running clubs for training groups and training plans.
But, you can even create your own plan! I think it’s important to have a plan, even when you aren’t “training” for a goal race. You might be 8 or 10 months from your goal race, so you are not yet in the thick of the training, or maybe you are recovering from an injury and not back in shape yet. But, having a plan — even if that plan is all easy running — will help you stay in shape, stay focused and stay injury-free.
You also need to remember a plan isn’t set in stone. Evaluate how you are feeling each day. Are you inching up on an injury? Did you have a terrible night’s sleep? Is there added stress at home or work? It’s ok to move a workout to different day, or skip it entirely. The only caveat is to be sure about the reasons. There have been many workouts when I just wanted to skip it during the warm-up, but once I forced myself to get started it, ended up being a great workout. (Always remember the famous runner mantra – “The first mile is a liar!”)
Over the next couple of weeks I will be talking more about how to run faster. I will be discussing the magic of mileage, threshold training, intervals, speed-work and more. So, stay tuned and get out there and run!