You can improve your running performance in two ways: running further, or running faster.
- Increasing mileage. Most athletes do this, particularly at the beginning of the season, to build a base level of fitness. They then concentrate on running faster later in their training program.
- Improving speed. Unsurprisingly, by training to run faster you should see your times improve!
We've put together training plans for 5K, 10K, half and full marathons
By combining speed and distance work in a training program, the results can be significant. Planning your training and following a training plan is also key - you'll see we've done the hard work for you and put together training plans for 5K, 10K, half and full marathons!
Building up gradually is essential. No matter how far you currently run, suddenly injecting greater mileage puts stress on your body and is more likely to lead to injury through over training. If you are increasing mileage, lower the intensity for a short while and never increase more than around 10% of your weekly mileage in one go.
Introducing hill running into your schedule will:
- Improve your style and running economy
- Build strength in your legs, and
- Give your lungs a real work out
It is best to start off simply. If you have a running route that already incorporates a hill, turn around and stride up it four or five times, then carry on with the rest of your run. Running up the hill should ideally take no longer than 30-40 seconds.
Always concentrate on running in a relaxed way rather than trying to sprint up the hill. Do this once a week and gradually increasing the number of hill reps to ten or maybe fifteen to see real improvements in your strength and stamina.
Resting (or 'recovery') is an important component of any training plan. You should rest after hard or particularly long runs.
It's advisable to have at least one day a week completely free from training
It's best to alternate between a hard and easy session on consecutive days. This will allow your body to recover, replenish any depleted stores and allow you to run consistently. The easy sessions should be active and relaxed - enjoy a walk or swim, take the bike out and try to find a new route to run the next day.
Whatever activity you choose, be gentle on your body and it will respond better the next time you run.
Note it is advisable to have at least one day per week completely free from training.
Swimming is good cross training for running
Adding other activities into your training plan is called cross training. Not only will it give your body a rest from the bodily stresses running can impose, it will also refresh your mind and spirit. Cycling and swimming in particular give a good cardiovascular workout, while utilizing other muscle groups not developed by running.
Triathletes are the most ardent practitioners of this type of training. These athletes compete in swimming, cycling and running. However, as a runner, it may be more practical to just use one alternative to running. Weight training or circuit training are other options.
You may alternate days between exercises such as running one day and swimming the next, or you might alternate on a seasonal basis - running and swimming when it is cold outside in winter, then running and cycling during the warmer summer months. Cross training will give a more rounded (i.e. less specific to running) fitness and should improve your overall physique.