Improve your running with just 3 runs a week 

If you are a regular runner, there are some simple steps you can take to improve the efficiency, the quality and the impact of your running. It doesn’t need to be complicated to see results, just a simple structure will help you hugely. 

It is very common for runners to just go out of the door and run for a set period of time at an ‘as fast as you can’ pace. Sadly this commonly leads to injury and makes it very hard to improve your running. Runners need variability in time, pace, terrains, but it doesn't need to be complicated.  Let’s just focus on 3 runs a week:  

  1. Steady Long Run

The most important step to reaching these first of all is dropping your Strava ego, you need to slow down in order to speed up in the long run. Running at a lower heart rate (between 130-150) is an aerobic pace, it’s a pace you feel you could maintain, have a conversation, and eventually you will feel like you can just keep going with this pace. Many runners never run at this pace and therefore are not improving their aerobic capacity. It is frustrating but keep practicing and S L O W it down! Focus on your heart rate, focus on your breathing and posture, forget about your watch and your pace and go back to basics.

You will eventually find it is easier to run at this pace, so take it steady - perhaps start with 20 minutes and every week increase by 5 minutes or 10% depending on how long you have been running and how well your body is conditioned. This enables you to increase your distance without getting fatigued. 

  1. Interval /Speed Run

Once we improve our aerobic base, it is also good to work on our speed and in order to get faster, you need to learn to run at a faster speed for a shorter time period and then over time increase how long you can maintain that speed.  Putting in short bursts of speed activates the fast-twitch muscle fibres that are needed for quicker running. Remember speed work doesn't need to be painful or run you into the ground. Instead, go for your usual run at a nice, easy pace, make sure you have warmed up or at least 10 minutes. Then add some speed work, this can be for distance or time. Ie: distance; 6 x 400m with 3 minutes rest in between, or time; 90 seconds effort, 3 mins recovery, repeat x 5 with a 10-minute warm-up and cool down either side.

  1. Tempo Run 

Generally speaking, a tempo run is a sustained effort run that builds up your body’s ability to run faster for longer periods of time, no matter if you’re training for a 5k or a half marathon. Typically you would find a pace that you can maintain for at least 20 minutes, but ideally for a 45-60 minute period of time. So, you want to be fast, but not all-out sprinting. if you think about it in terms of effort, on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being walking slowly, you’d look for a pace that feels like a 6-8 effort. Think of this run as being “comfortably hard.” You wouldn’t want to do it for hours on end, but you won’t be gasping for breath after 10 minutes, either. It helps build your lactate threshold, builds efficiency to run at that level and prepares you mentally for racing. You can make these structured or simply go out for a ‘tempo run’ by doing 10 minutes easy, 10 minutes tempo, 10 minutes easy!

...and there you have it, if you have space in your week for an extra run or two, keep these as steady, easy heart rate runs so there is no fatigue build up and you are working you are building your aerobic base. 

On top of these running workouts, it is strongly advised alongside any running program to ensure you are strength training at least once a week. Strength training will increase your muscle mass, help your running, reduce risks of injury, keep your bones and joints stronger, allow your body to rest from pounding the hard ground and build resilience. Strength training also makes you feel great and stronger.  Simple stretches around your run regime will also prevent muscle stiffness and allows you also to mentally switch off, check in to your body and focus on the sore areas. 

Ensure you have a decent pair of trainers, remember trainers only have around 500 miles worth of running in them - you can record these details in Strava and most running apps and they remind you how many miles you have completed to avoid them going ‘flat’. 

I hope these tips help you add some variety into your training. Remember to slow it down, and speed it up for shorter periods of time. We don't want to spend too much time working in the grey area where we are building up lot’s of fatigue but not building up much fitness. Think of this like spending money on a credit card that you don’t have the income to pay back!

Written by Amy Gomer @amyrosannaruns 

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