Helping busy runners get healthier, happier and faster

Tag: PB

Stop your PB envy and start working!

Hang your head in shame if you’ve ever said or thought any of these things about X <substitute X with name of rival faster runner>.

  • “I’ll never be as fast as X”.
  • “X must be naturally gifted as a runner”.
  • “X never seems to work as hard in training yet always finishes ahead of me”.
  • “X’s PB is minutes faster than mine”.
  • “I hate X – in the nicest possible way”.

Ok – X-hating over? Good because I need to lift my head as well to write the rest of this article!

Running at our level is supposed to be fun and not overly competitive – right? Well I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t had some of those thoughts in the past. No matter how well you get on with your club mates, siblings, colleagues or whoever else you run with, you want to try and do better than them.

And why not? Running is essentially a solo sport and whilst we want to see those people do well, we are most interested in doing well ourselves.

It’s natural to see the results of others and then dismiss the work they have put in to get where they are. In business, Ramit Sethi calls this the iceberg effect but it applies to sport too.

Let me say again that we are most interested in doing well ourselves. So what are we really saying when we say the things above? We’re not really complaining about how good X is, we’re moaning about how bad we are. We’re really saying this:

  • “I’ll never be as fast as I want to be”.
  • “I’m not a naturally gifted runner so I’ll never be any good”.
  • “I feel like I’m working hard in training but it doesn’t seem to be paying off”.
  • “I want my PB to be minutes faster than it is”.
  • “I hate myself – in the worst possible way”.

Right – self-loathing over now? Good, we’ve changed the focus from other people to ourselves but we’re still far too negative. We’re using excuses to mask the real reason we’re not improving as fast as we’d like.

We need our training to be better. Notice I didn’t say “we need to train harder”. Many people’s answer to getting faster is just to train more. “You just need to up the mileage”. That’s simply not true. Whilst you may get some slow improvement from doing that it won’t be nearly as effective as 3-5 varied sessions in a week.

The specifics of these will depend on what you are training for. But essentially the sessions boil down to the same for most things. Long, speed, hills and tempo. These are discussed in more detail in the previous blog.

For now let me turn this on its head and ask you this. What would it feel like if someone said these things about you:

  • “I’ll never be as fast as you”.
  • “You must be naturally gifted as a runner”.
  • “You never seem to work as hard in training yet always finish ahead of me”.
  • “Your PB is minutes faster than mine”.
  • “I hate you – in the nicest possible way”.

It would feel pretty good – even if we didn’t say so wouldn’t it? And it is certainly possible. In fact I would go further than that. If you start focusing on improving yourself it will naturally follow.

Recipe for improving your 5/10k times

Small improvements in your training can lead to minutes off your 5/10k times. You’re already making the effort to go out for runs during the week so you’re 90% of the way there. The last 10% ingredient is variety.

Weekly Ingredients

1 x long run at ‘easy’ pace for endurance

1 x interval session at ‘target pace’ for speed

1 x tempo run with middle half at ‘threshold pace’ for stamina (speed over distance)

1 x medium run (with hills if possible) at ‘steady pace’

or

1 x hill repeats session for strength

Preparation of pace

The key here is that every session is different and builds a different dimension to your training. You will notice that the pace of each session is different. This is important because you at least get some training at target pace but don’t burn yourself out going too fast. There are lots of terms for different paces but here is how I like to think of different paces:

  • Target Pace – This is how fast you will run in your race.
  • Threshold Pace – 10% slower than target pace
  • Steady Pace – 20% slower than target pace
  • Easy Pace – 30% slower than target pace

You can play around with these values as it is not an exact science but another way to think of it is how you feel when running at these paces:

  • Target Pace – No talking – fully focused on running. Pretty close to your max. A.K.A. ‘Silent Pace’
  • Threshold Pace – You can utter a few words but not much. Still challenging. A.K.A. ’20 Questions Pace’ (i.e. you can only answer yes or no)
  • Steady Pace – You’re able to have a conversation but you won’t want to talk the entire time. A.K.A. ‘How do you do? Pace’
  • Easy Pace – You’re able to chat throughout the run. A.K.A. ‘Conversational Pace’.

Preparation of distance

Another varying factor is distance. For 5k and 10k, it is possible and advantageous to train above the target distance. The long run builds up strength and also psychologically gives a boost of knowing you can run further. Again, there is no exact science but changing km to miles gives an idea of a suitable distance for a long run. i.e. 5 miles for 5k training and 10 miles for 10k training. This is less advisable for longer distances, especially marathons as the fatigue it produces outweighs the benefits.

The interval sessions build up speed over short distances. This allows you to practice the speed you need to run at but allowing your body to recover in between. The jog recovery should be even slower than easy pace, literally just to keep moving.

Typical sessions are:

  • 6 x 3 minutes with 90 seconds jog recovery
  • 8 x 2 minutes with 1 minute jog recovery
  • Pyramid (1-2-3-4-4-3-2-1) minute intervals with half time recovery

The tempo run is an important ingredient. The distance can be in and around your target distance but a typical session is split as follows:

  • First mile at steady or easy pace
  • Middle 1 to 5 miles at threshold pace
  • Last mile at steady or easy pace

Preparation of terrain

The medium run can be any distance up to your target distance but will be more beneficial if it involves hills. Or instead, you can do hill repeats which involves running up a hill for 60 to 90 seconds and walk or slow jog back down. You can start with just 6 and build up to 16 and this will improve strength. Most races will have some hills in them and if not, running on the flat will be much easier after training on hills.

Result

By varying your pace, terrain and distance through your training program you will develop speed, strength and stamina. A lot of people only focus on distance; by incorporating all three, you will see your 5k and 10k times drop by minutes.

 

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