The lifelong question of runners everywhere is, “How can I get faster?” We would all love to be able to get faster while still covering our favorite distances, but what is that secret program these runners follow that give them the qualifying times that rock races? It's actually more basic than you would expect. Follow these simple rules for your training plan and watch the seconds start falling off your mile time.
1. Speed train. Most long-distance runners, from those that run 5ks to those who compete in marathons, fail to understand the importance of speed training. Why worry about your sprints when you're not sprinting? Simple. When performing speed work, you're teaching your body how to operate at 100 percent while being exhausted. You're also training your body to learn to become more efficient during flats and at the end of your race. As a result, you'll be capable of finding that energy to pass your competitors mid-race or finding that last kick to cross that finish line one second faster. Once a week, try incorporating some form of speed work, from fartlek runs to 4x400m sprints, at your 5k pace. You'll start feeling like you're unstoppable even just during your training runs.
2. Don't overexert yourself. The long run is one of the most practiced runs by distance runners. The importance of this type of run is the endurance you build as you run for a long distance. However, many people try to run these race paces during their training runs. This seems like the correct way to train for a race, but let's think about this for a second. If you're training for a race in 12 weeks, why would you basically run a race every week with the same level of difficulty as that race? Exerting your body like that for 12 weeks will do nothing more than hurt you as well as ruin your chances of running a quality race because you've exhausted your body instead of building it up. Only once a week you should set out to complete your long run distance, but only be concerned with comfortably completing that distance.
3. Relearn how to enjoy your run. During your last week of training, you should complete the ”Fun Run.” This type of run is exactly what it sounds like. It's a run that is meant to be fun! So many of us forget to enjoy our runs when we begin training. We forget that running is an event in which the mind and body meld together to create a unity of physical and spiritual means through which we communicate our passion and dedication with each perfectly paced step. It is it form of meditation. It is it form of art. It takes time to perfect, but cannot be bound by the idea of time nor distance. So I recommend that once a week, you unplug. Turn off your distance tracker and your pace notifications. Just run and enjoy the run.
In addition to the above rules, remember to get into the weight room at least twice a week in order to strengthen your entire body, not just your legs. You should also cross-train once or twice per week, which can include activities such as cycling or swimming to relieve stress from your joints sometimes caused by running. Lastly, take one rest day per week in order to allow your body the ability to repair and catch up with your training.
Remember: If you fail to find the passion in your fitness, you'll never find the dedication it deserves.