Many athletes often feel like their running isn’t getting better despite their hard work.
If you can relate to this, know that you’re not alone.
It is demotivating to invest time and effort when there are no visible results.
So what can you do?
A few ways to get better at running include the following:
- Slow down your easy and long runs
- Gradually Increasing Your Mileage
- Focus On Recovery
- Hydrate and Fuel Correctly
- Adding Strength Training,
- Incorporating Interval Training,
1. Easy Runs
Easy training runs are an integral part of a well-rounded training plan, as they contribute to increasing weekly volume and overall fitness.
The key to easy runs is maintaining a truly relaxed and conversational pace. It’s crucial to emphasize that “easy” means truly EASY.
These runs should not leave you breathless or struggling for air; instead, they should allow you to comfortably hold a conversation with a running partner.
The primary purpose of easy runs is to develop the aerobic system, which plays a vital role in building endurance.
These runs provide the opportunity for the body to adapt, repair, and strengthen the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
By running at an appropriate intensity, you strike a balance between stimulating your aerobic capacity and allowing sufficient recovery time before your next challenging workout.
It’s worth noting that easy runs are shorter compared to long runs, typically lasting around an hour or less.
While the pace is slower than your race pace, it should be faster than your recovery run pace.
In fact, easy runs are usually run around 5 -10 seconds per kilometer faster than recovery runs. But, (and this is where people make the big mistake) it needs to be slower than you think. You should be able to have a robust conversation with your running partner and not be out of breath, as if you’re in a loud restaurant or bar. If you run alone you should be able to burst into song without being out of breath.
However, it’s important not to confuse easy runs with tempo or interval workouts, which require a higher level of effort and intensity.
Discover the transformative benefits of incorporating easy runs into your training plan in our video Why Are Easy Runs Important & Do You Need Easy Runs In Your Training?
Long runs serve multiple purposes, with the primary goal being to develop your endurance and supply energy to your muscles over extended distances.
In addition to building endurance, long runs also play a crucial role in improving your running economy. As well as preparing tendons, ligaments, and other musculoskeletal structures for endurance running.
By spending more time on your feet during these runs, you train your body to become more efficient at maintaining a steady pace over long distances.
This increased efficiency can translate into improved performance on race day.
Long runs also provide an opportunity for experimentation with nutrition strategies.
Furthermore, the longest run in your training plan, typically scheduled around 3 to 4 weeks before the race, holds great significance.
This run serves as a crucial milestone in your preparation, both mentally and physically. It allows you to gauge your readiness for the marathon distance, giving you the confidence and reassurance needed for race day.
Check out our video This Is Why You Need To Include Long Runs In Your Training.
2. Gradually Increasing Your Mileage
Gradually increasing your mileage is important for improving your running.
This is like a double-edged sword. If you increase your volume of training too quickly you are likely to get injured. So we need to do this in a slow progressive manner.
Some coaches recommend using the 10% rule whereby you should not increase your mileage/volume by more than 10% each week.
However, this is a very vague, blanket approach. And there is more research to suggest that it is more important to not have big variances in your weekly mileage.
Example: Don’t have one week running 20 miles, week 2 running 25 miles, week 3 doing 10 miles, and then week 4 jumping that up to 30 miles.
This variance week on week has been shown to cause injury.
It’s worth noting that excessive variance in training intensity from week to week can increase the risk of injury.
Training load management plays a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and injury-free running routine.
One concept that can provide valuable insights into managing training load is the Acute-to-Chronic Workload Ratio (ACWR). We have a separate video where we explore this training concept in depth and its potential in preventing running injuries: Runners Don’t Use This (But They REALLY Should).
In the video, we discuss a study conducted on New York marathon runners, where their training load data was analyzed over 16 weeks. The acute chronic workload ratio measures the workload over seven days (acute workload) compared to the workload over 28 days (chronic workload).
We challenge the commonly used “10 rule,” which suggests increasing the training load by 10% each week, and emphasize the importance of consistency in training.
Making significant changes in the training load, especially in the third quarter of training, can significantly increase the risk of injury. Consistent training in the earlier periods better prepares the body to handle the demands of later stages, such as preparing for a marathon.
The acute chronic workload ratio is presented as a tool to assess injury risk not a guarantee against injury. A ratio below 0.8 indicates an under-training state, while a ratio above 1.5 suggests an increased risk of injury. We introduce the “Sweet Spot Zone” as the optimal workload range, with ratios between 1 and 1.2 being desirable.
The 80/20 principle….
It’s also advisable to follow the 80/20 principle when it comes to your running pace.
This principle suggests that approximately 80% of your runs should be at an easy, comfortable pace, while the remaining 20% can be at a higher intensity.
By incorporating a mix of easy and higher-intensity runs, you can promote better overall fitness and performance. This balance allows for proper recovery and reduces the risk of overtraining.
3. Focus On Recovery
Reaching our full running potential requires equal attention to recovery and training, but as runners, we tend to prioritize training and overlook the significance of recovery.
If you don’t prioritize recovery, it’s more likely that you’ll get injured and your performance will suffer.
When you exercise, you do some healthy damage to your body. And during recovery, your body repairs this damage and makes improvements so that you can endure more during the next exercise session.
These small improvements are key to increasing fitness, speed, and strength. If you don’t allow yourself sufficient recovery time, your body can’t fully repair and compensate for the damage caused by training.
According to a study, chocolate milk can be an affordable and advantageous substitute for expensive post-workout supplements, aiding in training exhaustion duration and muscle restoration.
However, it’s important to note that nutrition is just one part of the recovery process.
Rest and sleep are vital components for effective recovery, as mentioned earlier. Additionally, proper nutrition plays a crucial role in the overall recovery process.
Chocolate milk is not a standalone solution but can be a beneficial option within a well-rounded recovery strategy.
We have a separate video where we provide more details about the study and share additional insights: Is Chocolate Milk A Great Recovery Drink For Runners? We dig into the science
4. Hydrate and Fuel Correctly
To improve your running performance, it’s important to focus not only on training and technique but also on providing your body with the proper nutrition and hydration.
On the other hand, it is important to plan a high-carb meal with nutrient-dense foods before exercise to help sustain energy levels during long runs.
Carbohydrates play a crucial role in training and replenishing muscle glycogen after training. They are the primary source of energy for endurance activities and can help delay fatigue during prolonged exercise.
In addition to carbohydrates, protein is also essential for muscle recovery and repair, especially for individuals engaged in strength training.
Protein helps in the synthesis and rebuilding of muscle tissue damaged during exercise, promoting muscle growth and enhancing overall performance.
Furthermore, hydration is a vital aspect of training and recovery that shouldn’t be overlooked.
Proper hydration ensures optimal performance, helps maintain electrolyte balance, and supports the body’s physiological functions during exercise.
Before a run, it is recommended to consume fluids and food that will top up fuel and fluid levels while ensuring gut comfort.
For runs lasting longer than 60 minutes, the focus should be on optimizing carbohydrate stores, especially if the run takes place in the morning after an overnight fast.
During the run, replacing sweat losses and maintaining glycogen stores are essential for optimal performance.
For runs shorter than an hour, it is important to drink enough fluids to replace sweat losses. However, for runs longer than an hour, an additional intake of carbohydrates can provide an additional fuel source for the central nervous system.
The amount and type of fluids and foods consumed during exercise will vary depending on the individual athlete and the nature of the exercise.
It is crucial to consider thirst, rates of sweat loss, and gastrointestinal comfort when determining optimal fluid intake.
5. Adding Strength Training
Strength training is a critical component for runners who aim to prevent injuries and improve their running performance.
Strength training can help prevent injuries by ensuring that smaller muscle groups are working properly and contracting at the right time to stabilize the body.
Misaligned movement patterns can occur when smaller muscle groups are not functioning correctly, causing larger muscles to take over and increasing the risk of injury.
Here at Coach Parry, we’re massive advocates of strength training. We’ve put together this free strength training plan for runners that you can do once a week, at home and with no expensive equipment needed. You can access it by clicking here.
Furthermore, incorporating strength training into a runner’s workout routine can enhance their running economy by 4%–6%, which is dependent on their fitness level and the type and frequency of strength training implemented.
This outcome allows runners to cover more distance and improve efficiency while using less energy. Think of it as the fuel economy of your car. You want to use less fuel and get more distance (and speed) for less. Additionally, it assists in postponing the onset of fatigue.
When it comes to incorporating strength training into a runner’s routine, it is important to prioritize regular sessions. For individuals over 50 years old, it is vital to aim for two to three strength training sessions per week.
This helps maintain muscle mass, promote bone health, and prevent age-related decline in strength and function.
For individuals under 50, one to two strength training sessions per week can still provide significant benefits.
While the frequency may be slightly lower, it is crucial to understand that any amount of strength training is better than none. Even one session per week can contribute to improved muscular strength, power, and injury prevention.
Understandably, finding time for strength training can be challenging, given the demands of running and other commitments.
However, dedicating even a few sessions per week to strength training can yield significant results in terms of injury prevention and performance enhancement.
Remember, consistency is key, and making the effort to prioritize strength training alongside running will pay off in the long run.
It is important to include periodization of strength training in your overall running training plan.
This involves finding a balance between strength training and running, establishing a solid foundation, and making sure it complements your overall training plan.
This also means that when you have a recovery week during running, you need to do the same with your strength training.
This video will show you how to structure that element of your training: How To Include Strength Training In Your Running Training Plan: When To Do Strength Training
6. How To Incorporate Interval Training In Your Training Sessions
A great way to improve your running is to try interval training.
This involves running at a high intensity for a short period and then taking resting or lowering your intensity for a short period. This is then often repeated for many repetitions.
This training can enhance your cardiovascular endurance and boost your running speed overall.
It’s important to have built a sound aerobic base before starting interval training. It is highly recommended that you start your interval session with a warm-up.
This will usually consist of 10-15 minutes of easy running, followed perhaps by some dynamic stretches and coordination drills.
A great way to start is with something like 20-30 second strides, these are gentle increases in your stride length (and therefore pace) for only 20-30 seconds, and you mustn’t get to a maximum or sprinting.
You will then run easy for a few minutes and perform this perhaps 4-6 x depending on your level and ability.
The key aspect with interval work is that we very seldom want you to get to sprinting or maximum, for the most part, we suggest that you are working around a 7-8 out of 10 on a perceived exertion scale.
And the way we manipulate these sessions for different focuses (ie. speed or speed endurance is with the rest intervals. For pure speed work you will likely have a longer rest, say 90 seconds – 3 minutes.
Whereas for speed endurance you would have shorter rest intervals. Example 60-90seconds. Again all of this will depend on your experience and ability.
In this video, we share the reason why you shouldn’t be running all your training runs efficiently: STOP Running Everything Easy – This Is Why You Need To Include Interval Training
But what if you are doing all those things above?
10 Common Running Mistakes You Should Avoid
- You’re Running Too Much
Finding the right balance in your running routine is crucial for progress and avoiding plateaus.
Running too much (daily or multiple sessions) increases the risk of injuries and burnout.
Allow for rest days and gradual mileage increase to prevent overtraining.
Running too fast in every session can hinder progress.
Incorporate slower, easy runs for active recovery and building an aerobic base.
Vary training paces with easy runs, tempo runs, intervals, and long runs. This develops different energy systems, improves fitness, and reduces the risk of overloading muscles and joints.
Maximize progress by balancing running frequency and intensity. Incorporate a variety of training paces and listen to your body.
Progress in running is a long-term journey, not always linear.
Find the right balance, adjust training when needed, and focus on consistent progress.
- You’re Not Doing The Right Types Of Runs
Improving your running requires more than just daily pavement pounding in sneakers. You need to adopt a strategic approach.
To have an effective running routine, it’s important to mix up your routes and distances instead of just running the same 4-mile loop every day.
For optimal outcomes, it’s recommended to follow the 80/20 principle in your running routine.
This means incorporating a blend of extended runs, quick runs, hill repetitions, and HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) running exercises.
The majority of your training should consist of easy, low-intensity runs (80%), while the remaining portion can be dedicated to higher-intensity workouts (20%).
This balanced approach helps improve endurance, speed, and overall performance while minimizing the risk of overtraining and injuries.
- You Treat Every Run Like a Sprint
If you are running at top speed every day, it’s not surprising that you’re not seeing improvement in your running.
If your goal is to improve your endurance, it’s best not to push yourself to run quickly, even if it may be tempting. This is because doing so can have a negative impact on your endurance.
To achieve optimal results, it’s recommended to maintain a slower pace on long run days and reserve faster speeds for shorter runs, while avoiding doing them every day.
It’s okay to intentionally run at a slower pace sometimes.
In addition, when you release the pressure to go fast, your running sessions become more enjoyable.
- Not Fueling Your Body Properly
One mistake runners make is not giving their bodies enough food.
When you don’t eat enough, or when you eat the wrong types of foods, you’re depriving your body of the energy it needs to power through your workout.
This can lead to sluggishness, fatigue, and overall poor performance.
To get the most out of your runs, it’s important to pay attention to what you’re putting in your body before, during, and after your workouts.
- Not Getting Enough Recovery
As a runner, you understand the importance of training hard to meet your goals.
However, what many runners fail to recognize is the crucial role that recovery plays in their performance.
Failing to get enough recovery can result in fatigue, decreased motivation, and even injury.
When you push yourself too hard without allowing for adequate time for recovery, you risk undoing all of the progress you have made and potentially setting yourself back even further.
As such, it is essential to make sure that you are prioritizing rest as a critical component of your training plan so that you can continue to make strides toward your goals without experiencing detrimental setbacks.
- You’re Not Consistent
When it comes to running, consistency is key.
Failing to maintain a steady routine over time can significantly impact your performance on the road or trail.
I know life happens and we sometimes miss out on a session or two.
You will not lose fitness by missing a session here or there, but rather its when you miss blocks of time, that can create “gaps” in your training that can lead to injury or lack of performance
Without regular training, your body will not have the opportunity to build endurance. This can lead to fatigue and injury, making it difficult to achieve your running goals.
Additionally, inconsistency can throw off your mental game, as you may feel discouraged or frustrated by your lack of progress. Routine is so important here…
To avoid these negative consequences, it’s important to maintain a regular training schedule and take the time to properly warm up and cool down before and after each run.
By staying consistent, you’ll not only improve your performance but also build a greater sense of confidence and satisfaction in your abilities.
- You’re Doing The Same Type Of Runs
As a runner, it’s not uncommon to get stuck in a rut of the same type of runs.
While consistency in training is important, doing the same type of runs repeatedly can have can cause you to plateau in your performance.
Your body adapts to the stress it’s put under, and if you’re always doing the same thing, your body becomes efficient at that particular type of workout, resulting in no further progress.
It’s important to mix in different types of runs, Yes we want to vary our running as we have described above to 80/20 principles, but we also want to have gradual progressions in these runs, followed by some recovery and then repeat.
Varying your workouts will not only prevent plateauing but can also help prevent injury and keep your running experience enjoyable.
- You’re Not Getting Enough Sleep.
If you’re an avid runner, you already know how important it is to prioritize sleep.
But did you know that not getting enough hours of shut-eye can significantly impact your running performance?
Sleep plays a crucial role in repairing the body’s muscles and tissues, as well as restoring energy levels for your runs.
When you don’t get enough sleep, your muscles don’t have the opportunity to fully recover, leaving you feeling stiff and sluggish during your workouts.
Additionally, lack of sleep affects your body’s ability to transport oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, ultimately hindering your overall performance.
So, make sure to prioritize restful nights and aim for seven to eight hours of sleep per night to truly optimize your running abilities.
Let’s find out if there is a magic number when it comes to how many hours of sleep runners require to improve their running performance: The MAGIC Sleep Number For Runners: How Much Sleep Is Enough?
- Lack of Motivation
Motivation is essential when it comes to running, and a lack of it can have a profound effect on your performance.
It’s not uncommon to experience a slump in motivation from time to time, but the important thing is to recognize it and take action.
I like to suggest to athletes to start with small steps and take small bites out of them. Dont think about the big picture but only focus on what you have to do today, not this whole week or month, just today.
Once you’ve turned that block green, focus on the next day. That’s a 2nd block of green and before you know it you’ve got a week of green blocks and the motivation will slowly come back to make that 2 weeks of green, 3 weeks of green, etc
A lack of motivation can lead to a slower pace, reduced endurance, and shorter distances.
As a result, you may find yourself giving up on your running goals altogether.
Various factors can contribute to a lack of motivation in running, including boredom, lack of progress, negative self-talk, and burnout, as well as external factors like depression, stress, work, and personal life challenges.
It’s important to recognize that these factors are normal and can impact motivation levels.
However, running has numerous positive effects on mental well-being, such as reducing stress, boosting mood, and improving overall mental health.
To prevent a lack of motivation from derailing your running routine, there are several strategies you can employ.
One effective approach is to find a training buddy who can help keep you accountable and provide companionship during runs. Running with friends can make the experience more social and enjoyable, especially when motivation is low.
Another helpful tactic is to enter a race or set specific, attainable goals. Having a tangible target to work towards can reignite your enthusiasm and provide a sense of purpose.
Additionally, breaking down your goals into smaller tasks and physically checking them off a daily list can provide a sense of accomplishment and keep you motivated.
- Poor Gear Choice & How It Can Affect Your Running Performance
As a dedicated runner, you put in countless hours of hard work to reach your fitness goals.
But many runners often overlook one critical aspect of their performance: their shoes.
Poor shoe choice can lead to a variety of issues that can affect your running performance, including blisters, shin splints, and even stress fractures.
Your shoes provide the cushioning and support necessary to bear the impact of every stride, and selecting the right shoe for your foot type is crucial.
Take the time to find the perfect fit for your feet, and you’ll find that your running experience is much more comfortable and efficient.
Don’t let a small mistake like picking the wrong shoes ruin your hard-earned progress on your running journey.
Running in worn-out shoes can lead to a running injury so knowing when to swap out your old shoes for a new pair is very important.
After you’ve been running in your shoes for quite a while, they’ll start to show signs of wear and tear.
These will be things like poor shock absorption, worn tread, they’ll feel flat and you might experience pain while running.
If you start to notice these signs of wear, it’s time to start looking for a new pair of running shoes.
No two runners are the same, but this is more or less how many miles you should be getting out of your running shoes.