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When someone has success in business, everyone wants to know the tactics and shortcuts they used to get to the top. When someone wins a 5k or marathon, no one asks how they did it, everyone already knows that there were no shortcuts in running you have to put in the time and effort.

With that in mind, that there are no shortcuts or magic bullets, below are just a few things I’ve learned in roughly 100 races and 7,500 miles of running that I hope can help others training for their own race be it a 5k or any distance.

SET A GOAL

This will provide motivation to continue. Is it to lose a few pounds? Finish in the top 10 of your age group at the next 5k? Or even just to run your first 5k ever? Or first 10k or marathon? Put that carrot on a stick and dangle it mercilessly in front of you. I’ve decided to set a 5k goal so outlandish that I’ll probably never reach it, because I’m more interested in the journey than the destination, but having a destination helps in knowing which direction to go.

LEARN HOW TO RUN

We learn how to play baseball, football, and we’re taught how to swim, but no one really teaches us how to run. Did you know it’s a common recommendation to have 180 footstrikes per minute (same as 90 per foot per minute), no matter your speed? This video is a good starting point:

GO SLOW!

If you are just starting out, take heed! It’s much better to go slow and stay injury free, than push your limits before you know them and end up sidelined with an injury. The rule of thumb here is to not increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% of your previous week’s total mileage. If last week I ran a total of 20 miles, the next week I can increase it to 22 if I think I’m ready.

And if you’re just starting out, start with walking! Then slowly incorporate short jogs in your walks until you are running the entire time.

KEEP A LOG

This will help keep you consistent and feel a sense of accomplishment every time you enter your run. I use running2win and you can see every run I’ve entered for the last 13 years here: http://bit.ly/14Z4uhn.

There’s also apps like RunKeeper you can install on your phone (and add me as a friend if you use it). The point is to keep track so you can learn from your training, I still look back and research workouts I did years ago before some of my fastest races to see what worked for me. I also track things like my heart rate before bed so I can spot patterns of increased resting heart rate as an indication to take a rest day the next day.

LONG RUN

Refer back to GO SLOW! Only start incorporating long runs once a week when they can consist of around 30% of your total weekly mileage. Once you do incorporate this longer run, in a few months you’ll see a huge improvement in your aerobic ability and running economy. (You should be running, or walking if you’re starting out, at least 3x/week.)

SPEED WORK

Some people hate it, I love it. This will help give contrast to your training to keep it from being monotonous. It could be as simple as at the end of a normal run sprint for short periods of time, make it fun like between every other light pole. It can be as structured as a speed workout day on a track and do 12x400m with 200m rest at race pace or faster.

By incorporating speed work you’re hitting a whole different muscle group than on normal days, fast vs slow twitch muscles, as well as different energy systems. If you are interested in getting faster, this is what will make the difference for most recreational runners. To get ideas of what to do you can look at any spring season of my running log from college in 2003-2006.

DON'T BE THAT GUY/GIRL

I see it every. single. race. The guy or girl who sprints for about 10 to 20 seconds, maybe even a half mile and then completely falls off the map. Know your fitness level and run your own race. You will run faster if you do because you will not be shocking your system and getting into oxygen debt and maxing out your anaerobic capacity early. The goal should be to run negative splits, meaning each quarter mile or mile should be faster than the last or at least even. The more dramatic of a difference between splits, like sprinting at the start of the race is making it harder for yourself to do your best in a race like a 5k or longer.

MAKE FRIENDS

If you’re lucky to find a group of people to run with even for one season, they could turn out to be some life-long friends who will care enough to make something like this if you get sick, and make you feel like you could run forever:

 

 

 

 

Bonus Tip: If you're running hard you can make silly faces and get away with it.

Bonus Tip: If you’re running hard you can make silly faces and get away with it.

Silence the Blerch click the image below to read more about it.
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