Improve Running Performance - 5 Quick Running Tips Guaranteed to Improve Your Running

improve running
What do you do when you want to improve running performance?

Follow a few of my running tips of course... :)

Well, seriously, quite often I get questions of runners trying to improve their running performance.

And often I can help them out with similar advice.

So, let's walk through an example of a runner who wants to improve their running performance and let's work out how to help them improve their performance.

Check out this e-mail:

"Hi Dominique,

I run three miles three times a week.
In the beginning I ran it faster every time.
Lately I am stuck and can't seem to improve anymore.
What can I do to improve my running ?

Thanks in advance.

The runner in this e-mail makes a few mistakes. That's okay, he is learning. And I was able to help him out by providing him with a few of my running tips.

Let's list them out here and then get into the detail:

Best Running Tips
  • Run further to run faster

  • Vary your speed

  • Improve your running economy

  • Learn about periodization

  • Do more than running alone

  • Improve Running Tip #1 : Run Further to Run Faster

    This runner runs three miles.

    Every workout.

    Never more.

    Leaving him completely out of breath.

    Not being able to do more.

    Imagine if he built up his mileage.

    To five miles per workout. Seven miles per workout. Add in an even longer run getting to, say, ten miles. Over time. Not immediately, but building up to it over a number of months.

    Three miles would suddenly not be that far anymore.

    All those longer runs, really help build up his endurance. They build his base. Then suddenly, he finds it easier to run faster for longer.

    That's one of the first keys when you want to improve your running: run further and develop your base, your basic stamina/endurance.

    Really think about it as a base, e.g. the foundations of a house. With a small base (little endurance), you can only build a small house (fast for a short amount of time). With a large base (big endurance base), you can build a bigger, fancier house (you can be faster for much longer).

    Follow the links below for some more information about base/easy running and running more:

    base running drills
    increasing mileage safely

    Improve Running Tip #2 : Vary Your Speed

    improve running
    This runner only knows one speed. Top speed.
    There are incredible benefits in running at different speeds.

    Basic running training identifies a number of different speeds at which to do your running training:

  • Easy running / Base running speed

  • Tempo running

  • Interval running

  • We can get more sophisticated than this, but let's just concentrate on the big pillars of running performance. We can get fancy and more advanced later on... Let's get into these different speeds a bit more:

    Base Running Speed
    This is the most important running speed.

    It's easy/slow running.

    Many people don't like working out at this speed.

    It's too slow. Too dull. Too boring.

    But at this speed you train the heart to transport more blood and oxygen with every heart beat. You train the running muscles to more effectively use the oxygen in the blood they get from the heart.

    This speed should be the cornerstone of your running program.

    Tempo Running Speed
    Tempo running changes your lactic acid threshold, so that lactic acid builds up less rapidly in your running muscles and gets transported out more quickly.

    I am not going to go into all the scientific detail, I'll try to keep it high level. See lactic acid as the by-product of exercise. When your body produces only a little lactic acid (at low speed), your body can remove it from the muscles without a problem.

    However, when you run faster and faster, more lactic acid gets produced. At some point your body will not be able to remove it out of the muscles quickly enough and the lactic acid starts building up.

    When lactic acid builds up in your legs and you can't get rid of it in time, your legs get really, really heavy.

    quote from steve prefontaine

    That's basically what happens when you run at a very high speed for even more than five minutes or so. At some point your legs will start to drag. It's the lactic acid doing its work.

    If base running is most important, tempo running is a close second. Doing base running and tempo running alone, many of us would be able to set personal records on all distances of one mile and up.

    Interval Running Speed
    At this speed you improve the amount of oxygen your running muscles can consume.

    So, where base running makes your heart stronger, pumping more blood (and oxygen) to your muscles with every heart beat, interval running makes your running muscles work more efficiently.

    improve running
    Interval running is out of the three just discussed, the fastest and often the hardest to do. Intervals are a tough workout.

    When I go out for an early morning run, I have a bit of trouble getting into an interval session. Sometimes there is a real feeling of dread when I start the session.

    In the end, I do them, because they help improve your running and afterwards you feel a real sense of accomplishment.

    But they do hurt a bit! That's why you should follow the advice I provide in the above link. It makes interval running just that little bit easier.

    Covering all these different speeds in your training is necessary to keep on improving your running.

    Improve Running Tip #3 : Improve Your Running Economy

    In addition to doing the above running workouts, it pays off to focus more on your running economy.

    Your running economy is the amount of energy you use with every step you take.

    When you use less energy with every step, you can go further and faster for longer.

    Now, we take a lot of steps when running. A 1% improvement pays off over the long haul. This is not the page to be overloading you with a massive number of drills and all the ins and outs of running technique.

    If there is only one thing you do to improve your technique, let it be by adding some strides to the end of your easy runs. Two or three times per week is great.

    Strides help you practice a little bit each easy run with fast paced running and is especially good for working on turnover of your feet and translating power to speed.

    Learn more about strides here:

    Running Strides

    improve running

    Improve Running Tip #4 : Learn about Periodization

    There is a time for each type of running training. When preparing for a race, you need to know a little about the concept of periodization.

    This is all about doing the right training at the right time.

    Now, I am going to maybe contradict myself slightly. I think you can get 80% of the way there without periodization.

    Suppose your training week consists of easy runs (with strides), a long run and one or two quality sessions (tempo and/or intervals). That's a very, very solid start.

    It will help improve your running, especially when you are not used to a schedule like that.

    improve running
    After a while though, it will get harder to get improvements.

    This is where periodization comes to life. Periodization is about cutting up your training in different building blocks, in order to be optimally prepared on race day.

    Starting with base building you progress to faster workouts closer to the race. The workouts become more and more targeted towards your goal race. Eventually finishing with a good taper, giving you fresh legs for the race.

    Improve Running Tip #5 : Do More Than Running Training Alone

    More than running training alone improves performance.

    Running training is incredibly important to improve your running.

    But it's not the only necessary component.

    Now, back to the runner in the e-mail. He runs three times per week.

    Best Running Tips
    Does he do any cross-training?

    Does he do strength training a couple of times per week to become stronger and make his body more resilient?

    Does he consider his diet and stay away from or reduce is intake of junk food?

    Does he sleep well (7-8 hours per night on average)?

    Just a few aspects which certainly do have their impact on how fast you are and how well you recover. Definitely factors to look at when trying to improve running performance.

    These five simple running tips combined give you a good basis to start of from. So, keep in mind:

  • Build up your mileage

  • Vary your speed

  • Work on your running economy

  • Know when to do which workout (periodization)

  • Do not only focus on running training

  • I hope this has given you some food for thought. Or, as a friend mine used to say "food for doing". Implementing some of these ideas, can help you in becoming a faster runner who constantly keeps on improving their running performance!

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