Looking into the start of a new year what can you do differently to continue to become a better runner in 2020? In terms of running training this does not need to follow the new year, new you format. There is usually no need to start again from scratch with a new training philosophy. The throw the baby out with the bath water approach isn’t necessary, particularly if you’ve been running successfully and uninjured for a period of time.
In part one of this series we focused on three non-running focuses you can do to improve your running. In part 2 we look at what you can do to your training in order to become a better runner. You may be disappointed to find that there isn’t any miracle training you can do, it takes time, discipline and resilience to improve running performance. Be patient and you’ll succeed in the long term.
Put simply, if you want to improve as a runner you should be looking to run more. You will get better at running from more running. This doesn’t mean you should radically increase the mileage you run. You should be measured in how you increase mileage and be mindful of how the body reacts when you do. However through phases of training where you are building endurance you should be proactively trying to increase your mileage.
Increase your mileage in one of two ways. Either add mileage/time to your runs or add more runs to your schedule.
If you can’t increase the days you run per week, add 5-10 min to each or some of your runs. It may be as simple as getting out of bed 5-10 minutes earlier in the mornings. By doing this it could mean 30-60 minutes a week more time running and more valuable miles adding to your training. This is a balancing act of ensuring you still prioritise sleep and get out the door running feeling ready and adequately refreshed.
If you can fit an extra days running into your running and life schedule by all means do so. You’ll reap the benefits over time.
When you add miles to your running schedule they should be prioritised in aiding aerobic development. When you add miles they shouldn’t be an extra hard speed session but aerobic miles that build aerobic fitness.
The most vital building block of becoming a better runner is consistently focusing on aerobic development. We can define aerobic fitness as the amount of oxygen transported in the blood and pumped by the heart to muscles and as the efficiency of the muscles to use that oxygen. Therefore by aerobic development we mean improving the efficiency in which we use oxygen or improving running without an increase in heart rate at the same effort level.
Improving aerobic fitness can be achieved by consistently running in the aerobic heart rate zones. These runs are not the most challenging and don’t produce terribly impressive data to display online but they are vital to becoming a better runner. Focus much of your energy into runs that improve your aerobic development and be patient. Making meaningful gains in aerobic development takes time.
Running hills regularly builds strength, resilience and running economy. We should all be prioritising runs that involve running hills. This can either be dedicated running of hill repeats or runs that take you over undulating terrain. Ideally it will be both.
Aim to have a consistent hill repeats run built into your schedule strategically aimed at building strength in your legs. These sessions should be present in all phases of your training other than speed development or tapering phases for race. A weekly hill repeats session will be both beneficial and challenging and could just be the session you look forward to most each week. Alternatively take your aerobic runs and long runs over a hilly, undulating terrain and you’ll get great benefit.
Hills are hard but very rewarding from a physical and also mentally. By prioritising hills regularly into your schedule you’ll build resilience. When you face hills in races you’ll be ready to give your best effort. By building strength from hills you’ll strong near the end of a race when you are required to give your best effort.
Becoming a better runner is a long term project. There is no miracle training, it isn’t sexy and there is no hack you find to turbo charge your running. But it will be rewarding, if you put in the effort in a meaningful, methodical and smart way you’ll become a better runner. You’ll get faster at your chosen events, you’ll be able to run further and faster than you perhaps thought possible and my hope is you enjoy running as a lifetime purpose.
Reach out at [email protected] if you’d like some help with your running training in 2020. I am only interested in helping people get more out of running by helping achieve your goals. The first months training is free and includes the initial contact in order to set up a coach – runner relationship. Please contact if you have any questions.