The fast and the furious

Last year was the year of long slow runs, but this year I’m determined to up my speed. I’ve not really seen any improvement at all in a year, mainly because I was focussed on running for longer and further and not really worrying about pace. I assumed that the more I ran, the faster I’d get, but I’ve reached a plateau. I’m consistently able to run 5ks around the 26 minute mark with no improvement at all. I’ve been looking into how I can improve my speed by reading blogs, books and magazines on the subject. Whilst on holiday last week, I read 2 amazing and really inspirational books – Running with the Kenyans by Adharanand Finn and Born to Run by Christopher McDougall and here are the things I’ve been trying out:

Nutrition

  • Chia seeds – In Born to Run, the book follows an incredible tribe of running people known as the Tamahumara, one of the many secrets of their incredible speed and endurance is their diet of Chia seeds, which are rich in Omega 3 and 6. It’s a long shot I know, but I’ve been making myself drink a Chia seed concoction (1 tablespoon of Chia seeds, a glass of water, juice of half a lime and a spoon full of lemon curd mixed together) before running.

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  • Low fat diet – I did extremely well on Slimming World last year, which in essence is a low fat diet. Kenyan runners also eat a very low fat diet and if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.
  • Eating more beetroot – Beetroot is rich in nitrates and has long been consumed by elite runners to improve endurance.

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Training

  • Hill sprints – If I’m going to run faster I need to get my body used to running at a faster pace. There’s no better way to do this than running up hills as not only do you get stronger on hills and consequently over the flat, but running up hills also helps you to improve your running form.
  • Interval training – this is also something that Kenyan runners do. Interspersing running at 85% for fixed periods with walking, the idea being that you eventually run faster for longer.
  • Running with a weight vest – wearing a weighted vest has the potential to strengthen your leg muscles, make you faster, improve your kick and make you a better hill runner. I’ve used one before and it’s tough to run in initially, but when you remove the vest you feel as light as a feather!
  • Joining a running club and running with people who are faster than me – this is something that I think is really important for me. To improve, I definitely need help from other people by running with people who are much faster than me.
  • Stretching daily – this something I am utterly rubbish at, but for the last 2 weeks I have been stretching daily, even stretching on the train, while out at lunch time and in the office whilst making a cup of tea!
  • Warming up before every run – we runners are terrible for doing static stretching (elongating the muscle) before and during runs, but it has long been known to be either futile or actually damaging for your muscles. The correct way to warm up before a run is dynamic stretching, such as butt kicks, star jumps, knee lifts etc. I’m trying to remember to do this before every run (with varying levels of success as I normally forget!).
  • Static stretching after every run – again, I am utterly pants at doing this, but it’s vital to prevent injuries as running shortens the muscles and stretching after a run elongates them to help return the muscle to return to normal length.
  • Sleeping/resting – if I I’m not feeling it, then I won’t push it. Rest is just as important as training. Again, this is something that Kenyan runners are really good at.

After last week’s hill sprinting sessions, I am already able to run much faster for longer – tonight I ran a 4km at 4.48 mins/km, which over 5k would equate to a 24 min 5k. Just one more km to go and I’ll have achieved my sub 25 min dream!!

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Me in my new running skirt.

Watch this space!

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