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Tips to improve your running

By Victoria Advocate
July 9, 2012 at 2:09 a.m.


I have been running for close to 30 years now!

It has been a long, delightful journey filled with some ups and downs for me, but my passion for running is still alive and strong.

Fortunately, along the way, I have had the advice of great coaches, and I am an avid reader of all types of literature on the sport.

I came across a good article in Runner's World a few years ago summing up some of the best tips for improving your running, while staying injury free.

The contributors to the article are some of the best in the business with regards to running success.

Here are some tips to help you get where you want to go without sideling yourself with an injury.



Incorporate tempo runs

If you want to see your times drop, this is one of the best ways to help.

Pete Pfitzinger, the top American finisher in the 1984 and 1988 Olympic marathon, first learned about tempo running when he attended an Olympic development camp back in 1985.

Pfitzinger attributed future successes in his road racing and fewer injuries along the way to tempo running.

Here's a workout he suggests if your focus is on races of 15K or longer.

After a warmup of 10-15 minutes, run for 20-30 minutes at a pace that is about is approximately 30 seconds slower per mile than your 5K pace.

If your racing focus is on shorter lengths, run a warmup of 10-15 minutes, and then do four to six sets of two to three minute intervals at 5K-10K pace.



Incorporate easy days into your training and keep them easy

When you set up your training program, particular attention should be made in taking an easy day between hard training days.

I usually give myself a few easy days interspersed with my high-intensity days.

The issue can become whether your easy days are truly easy.

Easier effort days and recovery days are intended to allow your body some rest and recovery, so on higher intensity days, your body is ready to go.

Make sure to keep easy days easy, and make your long run day a true baseline effort - feeling like you could run that pace all day long.



Make speedwork a component of year-round training plan

A training plan set up the correct way is typically cyclic, including a base phase, strengthening phase, peak phase and a tapering/recovery phase.

If you spend too much time during the off-season without any speed or interval work included, you may risk losing some of the speed you gained over the previous racing season.

That is why Shalane Flanagan, the National 5k record holder, recommends doing some speedwork year-round.

Incorporate strides by taking half of your easy runs each week and end them with six to eight 80-100 yard accelerations, emphasizing quick turnover without straining.



To be a great runner, you have to live like a runner

Deena Kastor, Olympic marathon bronze medalist, took this notion to heart after moving to Colorado.

She tries to get off her feet and relax whenever possible and makes sure to get plenty of sleep.

If you are trying to reach your full potential as an athlete, you need to pay attention to all aspects of your life, on and off the training field. That means plenty of sleep, avoiding substances such as nicotine and alcohol and nourishing your body properly.



Take a day off each week

I have always included one full day of rest for myself during a training week, and sometimes two days off is needed.

Kara Goucher, the second fastest American woman in the 10K and marathon debut time record holder, lives by this rule now, but didn't use to.

Four years ago, Goucher refused to take a day off in pursuit of meeting her mileage goals each week, despite a lingering injury and against the advice of her friend and fellow elite runner.

Goucher continued on, running to meet her mileage goals and ignoring her body's attempt to signal to her that she needed a rest day. She ended up with a stress fracture in her hip and had to take off several weeks from training.

She suggests a day off per week and listening to your body, looking for indicators that something isn't right.

She states, "Good indicators that you need to rest your body and take some time off include a sharp, localized pain that doesn't improve as your run progresses, and any ache that alters your running form."

Some of us run for the pure joy of it and that is satisfaction enough.

However, many of us are also striving for that next personal record.

Taking heed to what professional runners and their coaches have to say, as well as listening to the advice of health professionals who deal with running injuries, can only help us to further reach our goals and extend our lives as runners.

In order to meet your full potential as a runner, or any other type of athlete, you need to pay attention to all aspects of training, meaning push when you need to push, but also take a day off and back it down a few days each week, especially when your body starts to talk to you a little more loudly.

Missy Janzow received her B.S. in Dietetics from Southeast Missouri State University and owns Fit4U, a personalized coaching and nutrition business that serves to train the novice or seasoned triathlete or runner. You can reach her with your questions at janzowml@yahoo.com.

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