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Digital Subscriptions > Women’s Running > January 2019 > 7 Seven steps to a PB (without training harder)

7 Seven steps to a PB (without training harder)

Forget adding time on your feet: here’s our guide to the small changes you can make that will reap big PB rewards

1 CUT CORNERS

No, we don’t mean cheating on a race route. But if you want to shave time off your personal best, there are several simple tips that will help you instantly.

“Where you stand at the start, the route you take and even who you run near can all dramatically help you achieve a personal best,” explains running coach Tara Shanahan (girlsruntheworld.co.uk).

Shanahan advises standing at the front of your pen, so you have fewer runners to manoeuvre around, which will also help ensure you’re running among others who are focused on a PB. And the most simple race hack of all? Focus on running the shortest route.

“An event can be longer in distance if you take the outside of bends,” explains Shanahan. “That’s why you see a racing line painted on the road at the Virgin Money London Marathon, which means you run 26.2 miles exactly if you stick to it.” The same principle applies at parkrun: take the inside line. “Though if someone is running the same line, don’t put on a sudden burst of speed to pass, as this change in pace can affect you: just keep running smoothly.”

2 SIT STILL

To race faster, you have to run more, right? The reverse could be true, according to a Norwegian study which showed meditating several times a week boosted performance.

The research found runners who meditated for 30 minutes several times a week had lower levels of lactic acid in the blood after exercise. Lactic acid is produced when exercising intensely, such as running fast. We reach our threshold when the body is unable to process lactose, resulting in that jellyleg feeling. Increasing the body’s ability to run faster for longer before you reach your threshold, increases your chance of a PB. Try the Headspace app for free, guided meditations.

3 SHORTEN YOUR RUNS

Forget spending hours working out. Running as little as one minute could actually be more effective.

A study at McMaster University, in Canada, recruited 27 sedentary people who were asked to perform three weekly sessions of either intense or moderate exercise, three times per week, for three months. It found those doing one minute of intensive exercise reaped the same heart, respiratory and muscular benefits as those doing 45 minutes of continuous exercise.

But be warned. “The extent of reduction in total exercise and time commitment is related to how hard you’re willing to push yourself,” explains Martin Gibala, professor of kinesiology at McMaster University, who conducted the study.

This means that in order for it to be effective, the 60 seconds needs to be at an all-out effort and you’ll need to do a few reps in order to reap the benefits.

“The great thing about intervals is you can do them no matter your level of fitness, building up your number of repetitions as you get fitter,” explains Shanahan. “As long as you’re running at what feels like 9 or 10 out of 10 effort, it will be effective.”

Try adding one interval running session per week, aiming for five to 10 60-second flat-out sprints. (Be sure to warm up and down though).

4 EAT RIGHT

Many people start running to lose weight, but once your goal is to get faster, you need to shit your focus to eating enough calories to meet your performance demands,” says Aisling Pigott, spokesperson for the British Dietetic Association. “If you’re performing poorly in workouts or feeling lethargic, you might not be eating enough.”

She recommends eating a piece of fruit, or fruit yogurt 30 minutes before attempting a personal best at a race, to help ensure you can satisfy your body’s energy demands. And don’t forget to fuel correctly ater you run: drinking chocolate milk within 30 minutes, for instance, will help your muscles recover, rebuild and get stronger.

For more recipe ideas, try Run Fast, Eat Slow by four-time Olympian Shalane Flanagan (from £17.30, Rodale Books).

“As well as giving you a faster inishing kick, strength training will make you a stronger, faster runner overall”

5 STRENGTH TRAIN

One of the simplest ways to get faster, with the added benefit of helping to prevent injury, is to incorporate strength work into your training. A 2005 study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine revealed an average 8.6 percent improvement in a 4K time trial after a programme of strength training twice a week.

“Strength training is so important that it shouldn’t even be considered cross-training,” agrees running coach Jason Fitzgerald (strengthrunning.com). “As well as allowing for a faster finishing kick, you will be a stronger, faster runner overall.”

This doesn’t mean you need to add even more training to your running hours. Instead, try cutting two of your weekly runs down by 15 minutes and simply using this time to do strength work.

6 WORK ON YOUR TECHNIQUE

If you want to run faster, it makes sense that your legs and feet must face in the direction you’re running to achieve this, right? For example, if you were to place your feet out to the side, you’d be slower. Yet few people realise that the swing of your arms is just as important when it comes to this forward momentum.

“Many people swing their arms across their body, or don’t swing them at all, losing a vital aid in helping you run faster and more efficiently,” explains coach Tara Shanahan. “Running technique, the swing of your arms, your cadence – which is your steps per minute as you run – and posture can all help you make huge gains in your running speed.”

She recommends booking a one-to-one session with a running coach for an assessment, although a simple tip to help you improve in the meantime is to work on your cadence.

“Ideally, you’re aiming for 180 steps per minute, which means shortening your stride for more efficient turnover,” says Shanahan. To judge your current cadence, count the number of steps you take on your right foot as you run for 30 seconds, then multiply by two. “Gradually aim to increase this number until you’re able to run at 180 steps per minute.”

A faster cadence means smaller steps, for a more efficient turnover.

7 REST

We’re all prone to running when tired, worried that missing a training session will affect our chance of a PB. Yet research from Stanford University shows that getting the right amount (and quality) of sleep or rest could be more beneficial.

In one study, researchers had basketball players sleep for six to nine hours for four weeks. They then slept 10 hours for five to seven weeks. The result? Speed improved from 16.2 to 15.5 seconds for 282ft sprints.

Sleep helps muscles repair and recover, although if you think getting 10 hours of shut-eye is an impossibility, don’t panic. Rest and relaxation outside of sleep can also help. “It’s important, because it takes your body out of fight and fight mode, which is triggered when you stress your body either through exercise, food or mental stress,” explains Yoga For Runners coach Christine Felstead (yogaforrunners. com). “Rest allows us to wake up the parasympathetic nervous body, which aids the body’s natural ability to rest, digest and recover, as well as helping you feel calm.”

She advises yogic breathing – inhaling and exhaling to fill and empty the lungs – for five to 10 minutes. Doing this while lying with your legs up a wall is a great restorative posture.

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The Inverness 5K Fun Run suits runners of all abilities

5K THE LEICESTER CITY 5K WINTER SERIES, LEICESTER

Date 2 January 2019

Terrain Road

Entry £12

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Goodies Medal and finish line goodies

This evening race takes place in Leicester’s Victoria Park and features only one gentle incline. Once used as a racecourse, the land was re-opened as a park in 1882 and benefits from being traffic-free for the full – and fast – two-lap course. The race suits runners of all standards including beginners.

https://www.nice-work.org.uk/races/Leicester-Winter-3

5K THE BUSHY PARK NEW YEAR 5K, LONDON

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