Running can seem really simple at first. You do a couple quad stretches, lace up your shoes and get straight into it. Initially this works if you are consistent, week after week you seem to be getting quicker, until you don't. With no set plan and logging in a fair few k's you seem to just be going the one pace with no improvements.
If you have a running goal between 5-10km and still aren't faster here are some reason's why:
You treat all your runs as time trials. Doing time trials or all out effort runs is great to test your overall running ability but these should be saved for a run once every 3-4 weeks. Not only is this really taxing on your body and legs but the margin for improvement from one session to the next is minimal. While you may see some progress early on, there will be a point where you just can not run faster and you start to get demotivated.
All your runs are long and at the same 'comfortable' pace. Long steady runs condition your legs to run the distance you are doing and builds a good aerobic base to work off, however it does not condition your legs, lungs and mind to cope with the the faster paces. To build the strength and stamina at those faster paces you have to incorporate some uncomfortable running at faster speeds at some stage. As the saying goes, "the comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing grows there."
Here are two great ways to add some diversity into your running, which will help you smash out some new PBs. These both revolve around a 5km goal, but you can just as easily stretch these out for 10km runs too.
Incorporate longer runs where you run much faster than you normally would, with periods of rest or recovery where you run much slower than you normally would.
An example of this for Person A who can run 5km in 25 minutes (5 min kms) would be:
- 1km @6:00 pace (the slower run)
- 1km @4:40- 4:50 pace (the faster pace)
Here you have a chance to run much faster than you normally would, followed by a period of rest/recovery where you run much slower than you normally would. The slow run should be slow enough to allow you to recover and run faster than your usual pace when it is time to get going again. This gives you the chance to get comfortable at the faster speed without completely dying, recover while still moving and gives you a chance to get some kilometres into your legs.
Incorporate sprints at much faster paces efforts with small rest breaks. Another example with Person A who can run 5km in 25 minutes (5 minute kms) would be:
1km @4:30 - 4:45 pace followed by a 60 - 90 sec rest
These runs should feel a little uncomfortable especially as you get towards the last few. It is important to pick a pace which is a fair bit quicker than what you run, but not at an all out effort. You want to be getting through all five efforts. These runs should have you going much faster than your usual pace, building some serious speed in your legs.
The two methods above can be changed depending on the distance and pace you run at. If you need help doing that, or have any questions let me know in the comments below!