Running faster is within your reach—it's not just for the genetically gifted. Sometimes, the simplest things can hold you back, like how you eat, sleep and think. Of course, you have to put in some quality training. But many runners are surprised to learn that what they do outside of their workouts makes a big difference in how fast they go. Use these six simple training strategies to speed up—and impress yourself—in no time.
#1 Way to Run Faster: Be Efficient
In our busy lives, we have to balance work, home life and personal time. Often when running late, the first thing skipped is our workout. Skipped workouts lead to inconsistency, which can impede your progress. Set yourself up for success by having everything ready to go for your workout. Each night, assemble a workout bag with your running gear, water bottle and recovery snack. In the morning, grab it and go!
#2 Way to Run Faster: Work Smarter, Not Harder
Make the most of every workout by working out with a purpose. Before you embark on a workout program, set a meaningful end goal that you find motivating and challenging. Then, consult with an online program, a reputable book or a running coach to design a program that maximizes your time and minimizes junk miles. That means your training plan should focus on quality, rather than quantity. High-quality training is that which is specific to your goal and your ability level. Running extra miles beyond what is necessary may break you down and wear you out. Find out what it truly takes to reach your goal—then aim to do just that, not one mile more!
# 3 Way to Run Faster: Vary Your TrainingRunning the same route or pace day after day can keep you stuck at a plateau. Vary your training distances, paces and terrain to become a stronger, faster runner. Include drills, fartlek, hills, speedwork, long distance and easy runs as part of your training. Your body will adapt to the new challenges and your motivation will stay fresh from the variety.
#4 Way to Run Faster: Eat RightLearn how to fuel yourself before, during and after workouts. Through proper nutrition, you'll grow stronger and improve performance day to day. Starting a workout low on fuel is a sure way to underperform and fall short of your workout goal. Proper nutrition leaves you energized during the workout and helps you to recover after it. Start with a carbohydrate-rich pre-workout snack. During workouts, hydrate well and include an energy source for runs lasting longer than 75 minutes. After a workout, rehydrate and consume a snack within 30 minutes. Daily nutrition also counts - eat a variety of wholesome foods to improve your body composition and health (both which improve your running!).
#5 Way to Run Faster: Affirm YourselfPositive self-talk is an integral part of confidence and success. Often, reaching that next level in sport is simply a matter of believing you can. More than 66,000 thoughts float through our minds on a daily basis. Imagine the energy you could harness by making most of those thoughts self-affirming and positive! Before a challenging run or race, create a powerful affirmation that you can focus on when you find yourself with fear, doubts or insecurities. "I can do this" or "I am strong on the hills" are phrases you can repeat to yourself throughout your key workouts to build confidence in your abilities.
# 6 Way to Run Faster: Be Serious About Rest
Instead of training more, rest more. Resting as hard as you train is important for progress. Rest allows you to recover stronger from the breakdown that occurs when running. Follow hard days with easier days. After a hard workout, get a good night's sleep or a short nap to kick off the recovery process. Include other recovery modalities such as massage, stretching or yoga.
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This article originally appeared on Shape.com.
Elizabeth Waterstraat is multisport coach for athletes of all abilities and is founder of Multisport Mastery, Inc.. She has also competed at the amateur and pro levels in multisport.
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