Setting a personal record in any race is cause for celebration. You just ran faster than ever before. Your fitness is at an all-time high and you've accomplished something new. Congratulations!
Once the race is over and you set your sights on your next goal, should you use the same training plan?
This is where many runners make the mistake of doing the same thing over and over again. As Einstein said, "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is the definition of insanity."
While you could repeat the same training plan and hopefully get another personal record, you're more likely to continue improving if you revise your previous plan and take the next step.
You can "take the next step" with your mileage, workouts or long runs. Let's look at each one to see how you can continue running PR's race after race.
How to Improve Your Mileage
This one is simple, but not always easy: to get faster, most runners need to run more.
More mileage over a longer period of time is the best way to improve your general endurance; this will allow you to hold the same pace for even longer.
You don't need to start ultrarunning to do more mileage. But gradually boosting your weekly mileage by 10 to 15 percent from your previous training plan can mean the difference between a PR and another mediocre race.
Add a couple of miles to a few runs every week, or tack on another easy day of running if you're not already running seven days per week. Both are simple ways of adding mileage to your plan.
Run Harder Workouts
This strategy is more advanced than running more mileage. And for most runners, I recommend running more before they make their faster workouts even harder.
But if you're already running a relatively high-mileage plan, focus on improving your workouts.
Many runners try to run the same workouts faster. So they'll try to run 6 x 800m on the track even faster than they did during the last training plan. That's fine—but not always easy.
What if during this cycle you lengthened your workouts instead? In this example, you'd run seven to eight intervals instead of six. Or if you always do a 20-minute tempo run, try a 25-minute tempo run instead.
These simple tweaks to your workouts can help you develop extra fitness without having to run faster.
The next step toward improvement is your weekly long run. If you're not doing a long run every single week, start.
Since most runners need to run more, this is another strategy to add more mileage. For any runner training for a race at the half marathon distance or longer, the long run is the most important run of the week.
By doing long runs more consistently and adding one to three miles to your peak long-run distance before you start tapering, you'll continue to build your aerobic fitness. After all, if you're a distance runner you need to do appropriate endurance training.
If you're a marathoner and you've already reached the 20- to 22-mile distance for your long runs, don't increase your long runs. Instead, try running the last two to five miles at your goal marathon pace. This strategy keeps your long run at the same distance, but increases the intensity of the run. It also adds specificity to your training. In other words, it's a better workout and you'll end up racing faster.
All of these training strategies follow the principle of progression, which says that your running needs to change continually in the right direction if you want to continue improving, burning fat, and running faster.
What parts of your training plan have you changed to continue improving? Leave a comment below and let us know.
More: How to Train for a PRSign up for your next race.