Some people are natural born runners, while others have to encourage their inner runner to emerge. Here are 5 tips that, if incorporated regularly into your training, will help you to work your way up in the pack.
- Transition run. After you return from a long ride, no matter how tired, take at least 10 minutes, and up to 40 minutes, to run right after getting off the bike with as little transition time as possible. Teaching our muscles to run efficiently and fast after cycling requires physiologic and anatomic adjustment which can be trained and practiced and as we all know, practice makes perfect.
- Vary your training pace. Running at the same pace or intensity all the time will teach your body to run that speed. However, “that” speed is often not our projected “race pace” and in addition your running will stagnate without new stimuli to encourage constant physiologic and anatomic adaptation. Therefore, make sure you run various paces through a training week or cycle. For example, long slow distance (LSD), tempo, track workouts and striders are all run at different speeds, which help to keep your run progressing and moving forward.
- Frequency. Running 7 days a week is not necessary. However, running 4, 5 or maybe even 6 days a week can have benefits. Each run does not have to be long, the goal is frequency. In fact varying the distance throughout a training cycle can help to keep things interesting. Even a 20 minute run after a hard workout or the next day can have neuromuscular benefits and “teach” your legs to run efficiently while fatigued by recruiting different motor units.
- Drills. Although no one really likes taking the time to do drills, they can help to reinforce proper form, mechanics and increase efficiency. Once a week is all that is really required, and can be performed before or after a run, however, the effort should be high and you should not be significantly fatigued before starting the drills. I recommend three drills 3×20″ each followed by 3×20″ striders. Some of my favorite drills are high knees, butt kicks, pull-throughs and skips.
- Head for the hills. A great way to build physical, as well as mental strength, is to incorporate hills into your training. In addition, proper technique can help increase hill running efficiency. While ascending, keep your body vertical with respect to gravity, as a result you will be leaning into the hill at the same time, drive your knees forward and up while concentrating on a quick explosive push off. While descending, maintain your upper body perpendicular to the slope, as a result it will feel as if you are falling down the hill, keep your foot strike beneath your hips and not in front, as this applies a breaking force. It will initially feel as if you are going to fall, however, with practice it will become more natural.
As with any endurance sport, changes will not be seen right away, and simply “doing more” will only lead to burn out and injury. There is no substitute for consistent and progressive training; however, the above approach with a little patience will help you to take your running to the next level.