Despite the unfortunate situation we've all undergone the past few months (COVID-19) there is a silver-lining... we have plenty of time to prepare for a great comeback race.
1. INCREASE YOUR MILEAGE
I've always been an advocate for increased mileage, even beyond the distance of your goal race. Let's say that you're training for a marathon, so you prepare yourself to run 42km - and during training, you never go above the 42km distance... well, this means that you will be reaching your endurance potential at the end of the marathon.
HOWEVER, if in training you prepare yourself for the 45km distance, this will give you some 'buffer' room to push yourself at the end of the marathon. Some extra juice for you to run on! Also, increased endurance also comes with lots of other biological improvements such as increased capillary density, greater numbers of mitochondria, better usage of fat as fuel while running fast, muscle fiber adaptations, and higher glycogen storage.
If you're looking for more information on how to increase your running distance safely, have a look at this in-depth scientifically backed article.
2. MAKE RECOVERY A PRIORITY
As runners, we're go-getters. We love to get stuff done - even if that means waking up at 5a.m. after only four hours of sleep. And there is definitely a good side to that! However, when it comes to exercise and improving your performance, decreased sleep is definitely NOT great. Sleep is essencial for recovery!
Speaking of recovery, easy days are also a priority - and a very important one at that. As I pointed out in a previous article of mine:
If you run at a high effort today then you will need to have an easy run day tomorrow, to allow for recovery. If you run at a really high effort today then you’ll need to have at least two easier running days before you attempt another hard run.
In this article I go into depth on recovery and how to use periodisation to optimise recovery (this is great for building an effective long-term training strategy). Make sure you give this article a thorough read-through.
3. GET INTO STRENGTH TRAINING
If you haven't incorporated strength training into your training - you're missing out on some serious performance enhancements. Core muscles are certainly important, but so are the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in the lower and upper body. Several studies have found evidence that lifting heavy weights, especially with the lower body, improved race times for well-trained distance runners.
So we're talking about movements like the squat and deadlift. They're definitely the king and king when we're talking about strength movements! You can also look into movements like lunges and even pull-ups to build a powerful arm swing!
I have actually prepared a full strength training programme for runners, to use in the gym, in case you're feeling lost. Click here to check it out.
4. OPTIMISE YOUR NUTRITION
Food is more than just calories. Counting calories is important if you're trying to lose weight - however, the same is not true if you're trying to improve your performance! Proper nutrition for better performance involves eating a balance diet including fats, carbs and proteins.
Vitamins and minerals are also essencial. However, if we search the internet for advice on proper nutrition we can sometimes end up with more questions than answers. It seems like everything is prohibited or can end up causing more harm than good!
So what is the consensus?
Eat a balanced diet full of healthy, nutrient rich foods and stay away from processed items. Don't overthink this!
Runners, these are your four pillars for proper performance. Your training plan may be great, but if you're missing out on one of these important steps, you're missing out on improving your potential!
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