Use these tips to complement your 10K training plan and achieve a faster time
A 10K race is a perfect choice for your first organized running event. Long enough to provide a challenge but nowhere near as overwhelming as a marathon, they’re a great introduction to the concept of training with a specific goal in mind. And if you have already got one under your belt, the manageable distance makes it fun to try and set new PBs. Use these tips to cross the finish line of your first 10K, or shave minutes off your PB.
It may sound like unconventional fitness advice but, if you want to run a faster 10K, you should probably train less. One US study showed that a three-day-a-week training programme produced significant gains in aerobic power. The runners were put on a training regime that consisted of just three carefully structured running workouts per week, and as a result, showed a 4.8% improvement in their VO2 max (the volume of oxygen your lungs can use). In a follow-up trial, 25 runners were put on a three-day-a-week marathon training schedule. After 16 weeks, 21 of the runners started the race; all finished, 15 with personal bests, and four of the remaining six ran faster than in their previous marathon.
Forget your footstrike
Don’t worry about how your foot hits the ground. Instead, to increase your pace in a short space of time, focus on running economy and maintaining technique. A mostly Japanese research team published results of their study of 415 runners’ footstrikes at a half marathon. Nearly 75% of all the runners were heel strikers, which some experts have recently claimed is a slower way to run than landing and taking off on your forefoot. Even among the 50 fastest, who averaged five minutes per mile, the heelstrike percentage only fell to 62%.
There are lots of theories on the best way to breathe during running, but a study from Liverpool John Moores University showed that once exercise is moderately hard, the most efficient way of breathing in and out is the way that comes naturally – through the mouth, not the nose. This allows you to get more oxygen into your lungs to fuel your muscles.
Running uphill requires explosive use of your hamstrings, calf muscles and glutes. The strength and power gained translate into a longer, quicker and more efficient stride. Researchers at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden found that twice-weekly hill workouts improved running economy by 3%. Running uphill also forces your footstrike to occur directly under your center of gravity. If you tend to over-stride, which is both common and performance-destroying, hill running will help you correct your form.
Do some combination sets
These sessions involve runs at various paces performed without recovery. Try four sets of 200/400/1,600/300 meters. This is a 10K-specific combination set that takes you to extreme levels of intensity and difficulty, preparing you for a new 10K PB. Warm up thoroughly, then begin with 200 meters at 800m pace. Slow to 5K pace for 400m before slowing again to 10K pace for 1,600m. Finish this 2,500m compound set with a 300m sprint. Repeat three more times, resting for three minutes between each effort.
Do unilateral moves
Pretty much everyone has one leg that’s stronger than the other, but if you’ve got a serious imbalance, the risk of sustaining an injury in your weaker one grows significantly when you’re running. You can remedy this through unilateral or one-sided leg training. By working one leg at a time and forcing each one to perform the same number of reps with the same weight, you’ll gradually build more balanced strength in your pins. Some of the best unilateral legs move to build running specific strength are single-leg glute ham raises, single-leg step-ups and single-leg squats.
Use a heart rate monitor
Your heart is the best indicator of how much you’re pushing yourself during a session. But the fact that you can feel it jackhammering against your chest won’t give you real feedback about how your level of exertion will translate into race day performance. For that, you need a heart rate monitor. These clever wrist-based devices accurately measure your heartbeat so you can determine how hard it’s going when you’re running at a certain pace. The higher end ones also come with GPS so you can track your distance and route, and some even calculate your VO2 max – the maximum amount of oxygen you can consume while working at your maximum capacity – which determines how hard you can train before collapsing in a sweaty heap on the floor.
Listen to music
As well as stopping you from getting bored during a run, music can help you go harder for longer, according to a recent study by Brunel University’s School of Sport and Education. The researchers behind the findings also discovered that different BPMs work better for different sports, with running performance boosted most effectively by tracks with a BPM of over 135. And there’s even some evidence that music can reduce your rate of perceived exertion – how tough it feels when you’re pounding the pavements. So next time you’re about to tackle a race pace marathon training run, make sure you’ve got an MP3 player loaded up with Swedish House Mafia with you.
Warming up and down thoroughly will also help you run faster.