Like most physical changes such as weight loss and muscle gain, running faster doesn’t happen overnight and takes a disciplined and steady approach to see gains and more specifically, consistent gains. It is important to note that the faster a runner is, the more effort it takes to see gains.
YOU RUN THE SAME PACE ALL THE TIME
A lot of runners run the same pace (and some, on the same route) on each and every run. Will you see gains this way? Perhaps, as you are training the cardiovascular system – however, as you get more fit, this strategy will not be very successful. While there is a place and time for ‘middle ground’ training efforts, most gains are made at opposite ends of the intensity spectrum (slow/fast).
Runners that don’t understand the physiology of why running slow is beneficial (increased mitochondrial and capillary density, better fat oxidation, etc…) , consequently believe that running slow has little to no value and therefore they don’t do it… or do it sparingly. Conversely, hands up if you enjoy running 800 meter repeats.
See my point?
Running at high intensities is hard and for lack of a better description, downright hard and painful. As a result, many runners avoid doing high intensity workouts or at the very least, they avoid doing intensities high enough and/or for long enough periods of time to elicit maximum results.
YOU DON’T REST ENOUGH
Simply put, a lot of runners do not rest enough. Rest is what allows for all of the hard work you do to materialize in the form of improvements to your running. Lack of sufficient rest can result in diminished gains, illness and injury. When a lack of rest is combined with too much physical training, symptoms of overtraining may result.
In the case of running, more is not always better.
YOU’RE INJURY PRONE
Injuries cause runners to miss workouts and missed workouts result in reduced fitness and in the case of this post, reduced speed.
If you seem to always be sidelined by injury, seeking out a clinician such as a physical therapist that works with runners is likely the most intelligent way to proceed.
YOU DON’T RESPECT EASY/HARD DAYS
As noted earlier, the most impactful running workouts typically exist at either end of the intensity spectrum. Also as noted earlier, most runners do not run easy or hard enough.
From a programming standpoint, most runners run too easy on their hard days, and too hard on their easy days. Respect the program.
YOU RUN TOO FAR
While a very generalized statement, speed and endurance exist on opposite ends of the spectrum. Training just for speed will likely result in decreased endurance while training specifically for endurance will likely reduce your speed.
Therefore, if most all of your post-aerobic base runs are long and slow, you should not expect your speed to increase… or at least not by very much.
While cycling specific, many years ago as a junior cyclist, I had the opportunity to race in Belgium and Holland. Prior to leaving, our team did a training camp and one of the riders was so strong, he would just ride away from the rest of us on hills and could seemingly ride for hours without getting tired. Then came Europe. With no hills, shorter distances, fast speeds and lots of speed fluctuations, that seemingly invincible rider wasn’t able to finish one race! While extremely well trained aerobically due to his 4-5 hour training rides at steady sub-threshold paces, as he never trained for speed or intensity, he wasn’t able to handle the demands of racing in Europe.
YOU SKIP TRAINING SESSIONS
Whether due to binging on the latest season of Stranger Things, or factors out of your control such as unscheduled work meetings, missed training sessions will hinder your progression as a runner. A missed training session here and there is not a big deal – but when missed training sessions start to add up and begin to become a trend, your speed progression will likely stall.
This is especially the case if you’re skipping key intensity sessions such as intervals and tempo runs.
YOU’RE DEFICIENT IN OTHER AREAS
There is often so much of a focus on the cardiovascular aspect of running, that runners often forget about, or trivialize other key areas.
Some of these areas include: Nutrition, form/mechanics, strength, flexibility, psychology and pacing strategies.
Below is UESCA’s advice to get and keep your speed:
- Train at all levels of intensity/speed
- If you find it hard to push yourself, train with a group or a faster runner
- Get enough rest
- Use a training log so that you have historical data to make sound future training decisions.
- Assuming your training program has easy and hard days… stick to the program
- Make sure to integrate speed sessions into your program, even if you’re training for a long distance race
- If you’re getting injured a lot – seek help from a qualified clinician
- Look outside of just your cardiovascular fitness for areas to work on
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