How to Improve series – part 1

I wrote this series of posts while parkrun was cancelled due to Covid19 on what you can do to improve your running and set yourself up for a PB. It begins by looking at the four factors to consider when constructing a training plan.

I only became a serious runner as I was approaching forty, but there were a few times before that when I focused on running. When I was eighteen, my sister wanted to go out running so I went with her.  She promptly gave up and moved to London while I stuck with it for the next six weeks.

I didn’t have a training plan or a goal, all I did was run to the bottom of our road and back. I’d stand at the back door, start the timer on my Casio digital watch and sprint off as fast as I could. We lived on a hill so I got an extra boost with running downhill and, while it eased off, it was downhill all the way to the bottom of the road. Once there I’d turned right and come back up another road that seemed fairly flat. Of course by now I was huffing and puffing away, gasping for breath but the worst was yet to come. The final section was two steep uphills with a short flat section inbetween. The flat gave enough time to slightly recover from the first uphill, push up the second and arrive home gasping for breath at our backdoor. Plotting the route now I find it was 2.6km with 30-metres of fall and rise. I kept no logs but I recall running this route in seventeen minutes. That seems a bit slow as it’s six minutes per km but given that I wasn’t that fit at the time I can believe it may be correct.  The only thing I had going for me was a will to push myself to the limit and give it my all.

I decided I was going to try and run every night of the week but I also gave myself an out – I’d accept running six days out of seven. That’s a pretty smart way to train because while you’re setting yourself a standard, you’re also accepting you don’t have to be perfect and it’s ok to miss the odd session here and there. I trained like this for six weeks and then I got invited to do a charity swimming event so I started going swimming regularly and forgot about the running.

This first foray into running certainly wasn’t the best way to train but it ticks the box on two of the factors that go into making a training plan.  

  • I was running regularly – six days per week.
  • I was accumulating mileage as a result of running regularly. It may only have been about ten miles per week and totalled 1 ½ hours but it was a beginning.

Where it failed was on the third factor – intensity. Had I slowed some of these runs down I would have been able to run further and longer and I would have been able to build up.

The fourth factor is recovery. You only get faster if you recover from the training you’ve done. Being eighteen years old I was still young enough to cope with running all-out for fifteen minute, six times per week. The day off each week was likely enough to get me through but I could certainly have been smarter in the balance of my training.

It’s the interaction of these four factors that get you FITteR

  • Frequency – how often you run
  • Intensity – how fast you run
  • Time – how long you run
  • Recovery – allowing your body to recover and adapt

In part two, I’ll talk in more detail about Frequency of training and how often you should aim to run.

6 thoughts on “How to Improve series – part 1

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