Understand your goal.
Prepare for the goal that you are aiming to complete. Setting a goal of running 5KM requires different training compared to 20KM. So, find the right running plan for you and give yourself enough time to build both your body and mind up to smash that goal. Try the ‘My Coach’ function on the Nike Run Club app, which helps you personalise a running plan based on your currently ability and goal.
Understand your fuel.
The food you eat and your hydration is key. Take the time to learn what works well for you – everyone is different! Remember that your fuel helps you get the most out of your running and powers your recovery. Eating enough carbohydrates and making sure that you are properly hydrated before long training sessions is super important.
Understand your effort.
No matter what distance you’re aiming to run, it is a strategic game of understanding the effort required on a run. The more practice you have, the better you’ll master how to pace yourself. The key to success here is understanding that you have different ‘gears’ that you can play around with when you run. Changing up those gears during your training will help you figure out the perfect pace for you and how long you can sustain that pace for without getting exhausted too early.
If you are looking to run faster, then you need to run faster in training. Depending on your level of experience, I would recommend introducing one or two speed runs into your program. Speed runs play around with different paces to condition your body to handle running at faster speeds. There are many kinds of speed runs, and introducing them into your training is a great way to improve your speed and keep your running fresh. The Nike Run Club app has a collection of Speed runs in their Guided Runs – for example, you can try the speed run with Matildas athlete Ellie Carpenter. However, if you do add speed runs into your training, then you need to balance your week with recovery days and your long run. Ideally, aim to have a recovery run or day off after either a speed run or long run.
The longer the distance you want to run, the longer the training and build-up. My top tip for building up distance over time is to do it gradually. Your running program should take into consideration the number of weeks until you want to hit your distance goal and slowly build-up to this distance. Another tip is to slowly build the total distance run per week, the general ‘rule of thumb’ is no more than 10% each week.
To become a better runner, it requires a progressive overload in your training. This will include a mixture of recovery runs, long runs, and speed runs, to responsibly stress your body into adapting. It is a delicate balance between the right amount of training, combined with the right amount of recovery. As you improve, you will have a new tolerance for stress, so your long runs can increase in duration or pace. However, make sure you don’t increase your run duration and speed at the same time. It is also important that you plan your training so that you allow recovery after harder or intense sessions.
For your weekly long runs, they are more about going the distance than how fast you are running. So, for your long training runs, take it easy, listen to your body, and modify your pace depending on how you feel. Over the training program, you will slowly learn what pace is right for you and what you feel confident in being able to hold over the distance. If your goal is to complete a certain distance, then start smooth and controlled and take a few kilometres to settle into your pace. If you are chasing time, then you’ll figure out your goal pace as you continue to train. The key here is not starting too quickly, in the hope of banking time for later. Instead, aim to settle into a comfortable pace straight away and adjust your effort based on how you are feeling.
A well-balanced running program will teach you how to be a smarter runner. As you get fitter, you will learn to perceive your effort more accurately, and you will discover that you have different gears when it comes to running. The trick is to find the right gear for the distance that you are aiming to complete. Once you find that gear, you will be able to pace yourself to achieving your goal.
The key to success with running is consistency, and the best way to achieve consistency is to have purposeful intent for each run that you do. The Nike Run Club app is a great way to bring a purpose to your running. Its audio guided runs help you better understand how to pace yourself, guides you on speed runs, explains the importance of recovery runs along with other cool features such as runs guided by athletes and comedians . As mentioned, for those looking for a running program to follow, the Nike Run Club ‘My Coach’ feature will help create a personalised plan. To finish off, the fact that you are reading this article shows that you are invested in developing your running knowledge, which is a big step in the right direction towards being consistent and enjoying your running.
This article was written by Aaron Coutts, Director of Exercise and Sport Science Australia (ESSA) and a member of the Nike Sport Research Laboratory Advisory Board.