Top tips to improve your running now that spring is here

mass runners start jogs

As many of you transition your training with longer days approaching and the cross country season just about complete we look at a few ways to help you improve more.

You know what they say: If you do the same, you'll stay the same, so here we look at our Training and Advice pages and select some training methods for you to consider to make this season your best year yet!

Although we will list a variety of areas on which you could focus, it would seem sensible to choose just one or two from the top three.  (4, 5 and 6 are all extras that you could consider alongside 1, 2 and 3). Be aware that if you make too many changes to your running sessions it could become unmanageable and may bring an injury risk. So, for example, if you decide to up your mileage, you should keep the intensity stable and if you decide to add more speed work, you should keep your volume stable.

1. Increase your mileage a smidgen

Running further will improve your aerobic capacity.

When we run our muscles ask for more oxygen and we ask our heart to pump more oxygen carrying blood to them. Our heart then increases the number of beats per minute and pushes out more blood with each stroke than it would otherwise. Cardiac output is increased.

Over time your heart adapts and finds it easier to pump out more blood with each stroke, your heart rate comes down, as it doesn't need to beat as often to send the blood around the body, and then running feels easier as your heart is working at a lower rate than it previously did. We can relate this to a car that has a top speed of 120mph. It can maintain a speed of 80mph with much less strain or wear and tear for a longer time than a car which has a top speed of 80mph. The first car is working in its "comfort zone" whereas the second car is working to the limit of its capacity. Through running you can increase the capacity of, not only your heart, but your lungs and muscles which replaces your 600cc engine with a 2L engine and this will help you to run further at a comfortable pace or to run your usual distance faster!

Before you do this, read our article on High Mileage.

2. Progress your interval training

Running faster over a set distance several times over is called interval or repetition training and will improve your times over set distances. For example, you want to run your 10k faster than you have been doing you need to introduce reps or intervals. You can only improve a certain amount and will 'plateau' quickly if you only do 'steady' running or if you try to run a bit quicker each time you go out. It's time to get serious about speed to make those times come tumbling down!

If you already do interval training but churn out the same sessions over and over, it's time to think about how you may progress them over the next few years.

Before you do this, read our article on progressing your interval training.

3. Run more hills

When we take up running we usually find the local park, pavements or treadmill a hard enough challenge. Very rarely do we look to the nearest hill and think I want to run up there! However, thousands of people across the UK participate in some form of hill running and once they discover this discipline they are often hooked because of the buzz you get from conquering them and the difference they make in strengthening you up and reducing injury risk. 

Before you introduce hills, read our article: Learn to love the hills!

You would be wise to consider the next three areas alongside any changes you make from those above.

4. Enhance your recovery

Training is not all about putting in the miles. Recovery is an important part of training and is the time when our bodies adapt to the training stimulus we have given them. We overload the body during a week's training, during a session or during an effort. We then have to give the body time to recover and during this time it repairs and rebuilds itself and makes itself stronger. This is how training works. If we were to train continuously and not recover sufficiently we would not improve and would probably break down.

Discover how you can make your recovery even more effective by reading our article: Enhance your recovery.

5. Supplement your running with an exercise class

If you want to improve your running, it is worth considering how you will make yourself stronger and more able to cope with any extra training demands. If  your training programme includes exercise that will improve strength and flexibility you are more likely to be able to cope with more training and to avoid injury. Exercise classes, such as Pilates or yoga will put you into positions and take you through movements that will improve your strength, flexibility and skill.

Read our article: Supplement your running with an exercise class

6. Pay attention to your diet and especially the micronutrients

The fuel that you put into your body should be a prime consideration in your life and even more so because you are a runner. Food is a major contributor to your energy levels, physical well-being and growth, concentration, mood, sleep and more. You need to eat the right things at the right time to get the best out of yourself.

As a runner you should pay special attention to vitamin C, vitamin D, zinc and iron and ensure you get your daily requirement. Some runners find that they cannot get enough vitamins and minerals from their food and so need supplements. As a runner you may use these more quickly than other people.

Read our article that tells you where you can get these micronutrients.