Running has increased dramatically in popularity during the last decade, in part fuelled by the parkrun phenomenon…As a nation, there is a drive to improve our health and fitness, and growing numbers of people are tying up their trainers and starting to run.

One of the biggest start up programmes is the “Couch to 5k” programme. It takes people from a standing start to be able to complete a 5k in eight weeks! We even have groups from our Running Bear Shop! A great way to start your journey in the company of likeminded individuals.

For others, the question becomes how do I improve? Now a parkrun regular, how do I improve my speed and perhaps distance? The great news is that there are only three key sessions. Maybe only two if you include parkrun in your weekly programme.  Similarly, it only takes twenty minutes of running before the fitness benefit kicks in.

The three sessions:

  • Speed work
  • Tempo Run (or parkrun)
  • Longer easy run

The body operates using a number of energy systems, but for us, let’s just talk anaerobic and aerobic. The first simply means without oxygen…Only occurring during shorter faster efforts. We gasp for breath. The latter means the reverse…with oxygen…We run and breath in a steady state. 

Similarly, we have two muscle groups: Fast twitch muscle fibres and slow twitch muscle fibres. The former favoured by fast running over shorter distances and the latter for longer runs.

To improve we have to include both energy systems and muscle groups! But HOW!!

  1. Aim to do one speed session each week. Ideally these should be sets of intervals. If you are a parkrun regular, consider doing 4 to 5k of speed work one day each week, and not the day before parkrun. Break the 5k into four or five 1k efforts. Run each at a faster pace than your normal 5k time, but allow yourself three or four minutes of rest between each effort. By the time you have had a 10 minute warm up (before) and 10 minute warm down (after), you will have done a lot to improve your speed!
  2. A tempo run (or your parkrun) should be included weekly. A faster effort lasting around 30 minutes. If parkrun…Give it your best shot! If a separate session, a run that has you breathing hard but just a little below your best effort!
  3. The final part is a longer slower run. If you are comfortable running for thirty minutes, this run should be slightly longer but at a relaxed pace. Concentrate on your breathing and a nice relaxed running style.   

Like everything, some points to bear in mind! 

Don’t be a slave to your watch and listen to your body. Wanting to improve is natural, but so too is running with a smile! 

Rest and recovery is important to any training plan…Never increase your weekly mileage by more than 10% at a time.

Wearing the right shoes is very important…Having a gait analysis is very important.  We can carry this out for you in the shop. 

Being part of a group really helps. Sharing the fun with likeminded friends. There are plenty of clubs and run groups in the area. Explore the lovely trails in the area, and don’t be a slave to the pavements!

At Running Bear, we are passionate about helping you to enjoy your running. If you need any help and advice, please just contact Running Bear. Similarly as the Running Bear Coach, I am here to help you on your journey!

Run with a smile! ☺