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What led to your biggest improvement?

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What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Penelope on Thu Aug 01, 2013 10:02 pm

Just curious what others' experiences are and what things have significantly helped others to get faster as runners.  I'm really seeking some running improvement these days. 

For me, I had a breakthrough with weight loss this spring.  Consistent training helped some, too, but I saw the most dramatic improvement with sudden / unplanned rapid weight loss. I'd gained some weight and put in some feeble, half-a$$ed attempts to lose it, but without success.  Then I stopped birth control, and weight loss became MUCH easier, and with a source of stress / lack of appetite, it was effortless.  Keeping it off has been mostly easy except when I lose my discipline.  My paces for easy runs fell by about a minute/mile.  I have plans / goals to lose another 5 lbs and maybe that will shave some time off my easy pace, too. 

I know I need to do strength training and speed workouts to improve, but not really sure where to start.  What specific things (ie a certain type of speed workout, strength training, cross training, percentage increase in miles, etc) have led to your improvements in running?
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Mike MacLellan on Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:45 am

High-mileage, tempo runs (1/week), and lighter shoes.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Chris M on Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:02 am

How many days/runs you do a week.  I think its far less important how far you run those days or what paces but how many times a week do you run.  Going from 3 to 4 to 5 etc. leads to massive pickups in running improvement AND makes you less injury prone if you keep the paces slow.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Paula Sue on Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:07 am

Weight loss is a huge help when you're above your optimum weight.  If you get below your optimum, it can go the other way with injuries.

For me, sticking with a higher mileage training plan (30 to 50 miles per week with a long run on the weekend of 10 miles to 20 miles) helped bring my times down.  Also, hill training followed by track work (6 weeks of hills followed by 10 to 12 weeks of timed track running).

For the marathon, I incorporate 5K races every third weekend to check my speed.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Nick Morris on Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:20 am

I have found that a combination of high mileage training, core work, strength training, and speed work have helped me get to where I am today.  Ultimately, it takes a lot of work and time.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  John Kilpatrick on Fri Aug 02, 2013 10:33 am

When I run more, I get faster.  Just seems to work out that way, regardless of paces if I look back at my brief running history.

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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Bob on Fri Aug 02, 2013 12:11 pm

I think all the answers above cover it. 

I like to say, "to get faster, run slower".  For years, I ran most runs at my typical 8 minute per mile pace. I had a hard time buying into the fact that I should slow things down. When I finally did, I found that I was able to put in more quality miles. Longer, slower runs, cause I wasn't so tired, but also do some good speed work on other days. 

So overall, by varying my paces, it gave me the opportunity to add miles per week and include speed work. That's where I found "success".
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Ben Z on Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:21 pm

Penelope wrote:Just curious what others' experiences are and what things have significantly helped others to get faster as runners.  I'm really seeking some running improvement these days. 

For me, I had a breakthrough with weight loss this spring.  Consistent training helped some, too, but I saw the most dramatic improvement with sudden / unplanned rapid weight loss. I'd gained some weight and put in some feeble, half-a$$ed attempts to lose it, but without success.  Then I stopped birth control, and weight loss became MUCH easier, and with a source of stress / lack of appetite, it was effortless.  Keeping it off has been mostly easy except when I lose my discipline.  My paces for easy runs fell by about a minute/mile.  I have plans / goals to lose another 5 lbs and maybe that will shave some time off my easy pace, too. 

I know I need to do strength training and speed workouts to improve, but not really sure where to start.  What specific things (ie a certain type of speed workout, strength training, cross training, percentage increase in miles, etc) have led to your improvements in running?

I don't know if you 'need' to do strength training and speed workouts to improve. What is your weekly mileage over the course of a given 4-6 months?

I saw the biggest gains when I got my mileage up to 60-70 miles/week for many months in a row - all else being equal. I really believe most people will continue to improve at distances from 5k and up just by running more - up to 70 miles/week. Then you can layer on more strength and speed training.

However, if you are someone who is consistently injured than I advise a running-specific core and leg strengthening routine 2x week plus maybe 1x/week of full body strengthening exercises. This should help you be able to continue to increase your miles to 70 miles/week and stay injury-free.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Diego on Fri Aug 02, 2013 1:43 pm

I ran 3:18 running 4 days a week with a long run, medium run and two speed work days. I ran 3:14-3:16 running up to 70 mile weeks and running almost every day.

My breakthrough finallly occurred after keeping the mileage around 70 for 3 marathon cycles and then adding a lunch time run twice a week to get up to 90 mpw. I ran very little speedwork during that Chicago cycle and got down to 3:01.

Penelope, I think that consistency over a period of 2-3 marathon cycles with a slow increase in miles is the biggest key. You keep building with each cycle. Don't go back down to only running a couple days per week after a marathon.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  fostever on Fri Aug 02, 2013 2:03 pm

I think you'll find a plethora of different responses depending on who answers since we are all different and respond differently to different stimuli. I think the one thing all can agree with is consistency. Slowly over time you build up endurance, strength and speed. Try to find out what has helped you up until now and stick with that and ditch things that haven't. Continue to read what successful runners and coaches advise and find out what would apply to you personally. Obviously some of what an elite runner does could apply to your situation, but some could hurt you (i.e. 130 mi weeks.) So be a student of the sport and try new stuff. There are a ton of programs designed to help. I've basically tried to follow specifically designed plans as close as possible and usually had decent results. Mileage increase of 10% per week is the common answer and a safe bet. Always incorporate easy days and step back weeks (especially in marathon training.) I like always mixing up speed stuff like tempos, repeats, and pace runs to keep my body guessing. At my age I've found some flexibility (active isolation,) and core strength has helped keep me from the doctors office.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  ounce on Fri Aug 02, 2013 4:10 pm

Losing weight was mine.  But now that I have read a bit more, I would recommend you getting your hormones right, eat real food, do resistance training, then your body will be righter and your weight won't matter.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Jerry on Fri Aug 02, 2013 4:53 pm

Losing weight is definitely top priority. However, if you are 5 lbs from goal, I don't think it matters that much.

Consistently training is, IMHO. I like Brad Hudson's definition: consistent modest high mileage(not exact quote).
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Mark B on Fri Aug 02, 2013 6:14 pm

For me, it was taking the time to build my aerobic base. It's so easy to want to run everything moderately fast, but it keeps your body from making the adaptations it needs to maximize its aerobic efficiency. Doing that base work at the proper intensity, and then adding in a once-weekly up-tempo effort, led to my best, fastest marathons.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Schuey on Fri Aug 02, 2013 9:21 pm

Pretty simple for me:

1. being more consistent
2. running longer runs 
3. more mileage
4. cut out speed work but more fartlek runs
5. healthy eating
6. patiences

When I started doing all of these things I found that I built a much bigger aerobic engine therefore was able to run at faster paces for longer periods of time. To me running a marathon or Ultra is pretty simple it comes down to mental toughness and having the aerobic engine to handle the pace over the distance. You aerobic fitness will always tell you were you are by only allowing your body to cover a distance at a certain pace.


Last edited by Schuey on Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:11 am; edited 1 time in total
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Julie on Sat Aug 03, 2013 5:30 am

running with friends who are faster because it meant pushing myself every time I ran with them (aka informal speedwork).

My biggest boost in the marathon with stamina was mid-week 10-12 mile runs.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Schuey on Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:15 am

fostever wrote:I think you'll find a plethora of different responses depending on who answers since we are all different and respond differently to different stimuli. I think the one thing all can agree with is consistency. Slowly over time you build up endurance, strength and speed. Try to find out what has helped you up until now and stick with that and ditch things that haven't. Continue to read what successful runners and coaches advise and find out what would apply to you personally. Obviously some of what an elite runner does could apply to your situation, but some could hurt you (i.e. 130 mi weeks.) So be a student of the sport and try new stuff. There are a ton of programs designed to help. I've basically tried to follow specifically designed plans as close as possible and usually had decent results. Mileage increase of 10% per week is the common answer and a safe bet. Always incorporate easy days and step back weeks (especially in marathon training.) I like always mixing up speed stuff like tempos, repeats, and pace runs to keep my body guessing. At my age I've found some flexibility (active isolation,) and core strength has helped keep me from the doctors office.

 Good stuff Foster dude!
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Schuey on Sat Aug 03, 2013 7:32 am

Ben Z wrote:
I don't know if you 'need' to do strength training and speed workouts to improve. What is your weekly mileage over the course of a given 4-6 months?
 
I agree with the above but would also add that one would think that strength training would help and can help. Then again it can be a disadvantage. Same goes with speed workouts, I guess I'm more of a big believer in the building the biggest aerobic engine. 

As I have stated in my earlier post I have found that this is the one thing that has been the biggest influence to my success as a runner. The best part about it, unlike lets say Vo2max is that you can always continue to increase your aerobic fitness.  I would as like to say that I do believe in speed workouts in the sense of Fartlek runs. I think that in a nice control setting speed workouts help but I find them helping more in the sense of adding some flavor to my workouts. Another giving a nice change in pace, if that makes sense. 

Foster really hits it on the head by giving the advise that you have to find what works best for you. There really is no right answer, the beautiful thing about running is there truly is no one fits all. Sure there are some things that are standard but to get results there are many different ways to go about getting there. Depending on how much effort and time you want to invest in being a student of the sport will then be the answer to you finding what works best for you.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  ounce on Sat Aug 03, 2013 8:21 am

Strength training helps to balance your body, so your running muscles don't also have to support your frame.  Core training helps your running posture.  Yoga is really good for the core.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Chris Coleman on Sat Aug 03, 2013 2:12 pm

Getting injured and losing eight weeks' training, then taking eight weeks building up mileage again made me so careful that I managed to avoid further injury and actually improved faster than ever before. I think injury prevention is the key.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  nkrichards on Sat Aug 03, 2013 9:19 pm

Great question Penelope.  And great answers. 

I felt like I was stuck and not improving so I contacted a trainer for some advice.  She assessed my weaknesses and gave me a short (45min) routine that included core work, balance, and strength exercises.  I'm trying to fit it in 3 days a week which is sometimes tough.  It does seem to be making a difference.  I ran a PR 10K in early July (it was only a few seconds but it was a PR).  My goal race isn't until November so that will be the real test.

The other advice that she gave me surprised me.  I've always been a 3 day a week runner and I offered to run more often to reach my goal.  She said based on my age, history, past results and goals she thought I should stick with running just 3 days a week and biking and/or swimming 3 additional days.  She tweaked my weekly runs a bit but not a lot.

Good luck.  I think the best advice is to figure out what works for you and more importantly make sure you enjoy it!
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Dave-O on Mon Aug 05, 2013 4:27 pm

I agree with a lot of what's already been said. 

I'll add one more thing: Running a wide range of paces. Pretty much in any given week, I have targeted paces between 5:00 and 8:00.  The very fast portions can be brief - strides, short farlteks, 400m - but even a little running at nearly all-out running helps muscularly.  And slowing down on your recovery and easy days allows you to run harder on your workouts and some specific long runs.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Penelope on Tue Aug 06, 2013 10:22 pm

These are all great responses, thank you!  Definitely some food for thought!

I think for me, I can get the biggest improvement by increasing my miles.  For the past 3 months I've run 90-100 miles / month.  I've always been a very low-mileage runner, and I may start by increasing my weekly miles to about 30 for a few months, then 35 or 40. Not sure I have the time and/or desire to do more than that unless I'm actually gonna do a marathon, which is lower on my priority list.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Admin on Tue Aug 06, 2013 11:44 pm

RUN MORE!

A little fast(ish), but mostly easy.

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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Kenny B. on Thu Aug 08, 2013 9:22 pm

This year I'm running less mileage more speed work but so far I have yet to capitalize off of this structure.

prior to this year it was more mileage especially weekday long runs peaking at 15. I've yet to go wrong with that plan but taking on a coach this year the approach has been different. Where I did 60 to 80 miles per week in down to 50 to 60 butnsoeed work is tough 3 days per week.

we will see how I fair.
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Re: What led to your biggest improvement?

Post  Jim Lentz on Fri Aug 09, 2013 7:53 am

For me it has been running fewer days a week, but more mileage each run. I now run 4 days a week and my shortest run is typically 10 miles. I do much better avoiding injuries like this. I am sure my age (52) is a factor.
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