Running fast but not getting anywhere…

Is your training programme actually making you slower?

If you consider yourself to be a runner then I’m sure you’re out most days rain or shine, you put the miles in each week, you push yourself on the days that you really don’t feel like doing anything and you pride yourself on training hard each and every week.

But are you actually getting any faster?

My guess would be that you’re probably not and if that’s the case then I want to shed some light on why this is the case and what you can do to change it.

Before we start I want to make it clear to anyone that is reading this and developing performance is not your only goal, please don’t be offended by what I write below. There are huge numbers of people that run each week just for the sheer enjoyment of running, maybe it’s a new hobby that you’ve taken up, or a way to meet new people, maybe you’re providing moral support to a friend or you just might need an excuse to get out of work or away from home for an hour! 

Whatever your reason, please keep doing what you’re doing. Joining a running club or a park run is such an enjoyable thing to do, it’s a great way of meeting people and the therapy that running provides is essential for so many people to help them get through their week, who am I to challenge that?!

This is article is for those of you that have genuine intentions of gaining personal best times but for some reason you just feel like you’re going backwards instead of progressing. If this is the case then let’s dig into the reasons why this may be happening…

Ask most runners what their weekly schedule looks like and you tend to get a similar response; they will usually train five or six times per week and their training will be split into either the long runs, the steady runs or the interval runs. On the surface this seems like the perfect combination, but the truth may be far from perfect.

You see, although virtually all of these runners will have a fancy heart rate monitor and watch on their wrist, the majority will not really know what to do with it. When you don’t know how hard you should be training – or you always run in a group and go at someone else’s pace then you’ll often find that you go too hard on the easier runs and too easy on the harder runs, as a result you end up in no man’s land completing hours and hours of miles that actually make very little impact on your overall level of fitness. Do you actually know your true maximum heart rate?

You see you may think you’re training hard, but I actually believe you’re being lazy! 

Doing the same thing each week isn’t training, training is about pushing beyond your previous best, getting outside of your comfort zone and challenging your body, not running 6 miles simply because it’s a Wednesday and that’s what all of the other guys do.

I also typically see a mentality from most runners that anything other than running is just a waste of their time. Why would they want to waste 45 minutes in the gym when they could get in a steady 10k instead?! 

This is a battle that coaches constantly face.

If you want to make improvements you need to do the hard work. Your speed would develop if you actually got stronger, your knee pain would disappear if you developed some glutes. That back pain that you experience after 90 minutes would go away if you actually had some core strength, the list goes on. If you want to get faster this year then read on…

If you’re still with me then let’s look at some simple fixes that I guarantee will see your PB times improve significantly

Lack of Sleep

Let’s be clear, the actual training doesn’t make you faster, it’s the recovery or super-compensation that you give to your body that allows it to make the adaptations in order for you to improve. Running will place stress on your body and unless you recover properly from that stress you’re just making things worse rather than better.

Many runners use the term over-training. I don’t actually believe in this concept, the whole point of training is for it to be tough and to push you beyond your previous capabilities. You don’t over-train you simply under-recover! If you want to get faster then go to bed earlier!

Your diet is awful

The fuel that you put in your engine will ultimately determine your performance. You wouldn’t dream of going on a long car journey without filling up with fuel and checking your oil and water, but you train for a marathon on cereal bars and coffee?!

In my experience most runners will either under eat, -because they couldn’t possibly eat anything before a ten mile run. Or over-eat – well they have to reward their efforts with cake! Learn to have a good relationship with food, high performance starts with good nutrition, you simply can’t expect your body to deliver if you aren’t consuming good quality protein, fats and carbohydrates. Eat real food first and then seek supplements later.

Remember to keep hydrated, dehydration can have a significant impact on your physical and mental performance.

Is your training appropriate?

First and foremost, decide what you’re actually training for. I meet so many runners who just run without any real purpose. They enter the odd 10k or half marathon events but generally they just run for the sake of running. Pick your event and then decide to get really good at it. 

If you are training for a 10k then is a three hour weekend run really appropriate? The infamous long weekend run is the staple of most runners training regime but is it more appropriate to perform a high intensity interval session?

Listen to your body 

Injuries go hand in hand with most runners. It’s inevitable that you’ll suffer at some point, however so many can injuries be easily avoided. Achilles tendon issues, plantar fasciitis or shin splints are massive red flags that your running style is off or that you’re wearing trainers that either aren’t appropriate for your feet or simply in need of replacing.

Back and neck pain are usually indications of poor posture, hip discomfort is often related to being sat down for long periods, general aches and pains are due to a lack of mobility and all of these things can be improved in the gym. Learn how to lift, how to foam roll, how to improve core strength and how to improve mobility and see all of these issues disappear. 

You have caused most of these issues but you also have the power to correct them. Your body is constantly talking to you, start to listen to it a bit more.

The mantra of Eat, Sleep, Train Repeat is one that we all know but very few of us follow properly… 

Eat – Eat like a king, Eat often, Eat real food and Eat like you’re fuelling a high performance engine – because you are!

Sleep – Sleep to recover, Sleep to improve your mood, sleep to improve concentration, sleep your way faster!

Train – Train your weak links, Train for you, not someone else, Train with intensity, Train with a purpose,  

Repeat – Repeat this practice day after day, week after week and I guarantee your results will improve.


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