Whether you're running a 5k or a marathon, setting your best ever time might be easier than you think. Here are 10 easy ways that can help you beat your PB, so what’s stopping you? Get out there and start chalking up those PBs.
Pick the right race
It’s no accident that nine separate world records have been set at the Berlin Marathon. Whilst any race you run will be the same standard distance, they certainly aren’t equal in terms of average finish time. When you hear people talking about a ‘flat’ course being fast, this refers to a race with very few hills to climb, and maybe even some downhill sections for a boost of speed. This is the kind of ideal course you need to be looking for to give you the best chance of beating your PB.
Start hill training
Changing your training routes to incorporate more hills is an easy step to that PB you’ve been dreaming of. It’s long been known that running up hills is great for developing race pace, backed up by a study at the Karolinska institute in Sweden that found runners who hill train have greater running economy and overall muscle strength. Make sure you carry on the effort when you’re coming back down the hills as well – recent research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research discovered runners who put in full effort when running down hills were overall faster runners than those who didn’t.
Time your training sessions
Your personal best is time based, so your training sessions should be as well. Running a certain distance without a care in the world is all well and good, but to run a PB you’re going to need to learn how to run towards certain time targets and pace yourself accordingly. Invest in a decent sports watch and start taking it with you on your training sessions. After deciding on a target time work out what mile or kilometre splits you need to run to achieve that time, and start practicing running at that pace. You’ll start to learn how to pace your run accordingly, and when it’s time to set your PB it’ll be almost second nature.
Pick your training times
Once you’ve targeted the event where you’re going to be setting your PB, find out from the organisers what time the race is likely to start. Your body performs differently at different times of day, but according to research carried out at the University of North Texas you can train your body to perform better at certain times of day by consistently training at that time. If you’ve got a morning race and make sure most of your training sessions are in the morning, you’re far more likely to beat your PB.
Strengthen your core
Your core is the platform for all of your running success – the stronger it is, the faster you will run. Research published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that runners who have undergone core strength training sessions perform better than those who haven’t, and are more aware of optimum posture and body positioning when running. The ultimate core exercise is the plank. Simply lie face down, balance yourself on your forearms and toes, and lift the rest of your body off the floor with your back straight. Do this once a day for as little as 30 seconds and you’ll soon be rewarded with a PB.
Try aqua jogging
That’s right – now you can beat your PB and enjoy a dip in the pool while you are preparing for it. Aqua-jogging is mostly used as an injury-friendly method of cross training for runners, but can actually be hugely beneficial to your overall performance. Research at the University of Wisconsin discovered that aqua-jogging was one of the most effective forms of cross training for runners. As well as helping to develop general aerobic fitness, aqua-jogging helps runners to develop longer strides, which makes for faster finishing times.
You might find that all that lies between you and your PB is a good night’s sleep the night before your race. Sleep is a powerful tool often ignored by runners, which allows your body to rest, recover, and build up energy reserves. To give yourself the best chance of running a quick time, aim to get at least seven hours of sleep the night before your race. A couple of hours more won’t hurt though, so take them if you can get them. As a runner getting to sleep shouldn’t be too tricky anyway– researchers at Feinberg School of Medicine found that people who exercise for at least 45 minutes a day slept better than those who did no exercise.
No matter how much you train, if you don’t eat the right foods it’s going to get harder and harder to set better times. Good nutrition is key to the success of any runner, and you need to make sure you eat the right foods and avoid the wrong ones. Building energy through protein and carbohydrate rich foods is extremely important, as is avoiding sugar-filled or high fat foods. Think of your body like a car – you need to put the right fuel in it for it to run efficiently.
Run more efficiently
All you need to do to beat your PB is relax your body when you’re running. Relaxed runners run more efficiently and expend less energy, which leads to faster times. Tense and tight runners are the exact opposite. Some of the most common areas of runner tension are the shoulders, tightened fists and neck, so while you’re training focus on your running technique and keeping these areas nice and relaxed. Once you learn to do that without even thinking about it, your race day form will be much more efficient and you’ll fly to a PB.
If you’ve never tried interval training and you start incorporating it into your training sessions, you will beat your PB. It’s that simple. The reason interval training is so easy is that it’s very hard to do it wrong. All you need to do is vary the speed and intensity of your running in certain training sessions, and your body will learn how to adapt to sudden bursts of speed when you need it to – like on the home stretch of a race! Start off with simple interval sets of jogging and sprinting in your training plan, and then start adding in more experimental runs such as fartlek sessions.