1. Improve your v02 Max:
Instead of worrying about the mileage in your training plan, think about improving your v02 max through the use of speed work.
This ultimately means you will run less, but the quality in which you run, when you do, will be at your body’s threshold, increasing the amount of oxygen you can consume to produce the energy required to move your body faster. Your v02 max is the maximum amount of oxygen an athlete can use. And the more oxygen your body can use, the faster you will run. Therefore, the better your v02 max, the more fit you will be to hold your race pace.
Some of my favorite benchmark speed workouts:
Workout 1: 6 800 meter repeats with a 2 minute break in between (80% of your race pace)
Workout 2: 8 400 meter repeats with 60 seconds in between (90% of your race pace)
Workout 3: 1600 meters (walk 3 minutes), 1200 meters (walk 2:30), 1000 meters (walk 2 minutes), 800 meters (walk 2 minutes), 800 meters (walk 2 minutes), 400 meters (walk 1 minute), 400 meters (walk 1 minute), 200 meters (cool down 5 minutes) (4 miles total)
2. Hill Work
We all hate the hill. I ran a half marathon the other month that was literally one giant hill, so I understand. Luckily, I had been training hill sprints and was prepared to endure the physical demands hills require.
Here is the question of the day though, do hills require muscular strength or aerobic endurance? Surprisingly, the answer is aerobic. So in order to get better at saving time on these hills on race day, it would be most beneficial to train your v02 max. Refer to point 1, with speed work ;). It all goes together!
Now, in terms of how hill may effect your overall time on race day: “work by Jack Daniels, of Daniels Running Formula fame, produced a “rule of thumb” described by Daniels several years ago online.3 His rule states that every percent gradient of incline (going uphill) will slow you by 12-15 seconds per mile, and every percent gradient of decline (going downhill) will aid you by 8 seconds per mile.
Another interesting component about training hills is that it improves your posterior chain, which for runners, is pretty weak. Your posterior chain consists of your biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, erector spinae muscle group, trapezius, and posterior deltoids, which is weak for about 95% of runners. Strengthening these muscles and the tendons that connect them, will make you more likely to maintain your race pace on the hills and less likely to get injured since your bones will be supported by stronger muscles.
3. Triple Extension Lifting
This explosive extension of the knee, hip, and ankle is triple extension, and this is the key to athletic power or explosiveness. Improving your ability to move powerfully and explosively is a necessity when it comes to improving your race pace. Think about runners who don’t lift. Their muscles are being used in the same fashion, in the same way almost every day. On the other hand, runners who have stronger muscles are more likely to have some reserves to draw on when their body becomes fatigued during a race.
By using weightlifting movements such as the power clean and power snatch, you can begin to unlock explosive power that can help propel you forward better and more efficiently. Movements like deadlifts and squats will also improve how your posterior chain, which I referred to in point 2, moves as well.
4. Upper Body Strength
Don’t forget that you have arms. “You arms set the tone: The faster your arms are, the faster your legs are going to be,” says Dan Ownes, owner of Hyper Fit Training in Wall, New Jersey, and a coach for the Full Throttle Endurance triathlon team in New York.
The pace in which you arm swing goes, is what sets the tone with how your legs will move you forward. So the stronger your upper body is, the stronger your stride is going to be. When your arms fatigue out, your legs will shortly follow, which will end the glory of your run prematurely. BUZZKILL!
My favorite “runner specific” upper body exercises: Hang cleans, Push press, push ups, renegade rows, and lat pull downs.
5. Choose one of these and master it: 3×2, 6×1, or 2×2 and 2×1
This means you run 2 miles 3 times, and I would give it a 5 minute break in between each 2 mile repeat. You are to run these at, or faster than, your race pace.
The second one is 6 1 mile repeats. So I would recommend that if you run 7:30 pace for your 10k, you would train these mile repeats anywhere (in descending order), from 7:00 min-6:30 min.
The last one is a great workout, and one of my favorites. You will run 2, 2 mile repeats faster than race pace, and then one all out mile at the end. Take a 5 minute break in between the 2 mile repeats, and a 3 minute break before your run the 1 mile.