PACE: A dirty word often used in a statement like, "What pace are we running? I'm really slow so please don't let me hold you back." Sound familiar? It's cool, I say that at least once a week. Let me preface this by saying that there is nothing wrong with just running for fun and giving 0 f*cks about running faster. Who cares how fast or slow you run? As long as you're enjoying yourself and you feel great, then forget the number! A 12-20 minute mile is nothing to be ashamed of. A 0 minute mile? Sure, there's room for improvement but a slow mile? There's no shame in your game! You're showing up and that's all that matters!
Pace shouldn't be a dirty or intimidating word. The only reason I am trying to run faster now is because I got bored and unmotivated after two and a half years of running just because. I found myself spending way too much time making excuses not to run so something needed to change and getting stronger kind of excited me. So I joined November Project, started running with friends who weren't just supportive but who made running even more fun, and then I set a goal to run faster and stronger. Looking to get faster? Here are 7 tips to help you take your slower pace to a faster one-
1. Get comfortable being really uncomfortable.
I hate running faster because it really hurts. Rule #1 about getting uncomfortable is learning how to fight the urge to pull back when every muscle is screaming, "STOP THE MADNESS! THIS HURTS!" Sometimes listening to your body is mandatory like when you have an injury. But you also know when you're just uncomfortable and slowing down will alleviate that discomfort. Figuring out how you can push through the discomfort takes patience. Which leads me to...
2. BE PATIENT.
Guess what doesn't happen overnight? RESULTS. You are going to have to be realistic about your goals and you're also going to have to be patient about seeing results. Just like how a marathon is run one single step at a time, so is running faster. You really do have to be incredibly patient when you're trying to push the pace. Don't give up when you hit inevitable speed bumps or mental road blocks.
3. Train smart.
Running all the miles isn't going to make you faster, running smarter will. You are going to have to get specific with your training plan. You have to do speed work, tempo runs, hill repeats, and fartleks (and that's just the tip of the iceberg). If you are completely clueless (It's OK, I was too!), look into getting a running coach! (I don't have one but I highly recommend it!) If that's not your speed, get an app like Runkeeper GO! which has speed work built into its training program.
4. Track your progress.
Go into a run knowing what paces for what distances you are trying to hit. f you don't go into a run knowing how hard you need to push, you aren't running smart. You won't know how to pace yourself and you will get discouraged. Getting specific and tracking your progress helps you figure out what's working and what isn't working. Keep a little log and write down how things are going, what paces you were able to hit or what felt overwhelmingly hard and/or impossible. Then you'll also look back in a few months and think, "Look how impressive I am! I have come so far!" Hard work pays off, don't rob yourself of that glory.
5. Don't do it alone.
Some people hate running with other people. I get it, I spent a year too intimidated and insecure to run with anyone else. If you want to get faster, don't do it alone. Go find a running club or a running group who will not only motivate you but who will push you. I owe my progress to my November Project tribe. Not only do they push me and hold me accountable when I want to pull back or phone a run in, but they distract me when I feel like my legs are going to give out. And most importantly they make getting uncomfortable fun! They've really shown me that it's possible to have tons of fun while simultaneously fighting the urge to cry. WHO KNEW?
6. Celebrate the tiny victories.
The first time I ran a 7 minute mile, I cried. Granted, I think the tears were from the fact that it hurt so badly, but I'll pretend it was because I was proud of myself. (I'm kidding, it's because I was proud of myself.) Don't forget to celebrate every single success, big or small. Celebrate the fact that you finished 1 second faster than you did last week. That's an improvement. (Hell, just showing up is an accomplishment. Celebrate that.)
7. Figure out what works for you mentally.
For me, I do a lot of positive self talking and breaking my workouts up into tiny bite size pieces. When I was running the stairs in the Hollywood Bowl, I would have to focus on one flight of stairs at a time. Thinking about a level would overwhelm me and it would feel impossible. If I'm trying to PR in a 5K, I break it up into half miles. Breaking the distance up keeps me focused on what's happening right now and helps me push through pain when I want to pull back. That and I repeat, "YOU ARE NOT A QUITTER" non-stop. Where that little mantra came from, I have no clue but it's working so I'm not fighting it. Figure out what helps you push through pain and discomfort and play the mental game.
8. Strength training & recovery.
Think you can get faster without spending a lot of time on a foam roller or doing squats? Think again. We should all be doing 2-3 days of strength training a week REGARDLESS of whether or not we want to run faster. That will just keep injuries away. So if you're not squatting, planking, dead lifting, and lunging, don't complain when you get hurt. (I know because I get hurt all the time and my Physical Therapist Mike Riccardi at Finish Line Physical Therapy lovingly reminds me that I'm a dummy for not preventing my injuries. I know better. There are no excuses.)
Getting faster isn't always fun. It's a lot of hard work! Just remember it's not about how badly you want something. It's about how hard you're willing to work for it. Goals are great motivators and if you want to run faster, then go after it! Just remember that there is nothing wrong with running for fun and not giving a single care in the world about running according to feel. Do what works for you! There's no shame in our game! Until next time, #RunSelfieRepeat.