She was ahead of me for 99.9% of the race.
It was a 5k and despite only having one run under my belt in the past 6 months, I was sitting in second place and 1 minute behind her at the half-way point.
I am not really a competitive person but I felt the urge to win. Not because I wanted to be put up on an altar, but so I could have a platform to say this:
We don’t have to run to be a great runner.
So with that fuel, I passed her 50 feet before the finish line.
It wasn’t a stellar time by any means (21:36), but I have done this before. I have purposely chose not to train in the conventional way and placed high in races (best time in 5k is 19 flat).
I don’t train this way to be different.
I train this way because conventional distant training will beat you up. With enough miles, running eats up your muscle and testosterone while paving the way for muscle imbalances and inflammation (from cortisol release).
For many people, running is antagonistic to their goals (of looking awesome and being strong).
Still, however, it has its place. For some, it supplies a “high” like no other, and for others, their sport or job relies on it.
This is for them.
HOW TO BECOME A GREAT RUNNER
1. THE MIND COMES FIRST
Anyone who has ever ran will know how big a part the mind plays. Usually, when people slow down (or never get going in the first place) it is the mind that fails first.
The thing is, the mind will tell us some crazy stuff in an effort to get us a quit and the only way to silence the sewage that it will be producing is to learn how to coach yourselves. This mainly entails what we should say to ourselves and how we should think about what we are experiencing. There are plenty of psychology books out there that can help you with this and I will be dropping my own flavor some time in the Fall.
2. TRAIN THE CARDIOVASCULAR SYSTEM
I said it once and I’ll say it again: We Do Not Have To Run To Get In Shape.
I’ll make it easy on you and summarize that link in one sentence: Instead of running, do other things that make breathing tougher.
For myself, this means lift heavy(ish) weight with little rest in-between and/or for high reps. The demand that this will put on our cardiovascular system will be much higher than a 1 – 3 mile run ever could produce (Don’t believe? Test it with a heart rate monitor).
Still, however, this will not be enough. For most people, they will first have to work inside-out. They will need to clean up inflammation (from a combination of sleeping more and slightly better eating) and they will to need to clear up any deficiencies. The big deficiency that will wreak havoc on our breathing (which I have personally experienced many times) is that of the magnesium deficiency (read about that here).
Other than that, if you want your system primed to go, try supplementing with caffeine/coffee. Any stimulant will activate the fight-or-flight mechanism and in doing so, open up the air passages.
One last thing, please learn how to breathe. Mouth should be wide, movement should be seen in stomach and not chest, and you should literally sound like an air machine. Below is a video of me running a hill last year with a 60 lb vest on.
3. DEVELOP THE POSTERIOR CHAIN
Most runners already have decent quads and calves, but their posterior chain (hamstrings and glutes) tend to be lacking.
This posterior chain, when developed, is what allows us to go fast. When it’s not, however, than it can be tough to “get up and go” no matter how much juice we put in to it.
If you look at the picture at the top of this post, note the difference in our form. We were both running as fast as we can, but she is still in “quad mode”. Her back leg is bent and there is no push from her backside. Now look at me. My back leg is almost fully extended and I am getting a huge push from the all-mighty gluteus maximus and glorious hamstrings.
This is how animals such as cheetahs and tigers cover a lot of ground in such a short amount of time and this is how we should finish races.
To be able to do this, we must make sure we are doing not only doing glute activation exercises (discussed here) but utilizing loaded squats, deadlifts, and lunges in our program as well.
4. WORK ON YOUR SPRINT FORM
Remember when I said we wouldn’t have to run? I lied. The truth is, we have to run a little (but it’s not as far as you think).
If we can improve our 50 meter dash time, than we can improve our 1 mile (and longer) run time as well. This is because all races (yes, even marathons) have some aspect of the race that we have to (or at least should) sprint. In fact, most runs look like this: Run fast, cruise, and then ran as fast as our body allows. The shorter the race, the more we will be relying on this.
Now I am not saying we should run the whole race like a sprinter (it’s very energy costly ), but we should at least learn how. And if you are new to running, this should be your first stop.
While I am a hardly a sprint coach and would rather direct you to youtube, here are some pointers:
- Be on the balls (the toes) of your feet and lean forward.
- Hands should be like closed scissors.
- The more we get pump our arms (elbow joint close to 90 degrees), the more power we can generate with our legs
When you start off, you are going to look ugly. That’s just how it is.
I see so many people refuse to sprint, not because it’s hard but more-so because they care what other people think.
If you are able to drop that thinking, with time and diligence, you’ll nail it.
HOW TO USE THIS
If your track and weight room are very close, here is what’s optimal:
- Drink some coffee or another pre-workout before hand.
- Start with dynamic warmup emphasizing skips, bounds, and form running. (15 minutes)
- 20-30 m acceleration starts (10 or so) and/or vertical jump maxes.
- Deadlifts. (5 sets of very heavy weight should work)
- High intensity interval training. (no more than 15 minutes)
- Go home, carb up (to replace lost glycogen), and maybe pop some ZMA.
When I was serious about training, this is what I did. Now it is more lax and I don’t feel the need to combine weight lifting with cardio. Whatever the case, this is how I do “the impossible” (stay strong and run long distances fast) and I do not see why it wouldn’t work for you.