It doesn’t matter if you’re training for your marathon PB or your first ever Parkrun, these tips from the experts are a surefire way to help you pick up the pace.
1. Warm Up Right
Static stretching won’t warm your muscles up in a way that allows you to run faster. In fact, it will be detrimental to your performance because it will relax your leg muscles to the extent that they are less efficient at propelling you forward. In a US study, runners who completed a sit-and-reach test before running had a worse running economy than those who didn’t, because their hamstrings were too relaxed. Perform dynamic stretches instead, such as high knees or walking lunges, to get your leg muscles fired up.
2. Set The Pace
It’s tempting to charge off at the gun when you’re feeling fresh – but you need to hold back if you want to finish fast. Starting too fast will increase oxygen consumption and blood lactate levels – the two key indicators of performance – faster than running at a consistent pace, according to research in the European Journal Of Applied Physiology.
Work out equal mile or kilometre splits that will give you a new PB and stick to them. Even if you feel you have more in the tank, save it for a sprint finish.
3. Keep Strides Short
You may think the longer your stride length, the faster you’ll finish. Unless you’ve got Inspector Gadget legs, you’d be wrong. Reducing your stride length improves running economy and cuts the time you spend in contact with the ground, which makes you faster. This was the conclusion of a Japanese study that found an 18% increase in stride frequency reduced impact forces, making runners more efficient, faster and less likely to suffer joint or muscle injury.
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4. Breathe Easy
We’re pretty sure you’re aware that you need to breathe if you have any hope of setting a new record time. But it’s important you try to keep your breathing as easy and relaxed as possible when racing. Once exercise intensity becomes moderately hard – as it will be if you’re chasing a new PB – the most efficient breathing strategy is in through the mouth and out through the nose to maximise oxygen intake, according to a study from Liverpool John Moores University.
5. Work Up A Thirst
Instead of necking water or a sports drink every kilometre, only take a sip when you are thirsty, according to advice from USA Track and Field. It’s more important to start the race well hydrated (check your urine, which should be clear or very pale yellow) than to start dehydrated and overcompensate by drinking too much water too often during your race.
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