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The Professor’s Corner: Are you improving or just moving?

Nikki says – I haven’t had time to proof read Prof’s entry properly and I am late for Handicap. Please excuse typos!

Yateley 10k Race 2 is already a whole week ago! If you’re new to our group, the Yateley 10k Road Race series is a group of three races that occur in June, July and August, which provide a perfect opportunity for your to test your training and try to improve each month. Last month you were all warned enter before places sold out – but they’ve already gone for Race 3 (so you’ll just have to come and help marshal instead!).

ProfThis got me thinking about the improvement curve.  When you first join Sandhurst Joggers (hey there Pure Beginners!), or any other running club for that matter and you’re new to running – you should hopefully see some improvements pretty quickly. Our Pure Beginners post a couple of weeks ago shows how with dedication and motivation you can go from zero to 5k in just nine weeks. The initial improvements can often be staggering big – running longer distances and in quicker times. For those of you that play computer games – you are effectively “levelling up” pretty darn quickly. The improvement against time is a nice steep graph – look at you go!

After running for a while, lets say one year, but it can be shorter or longer than this, you can often see yourself stalling and the improvements starting to tail off. The nice steep improvement curve is starting to flatten out. Hopefully you still enjoy running, and may be just getting out, having a natter with your friends and running the same time and distance is exactly what you want. Hooray! If this is the case then you may find the rest of this post a little irrelevant.

This is for the next levellers. Those of us that want to improve and who are at the stage where celebrating a 2 second PB is worthy of a pint of beer or six. If you’ve found yourself in a rut without seeing any improvement (or the runs aren’t getting easier) for a while then it is time to change your game plan. Similarly if you’re itching to get a bit better but just can’t figure out how this post should also be helpful. I am dedicating it to the stallers! Look at it this way – if a few seconds is worth a beer how much is a full minute going to get you? Let’s do this for the beer, the cake and the opportunity to gloat all over facebook complete with finishing photographs underneath a big race clock! You know you want it.

I am not going to give you a training plan or a ‘prescription for improvement’. There’s loads of that already on the net and in certain RunnersEarth type magazines. This post will just show you where to start and how SJ can help you out.

So let’s begin:

1. You’re simply not running enough

Ok – if you currently go out once a week for the same 5k loop then starting to improve will just be a case of getting more runs in. Slowly up your mileage (prevent injury!) and see if you can go out for two or three runs a week and you will quickly see some improvements. SJ offer a run on every night of the week and you can always appeal for a running buddy on the FB page if you want to go out a specific time. No excuses!

Best day to run: Any day!

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2. All your running is at the same pace

Maybe you are running every day of the week! That’s great (although possibly over doing it) but each time you go out you’re hitting the same pace and the same distance. You are building up what is known as ‘junk miles’. Just like junk food they’re easy, comfortable and familiar – but you’re not going to see much improvement. You need to start varying your pace and pushing yourself a little more. Sometimes it’s going to be hard and sometimes it’s going to hurt – but it will be worth it. Train Hard: Race Easy!!!

And guess what – SJ offers sessions for that as well!

Intervals – currently interval sessions are available on Monday’s, Wednesday’s and at track on a Friday. Intervals are for everyone. They are designed so that you work within your own limits – you’re racing and challenging yourself to improve each week so it doesn’t matter who else is at the session or how fast they are – you are doing it for you!  Speak to anyone who regularly attends track or Monday night intervals and they will tell you that they saw improvements quite soon after joining.

Best day for improving speed: Interval session!

3. You need to start going the distance

Want to take part in a half marathon or even a full? 10k club runs aren’t going to cut it. You need to start improving your endurance. Look at a Wednesday run or even better a Sunday lookout run. Running off road and for more than 6 miles can help build a variety of muscle groups, is a lot more interesting than the road routes and will improve your endurance. Plus the lookout is beautiful and you can get cake in the café after.

Best day for improving endurance: Tempo run (currently Wednesday) or long run

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4. Hit those hills

Ok – none of us particularly like hills (the exception is going down them). They’re hard work! But you can’t avoid them unless you decide to be a track runner. Hills provide great strength training and can really help out your speed work. Intervals on hills are perfect for this. You can’t get better at running hills without training on a few! Hill sessions often take place on interval nights or at the long run. The handicap also happens to include a couple…not that you notice them or anything!

Best day for hill training: Some club night runs and the handicap. Just push whenever you get to one!

4. Time for a test!

This is all great – but you need to know how well you are doing. The Handicap 4 (ish) mile run once a month can help you to gauge your improvement (You can also do Parkruns on a Saturday). Handicap is aimed at everyone – the person who ‘wins’ each month is the person who has shown the best improvement – not the fastest finisher. So ANYONE can and frequently does win it. This month we are introducing the ‘Beginners Handicap’ for those that haven’t done it before and are not confident running 4 miles. If you want to give it a try you can choose to just complete one loop – 2 miles! Your time will be recorded and then next month (after following my advice) you can smash it! It’s a really supportive atmosphere and we’d love to see more people taking part.

Best day for testing: Handicap or Parkrun

5. Let’s get ready to rumble

After all your hard work attending new runs and interval sessions it’s time to put it all to practice! Come and join SJ at a relay or local race and find out how it really feels to have the weight of the club support behind you and cheering you across that finish line! I’ll be waiting – probably with cake.

Best day for racing: Whenever you fancy

See you on the start line improvers!

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About Nikki

General member for Thursday runs at Sandhurst Joggers

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