How I Got Faster. I’m sure there is probably a better way to title this blog, but this is really just a How To on what I did to be able to run faster. So, How I Got Faster. If you don’t feel like reading all of this, there is a quick summary at the bottom.
Whenever I share a transformation post I tend to get some questions about how I did it. I ask the same thing to other accounts that I follow. We all want to know what took someone from their point A to point B. I didn’t have some magic trick or secret formula. It took hard work and patience. A LOT of patience. In most of my transformation pictures, you see a picture of me before I started running or just at the beginning of this journey – circa 2009. That was quite a while ago. So I hope you get the point that there was a lot, a lot, a lot of years in there that you don’t see. You see the beginning and the now. Not the years of struggle to get to the now. You see what I am saying… Anyways… There are some significant changes I made back in 2013/2014 that really helped get me to the next level in my fitness.
But before I begin, I want to point out that I had been running off-and-on for around 4 years. I had a couple of marathons under my belt and several build ups to long runs. I was consistently running 20-30 miles/week depending on training. They weren’t super speedy miles but it was time on my feet and legs allowing my body to adapt to the stress of running. It is so important to have a solid foundation to build on. I think this is what has helped me stay fairly injury-free. I didn’t do too much all at once.
How I Got Faster:
I decided to transition from vegetarian to vegan before my first marathon. So I have been a vegan throughout my entire marathon career (career?? I say that like I am so professional.) A common misconception is vegan = healthy. Not exactly. I decided to become a vegan out of my compassion for animals and it had nothing to do with my health. With that said, I would eat what I thought were “healthy” meals, but I had a very unhealthy way of eating. Black coffee for breakfast, a tiny lunch (or no lunch), and then really really eat at dinner. For example, a massive bowl of guacamole with chips was a typical dinner. Avocados are healthy fats, yes. But a whole bunch of guacamole and chips are not a balanced meal – basically all fats and some carbs. I wasn’t starving myself during the day intentionally, but was just so full from the big dinner the night before. So I decided to make a change. Enter “My Fitness Pal”. I stated learning about macronutrients and tracking what I was eating to give me a solid balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats – commonly known as Counting Macros. I also started eating breakfast, a snack, lunch, another snack, and then dinner. I started noticing some extra fluff (I like “fluff” better than “weight”) come off. And I did have some fluff to lose. And I know losing some extra pounds that I was carrying did help improve my speed. It was the perfect start to a more balanced, whole food, less processed way of eating. BUT!!! Please read my experience on how MyFitnessPal became MyIdol here. It’s a wonderful tool, it really is, but there is a darker mental side to all of the benefits.
I really had no background in strength training and no idea where to start. I found a 30 day push-up challenge where you complete 100 push-ups each day for 30 days. I did this and noticed definition beginning to show in my arms. So this was my kick-start to weight training. We have a gym at work and are give 30 minutes each day to use it. I started lifting weights, relatively heavy weights, 2-3 times each week. Building some muscle really helped me lean out some more and added power in my legs. If you are not sure where to start with strength training, try this 30 Day Challenge.
This was huge and so necessary if you want to improve. If you want to run fast, you have to train fast. The first type of speed work I began incorporating were Fartleks. What’s a Fartlek? Read about it from Runner’s World here. I would run my usual morning route but started throwing in some faster running mixed with a slow jog. It was really hard and uncomfortable. But it’s okay to be uncomfortable. That’s where the magic happens. If it’s hard, it’s working. I also began running with a former track coach who really showed me some different types of intervals on the track (mile repeats, 200m repeats, etc.). Training up to my marathon PR (3:24) I incorporated Yasso 800s into my workout.
Running with a group/faster people
I owe a ton of my progress to my running friends. Running with a group has been incredible. Not only are they some of my favorite people, they really push me out of my comfort zone. We are all within a similar range of paces, but some are definitely faster. Running with faster people helps you get comfortable with the uncomfortable. Also, the accountability is wonderful! Knowing I am meeting up with them for an early Saturday morning run (and sometimes Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday), keeps me motivated and accountable to my training. If you have the opportunity to join a local running group, I promise it will be the best thing you can do for your training!!
So in a nutshell, these are the changes I made that helped me get faster. And as another reminder, these were all things that evolved over time. It took time to learn how to properly fuel my body, to figure out speedwork (it’s intimidating), and to feel comfortable lifting weights. There is always a learning curve with anything new that you try. But with PATIENCE and PERSISTENCE, you start to figure it out, gain confidence, and reach some goals you never thought were possible.
I hope you enjoyed this How To.
- Eat healthy
- Strength train
- Join a running club