How to PR

It’s true that there is no magic formula do this then that and bang boom you’ll go faster then ever before. Your average runner has about seven years of potential for getting faster before they top out speed wise but the thing is that isn’t as dire as you’re thinking. It not your first seven years running. Maybe none of those first seven years even counts. What it means is training perfectly and as hard as possible (pretty much as if you were an elite) you can expect to get faster for 7 years. Let’s be honest most of us won’t train like that for even one whole year at a time. So if you’re trying pretty dang hard every single race season but you aren’t putting into play the same tools the pros are you can expect that to last more than a decade. That doesn’t mean you can’t even get faster beyond that. I’ve also found that getting a PR has a lot to do with listening to your body and resting appropriately. You might think it’s way too early to think about PRs for next season then you’re wrong! That said if you’re aiming to PR in a distance you’ve been trying to PR in for a while it’s probably going to come down to training.


Plan your season for the goal only

Every season holds oh so much possibility a 5k here a half there and throw in a triathlon for good measure. Not being focused on your one and only goal means it will be harder for you to reach new heights. Btw that’s kind of my plan for next year for now so do as I say not as I do. But that doesn’t mean that your stuck racing the same distance over and over that year. What it does mean that your season will be planned to build to at least one attempt (especially for longer distances) at your PR.

While racing is fun an no one likes a good medal like me but even if you plan to just show up run as usual you will end up racing on the day. This is particularly true if the distance of your race along the way is the same as your goal. Just say you want to run your fastest 10k race ever this coming season and you figure by the fall you can take two kicks at the can. If you register for 10k’s in July chances are you’re going to go for it!

Next year I’m really thinking about improving my 5k and 10k times, mostly I’d love to see my 10k time under an hour, which would mean shaving 1.03 off my time now. In think it’s doable though since I had a great and unexpected showing at the PEI marathon (at least for me). I also think I’m overdue to volunteer for our big regional race at Bluenose. One thing that could go a long way to getting me there would be to volunteer to be a hill runner on race day. Basically you spend your Bluenose running up the same hill over and over again encouraging other runners for hours. So I would spend my spring training for hills that would kickstart my season an really make me faster for a few 5k attempts earlier in the season while working a 10k program hard and going for the 10k PR in the fall. Whatever your goal is think hard about how you can build your season to support your goal.

Work harder

If you want a new record you’re going to have to leave more on the course than you ever have before. If you ran the distance previously and had a lot more in the tank at the finish line a PR might be relatively easy for you to get. That’s how I felt about the half I ran this year I knew I had more to give this time. Day one of training I was telling everyone I was going to break my record, but I like to live dangerously! Either way you’re going to have to work harder in training than you ever have before.

The reason I was so confident is that the first time I work a program I tend not to work that hard. It’s a tad scary and you’re doing things you never have before and wondering the whole time if you can really do it or is that just me? I find myself just completing the harder workouts like speed work and not pushing as hard as I should or can in anticipation of that long run in 4 days. To put it consciously I’m in my own head too much. That’s probably not that uncommon and totally okay, just living through it the first time is a perfectly fine goal. It’s only in subsequent tries that I push legitimately hard probably once I have the confidence I can do it. Work harder in speed workouts, fix your swim form and make your bricks big ones. Aim for at LEAST 10% harder than before.

Work smarter

You probably made some mistakes or at least would change somethings if you had the time back about your last training cycle and race. Did you negate the purpose of a recovery run by moving it from the day after your hard workouts? Did you skip more than a training session ever second week? Or did you even skip some long runs? There are a lot of wrenches you might want to take out of the wheel this time that are pretty easy to fix. Did you fail to prioritize training and run hungover too many times. Were all of your runs really early or late but you never made up for the sleep you missed.

This time you might be able to decrease your time by training smarter not harder. Here are some things to consider:

    • Giving up alcohol or drugs for the duration of training
    • Resting your body as it needs it
    • Recover better with foam rolling and epsom salts
    • Fueling your body with healthy whole foods instead of fast food (I should try this)
    • Work on your form
    • Leave a run off the schedule but give your absolute best the other days
    • If you were gear limited get what you need this time
    • Find a way to get your workouts done in less time (less commuting perhaps)

It’s not (necessarily) all about milage

Increasing your training milage this time can help you PR … to a point. I’m a big fan of saving the distance for the day your first time for most distances because I think it makes the race day experience so much more meaningful. The second time your train for a race it’s good to train beyond it so you can say 21.1 km is nothing I ran 24 km two weeks ago and push to the finish. If I attempt to break my 5k record next year that will include 10k runs. But in running and triathlon plans there is a tendency to get longer as the plans get more advanced. But running more miles will only get you so much faster and then it becomes an exercise in diminishing returns. So can you Pr by running more, yes. Will that strategy work forever, no.

You can’t outrun a bad diet

A lot of people think and assume I have a great diet because I’m skinny, I workout a lot and I’m a vegetarian. That is however not true, pretty much at all. I eat fast food almost daily, otherwise love junk food and don’t worry about it because I am skinny. In fact if I could buy five more pounds on the internet I would. But I’ve read, also on the internet you can’t out run a bad diet. I would like to improve my diet but I don’t because I have a hummingbird metabolism, I workout a lot and I’m vegetarian that’s enough right? In fact one thing that keeps me from making some changes is that I don’t always want huge portions and I wonder if I would loose a tonne of weight if I did cut out the candy and treats while training. But if I do decide to another half marathon PR attempt this is the first thing I’m going to experiment with.

If you also know you could do a lot better in the diet department it is totally worth a try. I imagine it would really help you if you feel zapped energy wise in training eating a much better diet would help you with that. Then I guess you have the energy to push harder in training and then that leads to more fitness that leads to a PR? Takeaway a good diet must be a good thing

Maybe you need some new gear

You won’t get to a PR by buying glory alone or even in large part, but being limited by your stuff isn’t cool. However if you found yourself holding back or not doing certain things because you didn’t have something or the thing you needed it might be time to buy some new gear. If you lacked cold weather pants so you stayed home when it was frigid, a hydration belt or maybe even a road bike for triathlon it might be time to invest in some new gear. There are some things your really don’t need that lots and lots of people have. These are wants not needs things like garmins, apple watches, compression socks, waterproof mp3 players, special speed bathings suits, those new super fast nikes etc.. Ps there are two things on that list that I want. Also guess what I used to time my swimming since I don’t have a garmin, a clock and it worked perpetually fine! Sure get them if you want them but perhaps wait for them to cross your path, they will. My mom recently cleaned out her basement and now I have a second shorty wetsuit! Check out this post on finding fitness gear for cheap whether it’s a want or a need. The off season is a great time to shop the used market and put Christmas gift cards to good use! If it’s a bigger thing like a new bike get all the loved ones involved (plus like two paychecks) and tell them to skip the little stuff.

If all else fails go for a new distance

The average triathlete is in their 40’s and the average marathoner is 38. If you just can’t PR in a distance you’ve already covered or those 7 years plus a few are long gone go for a new distance! Guaranteed PR every single time. The reason the long haulers are so old is it takes a while to get to the point that running a whole marathon for a record starts to seem reasonable. If that ship sailed a while ago for you, how about an ultra?

Hire a coach or join a club

I’ve have yet to cross this line but I do think about it. For me running, training and racing are solo self care sorts of things. Plus most people wouldn’t believe it about me but I’m a pretty strong introvert. A fellow blogger I read the hungry runner girl recently hired a run coach to break that three hour marathon barrier! She found it really helpful and a big part of helping her accomplish her dream. There are also run groups where there is coaching built in from the stronger runners. Think about the t-shirt logos you see at the front of the pack at local races (ie the ones lapping you who start at the front of the pack and that’s likely a local race club. You can get invited to run with these groups or you can pay.

No matter what PR you’re going for these tips will help but know that it can be a longer term struggle. Even though I knew it was possible it took me about 2 years to bring by 5k time below half an hour. What was the came changer for you that got you past your previous records? How ling did it take you and how many attempts to set your last PR?

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