24 Shortcuts To Your New PB (Preview)

We asked the experts for the 24 best ways to transform your race performance - and push your personal best into new territory (non-subscriber preview)


Posted: 26 November 2009
by Matthew Ray


Start racing faster

"To improve your time, you're going to need to run faster throughout the race, not just at the finish. Many racers start too slowly and then end up running too quickly at the end. You need to get up to race pace earlier on and stay there. The key thing is to get your warm-up strategy right and include some faster 200m sections where you take longer strides to drive your heart rate higher. Practise your warm-up routine before the race so that you can get it right on the day." Mick Woods, GB athlete coach

Run off-road pyramids

"Beating your PB requires pure leg speed as well as endurance. You use more muscles running off-road, which teaches your body how to deal with lactic acid build-up when running faster. I do pyramid sets of intervals on an undulating running route of about seven miles. After a 10-minute warm up, do a one-minute interval at race pace or 70-80 per cent of your maximum pace, recover for 60-90 seconds then increase the next interval to two minutes. Repeat this pattern up to a five-minute interval, make the next interval four minutes and continue down the pyramid for a 1/2/3/4/5/4/3/2/1 pattern. Finish with 10-minutes of steady running at 40-50 per cent of your maximum pace." Andy Symonds, mountain marathon runnerin the Saab Salomon Outdoor Team

Own your goals

"You need to 'buy in' to your goal rather than letting your personal trainer or coach impose it. Don't place all of the emphasis on an outcome such as 'beating my marathon PB'. This is great for a final destination, but without an effective plan of action you'll never reach it. Process goals and performance goals such as 'find my race pace' should be steps along the way. Identify the areas that you want to improve, such as endurance or running form, and then set out a schedule of targets, such as completing a half-marathon, losing five pounds and getting your running gait analysed. Gradually ticking off these goals will encourage you to take responsibility for your training and improve your motivation." Andrea Firth-Clark, performance psychologist at Headgame

Hone your 'kick' for a fast finish

"To develop a good 'kick' you need to learn how to run quickly but stay relaxed, which is really hard at the end of a race because your legs are tired and you tense up very easily. Don't force your legs to work harder, just pump your arms faster and keep your upper body relaxed. Practise sprints after your usual run to replicate having tired legs at the end of a race. Recover for a couple of minutes then do three short sprints of 50-100m, pumping your arms and resting between. You'll soon be able to 'kick' when you spot the finish line." Jenny Meadows, 800m World bronze medal winner 2009 and Asics ambassador

Triangulate your training

"Think of your programme as a triangle with equal sides. One is your training, another is your nutrition and one is your sleep. You recover and get fitter as you sleep and research shows this only happens after four hours of sleep, so the longer you're in bed, the better. If one side of your triangle is neglected, the whole structure becomes unbalanced and will fail. On rest days, hydrate and eat lots of nuts, seeds, fruit and veg and protein." Nick Anderson, running coach

Use marathon yogic breathing

"The ujjayi or 'victorious' breathing technique, employed in Hindu and Taoist Yoga practices, engages the core and allows deeper breathing. Visualise a string attached to your navel, gently pull it back and 'tie' it to the spine, then consciously breathe into your rib cage, back and chest. Breathe through your nose and imagine sipping the breath in with a straw with deep inhalations and exhalations. Aim to get the sound of ocean waves rolling in and out. Use this method intermittently when running to conserve energy, calm the mind and create an efficient posture." Dr Kyrin Hall, yoga practitioner and marathon runner

Eat to soothe inflammation

"Training to increase your speed can cause muscle-fibre damage and inflammation. Omega-3, -6 and -9 fats found in nuts, seeds and fish can reduce inflammation and help to provide energy, which means you can recover faster in time for your next run. All fats contain nine calories per gram, but these essential fats deliver benefits, so don't avoid them. Try salmon pâté or guacamole on a couple of oatcakes after a run." Ian Marber, the Food Doctor

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