Unhappy with your last 10K?
Convinced you could have finished a little faster?
Unless you’re Haile Gebrselassie, you’re probably right. (If you are Haile Gebrselassie, you can skip this article.) Or perhaps faster race times don’t matter to you at all. Perhaps your training just isn’t where it should be, but you’re not sure what to do about it. The good news is that there’s no need to make any radical changes.
With the right ‘tweaks’, you can nip and tuck your way to better running. The trick is knowing just what to tweak and how to tweak it. This is the challenge we issued to our panel of experts: tell us the little things that will help us train and race smoother, easier and faster. No suggestion is too trivial.
Individually, some of these tips might not amount to much. But taken together, they can shave seconds – even minutes – from your next race, as you’ll see in the racing section. And even if the clock isn’t running, there’s plenty here to make your daily runs easier.
TrainingBoost Your Breakfast
If you’re eating a light breakfast and a heavier dinner, your afternoon runs may be suffering. “I call that ‘eating backwards,’” says nutritionist Nancy Clark, author of Nancy Clark’s Sports Nutrition Guidebook. “Better to frontload the calories so you eat a larger breakfast and lunch, run with a well-fuelled body and then eat less – and sleep better – at night.”
Start Your Runs One Minute Per Mile Slower
Play Around With Strides
A clenched grip relays tension to the rest of your body – and that saps energy. “Hands should be lightly cupped rather than tightly fisted,” says Jim Fischer, a cross-country and track coach. “Imagine holding a rolled up piece of paper during your run to keep the hands relaxed.”
Have A Hot Turnover
Inflate the Incline
Keep Moving Forwards
Speed Your Recoveries
Run Through The Line
Strengthen Your Position
Eat First, Then Shower
Sleep On It
Go Barefoot Once A Week
Strong feet and lower legs, plus flexible ankles, equal fewer injuries. One of the best ways to gain this strength and flexibility is by barefoot running, according to McMillan, because you have to work harder at each toe-off and landing. “Try to do a few barefoot strides or some light jogging equal to between one and three laps of a track once or twice each week,” he says. Level grass works the best.
RacingThe following time-saving tips are estimates, but they reflect the advantages we believe average runners can reasonably expect to gain when using each tip in a 10K race.
Rehearse The Race
Change Your Shoes
Add Two Minutes To Your Warm-up
Stay Away From The Start Line
Do your pre-race warm-up on the course itself, suggests Udewitz, or jog the course a day or two before the race, if possible. Note the location of turns, hills and water stations. “The familiarity will help you feel confident.”
Time savings: 5-10 seconds
Stick To The Side
Reverse Your Strategy
Wipe That Grimace Off Your Face
Shorten Your Stretches
Over the last couple of years, I’ve tweaked my pre-race stretching routine after a physiotherapist friend suggested I’d get plenty of benefit from only holding my stretches for a short time,” says McMillan. “Since then, I’ve been holding stretches for five seconds and repeating them four to five times. I find that my body stays revved up, and I can get into race mode more easily.”
Time savings: 5-10 seconds
Bypass The Water Logjam
Grab ‘N’ Go
Call Hills ‘Friends’
Run Through The Line – Again
Total time savings 1 minute, 30 seconds to 2 minutes, 30 seconds (not bad for a 10K race)