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3 Ways to Up your Running Game This YearThe ability to reach your full runner potential  is all about trial and error.  It literally is a marathon not a sprint.  It is something that you work at over time gradually. There are so many different components that it can sometimes take several years to figure out the right recipe for you. When I first started running there is so much information out there that it took me a while to find my own groove.  One expert will say this, and that will be contradicted by another coach.  The important thing to remember is that you are the one running, and you are unique.  You just have to take all the information and try it out and see what works best for you.  To take your running game up a notch is really about focusing on your own unique weaknesses and make them strengths.

Whether you’re looking to run your first half marathon or just working on running consistently for 30 minutes, there are a number of proven approaches to improving running performance. Step back and consider which of the following things need the most work, and commit to focusing on that aspect of training all season long.

Build Mental Strength

Mental toughness is one of those things that I think every runner wants. The ability to will yourself to get up for a 5 mile training run at 5 AM on a winter morning, is the epitome of mental strength. There are studies on athletes in various different sports the show a clear link between mental strength and increased performance. The idea is that an athlete that has a high degree of mental toughness is more likely to persist in the face of challenges.Build Physical Strength

What’s great is that mental strength tends to increase as a by product of physical training. As I wrote in a previous post,  you only have to overcome mental hurdles once. Once you overcome them they are no longer a mental hurdle for you. I, like many of you, are not natural runners or didn’t grow up doing it much. When I decided to train for my first marathon I had to gradually increase mileage.  Since I was new to running I was jumping over mental hurdles just about every week.  One such milestone was huge for me. It was a Saturday and the training program called for a 10 mile run.  In my whole life I had never run 10 miles before, but once I finished I never again had to wonder if I could run 10 miles.  This holds true for 13 miles, 26.2 miles and so on. The mind is a muscle that can be strengthened like any other and any time you get over these mental hurdles you strengthen that muscle. Keep pushing yourself to do just a little bit more on every training run will strengthen your mental muscles.

Build Physical Strength

There are many different ways you can build effective strength training so there’s no reason to be intimidated.  You can choose on that you feel most comfortable with.  One that you enjoy and can do 2–3 days a week.  When you’re not training for a half marathon or marathon is one of the best times to focus on strength work. Also, early in a half marathon training plan is a prime time for strength training.  You should begin to taper off as you get closer to race day though.

What kinds of strength training is beneficial?  Resistance training with weights, circuit training or body weight exercises are great ways to improve your physical strength. There is research that shows plyometric or more explosive type training can yield positive results. Speed training is also a great way to improve your overall running economy.

Research shows that strength training has the potential to boost your overall running economy.

A 10-week training program study of female runners where one group ran 20–30 miles per week and the other group ran the same weekly mileage, but added traditional strength training regimen three times per week showed that the strength-training group improved their running economy by 4%, whereas the running only group didn’t see that change.

Strength training is a huge benefit to your half marathon training.

Add the Miles

A typical runner runs about 20 miles per week. When you start training for a marathon, this is crucial.  But it may not be enough. Research shows that upping mileage can improve overall running performance.

Add the MilesHere is the important thing to takeaway from this,  training volume is important, but so is the way you exercise those miles. If you feel that you may benefit from adding additional miles, just add on some easy running. This includes extending your warm-ups and cool downs, or just going for a short jog on a typical “rest” day. Make sure to add that mileage slowly.  Avoid increasing your weekly mileage to quickly.  Be sure to not add more than 10% from one week to the next. Over a months time, the slow build of extra time on your feet will add up. Remember its a marathon not a sprint.

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