I’m toying with the idea of running a fall marathon. Before I amp up training again, I always think that this time I’m really going to give it 100 percent. I want to fully devote myself to training so I can run my fastest marathon time yet.
But I know those tempo runs, 800m repeats, and hill workouts can only increase my speed by so much. And if I want to have different – ahem, better – results than my last marathon, I need to try new things.
So, I’m looking beyond workouts that will make me faster. I’ve been researching other ways to increase my speed that have nothing to do with running.
- Reach a healthy weight. If you’re overweight, experts say you can shave up to two seconds off of your mile time for every pound you lose. Say you need to lose 20 lbs. If you achieve your weight loss goals (in a safe, healthy way), you could potentially run 40 seconds faster per mile. If you’re training for a marathon, those seconds add up big – to over 17 minutes! Keep in mind, though, that if you’re already at a healthy weight, losing weight won’t make you any faster. In fact, it may slow you down.
- Take in enough calories. I know we just told you to lose weight, which usually entails cutting calories. But be mindful to still eat enough calories. If you skimp on breakfast and then head out for a run, you may be under-fueled and not be able to run at your full potential. This also goes for people who aren’t trying to lose weight. I’m able to hit target paces more easily when I eat satisfying meals and snacks regularly. Remember that food gives us energy.
- Choose nutritious foods. However, those calories you take in should mostly come from nutritious foods. Fill up on processed foods, and you’ll likely feel sluggish on runs. Choose nutrient-dense calories (foods that are as close to their normal states as possible) most of the time.
- Get enough sleep. During marathon training, sleep needs increase. Without ample shut-eye, our bodies cannot fully recover from demanding workouts. Sleep deprivation also weakens your immune system and can hinder your performance. Aim to be in bed by a certain time every night. If you don’t feel refreshed after keeping a regular bed and awake time, try going to bed 15 minutes earlier each night until you feel well-rested.
- Manage stress well. The effects of stress can spill over to all areas of our lives. Running is known as a stress-reducer, but experts say that running when you’re especially stressed ups your risk for injuries, which – obviously – can get in the way of your time goals. If you’re under intense stress, remove the stressor from your life, if possible. During your runs, try to keep your mind focused on just running.
Written by Jen Matz.