Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Secret to Running Faster!

This is a top secret blog post. Really. You probably shouldn't be reading it right now, it's that secret. Are you still with me? Make sure you look over your shoulder and the coast is clear.

And, shhh! Don't tell anyone I wrote this, OK? I'm about to reveal... (drum roll please).... (are you ready for this?)... "The Secret to Running Faster!"

You probably already know, my current goal is to run a 22 minute 5K. My PR being 23:38, it sounds appreciably hard, but not utterly impossible. On paper anyway. Until I started running again, and realized how uncomfortable 8 minute miles can be. And I need to run a full minute per mile faster. Three times in a row. Yikes! This doesn't seem possible at all. Even with some brutally hard work.

So, as I began daydreaming of my perfect 22 minute 5K (insert harp music here), I began wondering, Is there a secret to running faster? I mean, a whole LOT faster than you've ever run before? One really BIG secret that will get me to my goal?

I Googled "secret to running faster" and received 594,000 hits. And probably 594,000 different answers to that question. Mind boggling.

My running buddy, Rick, who is by far stronger and faster than I am, could run a 22 minute 5K on a moments notice, and could kick my derriere at any time likes hills. Hills, hills and more hills. "Speedwork without the impact!" And he can't be wrong on that, just try to run uphill against him.

What could be easier than a magical pill? What about legal ergogenic aids? If you want to make your head dizzy, go read some of that and try to figure out what you should take. I gave up, and I was still in the "A's." And we're not talking milliseconds or elite speeds I'm seeking either. A 22 minute 5K is rather ordinary. As long as my diet is healthy, and contains what my body needs, there's no supplement that's going to make a huge difference. This was no help.

Plyometrics is awesome. Talk about some great cardio cross training and strength building. Can it make you faster? Absolutely.

Interval training is definitely effective.

And don't forget strength training! Without a doubt, essential to help you avoid injury and get faster.

But really, is there a single secret? I think this blogger might be onto something! Well, I had fun giggling through that. But not without a tad of seriousness here. Think about it, there's some truth to be found.

This past weekend I watched Kung Fu Panda [warning! movie spoiler to follow], a very entertaining animated flick about Po, a hapless, overweight panda who was more likely to trip over a rock than fend off the enemy dragon warrior.

In the final scene Po is fighting the arch enemy dragon warrior Tai Lung over possession of the secret dragon warrior scroll. The scroll is supposed to contain the secret to limitless power. The scroll is seized by Tai Lung, who finds it blank. Po laughs: "There IS no secret ingredient," (recalling his father's recent revelation about the "secret ingredient" in the family's noodle soup) and soundly defeats the evil Tai Lung.

From an article about running faster I found this: "(Psst. I’ll have to keep my voice down so no one can hear this secret except you: muscles don’t care about what they are being used for! They don’t ask if they’re lifting a weight or walking up stairs, or moving down a track. They only want to know about the load placed on them so they can gauge how to respond.)"

And that about sums it up!

It's all too confusing to me, and I can't wade through it. This actually confirmed a decision I made nearly 18 months ago. I hand those decisions over to a trusted expert. I may know a lot about running, but to always be improving my game, I need help. Nothing can replace a good coach who can adapt your program to your specific needs--and figure out what intervals, hills, strength training your body needs for your goals. Because there really IS no single secret to running faster. It's just plain, old-fashioned, sweaty, gut-busting hard work.

And if I want that 22 minute 5K badly enough, I'm going to have to do it the old-fashioned way; I'm going to have to EARN IT.


Rick said...

Excellent post!

I think you should stick with the guy who likes hills... he sounds like a really smart fellow!

You seriously have what it will take to run a 22 min 5k... drive, determination, hard work, and the guts to push yourself when it gets tough. I have no doubts whatsoever!

runner-grrl said...

He's hard to stick with! I'm usually running like 10 feet behind! Unless it's uphill, then I lose sight of him completely! Thanks, Rick :-)

RunColo said...

I'm sure you can hit a <22 minute 5k. The thing is a 5k run at your VO2 max, thus intervals are probably the most bang for the buck and since you're still new to running and you focused on the marathon, you can probably still improve your VO2 substantially.

runner-grrl said...

Thanks, Runcolo. I'm pretty sure Vince has plenty of intervals lined up for me. Can't wait to have enough base (again) to be ready for that! And you're right. I have never trained for a 5K (or anything other than a marathon), so I really have no idea what that's like, and have plenty of room to improve :-)