How to improve times?


I'd welcome some advice on how to improve my speed. I've been out for a few months due to calf injuries, and have just started running again, so it seems like a good time to rethink my training.I've been running for about 18 months now, about 3 times a week. I have completed 2 x 10k races and a 5k.

I ran 77 mins in a 10k this year. I've entered the same one in May next year, and I'd like to get under 60 mins. Is that possible? I'd welcome suggestions.

I think I can knock a few mins off by starting further up the pack and not having to weave around so many walkers. I've got new shoes and clothes which feel like they help. I know losing a couple of stone will make a difference too. But I still need to run at least 10 mins faster.

So what else? I have found a running coach who has been working on my dodgy alignment (knees dropping in) and weak core/glutes with a strenghtening routine (which I spend 15 mins on every other day). He's also been helping me run in a more efficient way, striking on the forefoot rather than the heel. This certainly makes me quicker, but I can only keep it up for a few 100m, and I think it is the reason I've have injuries in both calves in the last few months. I don't know if this means I should give up on the forefoot strike, or if I just tried to make the transition too quickly. Any thoughts or experiences?

I've joined a social club, which runs at a pace which is just on the verge of difficult for me. It is enjoyable, but just about on 5-8k run a week, there is no structures training. I'm too slow to join the better clubs locally.

Before my injury I was training for a half marathon, I've now entered for one in Feb instead. I was thinking of spending the winter focusing on endurance, running 3 times a week and getting the long run up to 20k. I was running a tempo run each week, which I think I'll add back in once my calves feel normal again. I tried a couple of interval/sprint sessions, but didn't really get into it before the injury. So I was thinking of holding off on these until after the Half in Feb, and then doing one speed session a week in the 3 months before the 10k. Does this sound about right? I'm not sure how much to focus on speed and how much on endurance/fitness.

Regarding tempo and speed sessions, is it better to run a longer interval/session at a slower pace, or the other way around?

I'll also add in a day a week to focus on strength, a day where I do a yoga class, and where time allows an hour or two on a cross trainer/rower.

I'd welcome any comments on this vague plan, and suggestions for how to improve.



  • To add, is it better to get back quickly to the long run distance I was doing (12-15k) at the pace I was running before (8:53 - 9:30 mins/km according to the McMillan calculator), or should I be running as far as I can at my target pace (6:00 mins/km), and trying to increase this time each week. Or should I do one of each type of run each week?



    Read through this thread.

    As for calf / forefoot striking. It is normal for your calves to feel tight / ache more when you start to forfoot strike. It may or may not be a good thing to do. You do however need to build the distance up slowly as you are finding out. you will also need to stretch a lot more, I find dynamic stretches more effective that static stretches, though if you go swimming stretch your calves in the water as well (after your swim) A foam roller is very helpful and the best thing I've found is plyometrics.

    It seems you already know what you have to do.
    Lose some weight, build up your endurance, work on your pace.

    As far as I can see you have the basics sorted. Stay with your running group and really work hard at your short runs, try to push the pace - 5-8k is a good distance for a faster steady paced run. To run faster run shorter.
    1 long run each week at a slow pace is essential for endurance. Don't try to build the distance too quickly. Slow is ideal.
    As you are doing quite a lot of xtraining / strength training use your 3rd weekly run as an easy or recovery run. It should be around the 8k mark to begin with.

    As you have 6 months til your 10k you have plenty of time to train for it. Once you are running the distance comfortably you can start to worry about pace more. I'd concentrate on the hm for the time being. Running further will help you to achieve your goal.

  • Hill reps and/or interval sessions once a week. Continue to increase you milage so that a 10K is a normal run and not a push.

    Dont rush though, run is supposed to be fun, so enjoy it.

  • I would really recommend ditching the speed altogether for now and just concentrating on really building up your endurance base. Lots of slow miles. As you're a relatively new runner, you'll see improvement from just increasing the time spent on your feet. Once you have that sorted, the you can start adding in the speed.

    It's definitely possible though - I dropped 6 minutes from my 10k time in about 6 months last year just from running more even though I rarely ran fast.

  • Thanks for the replies, they are really useful. It's good to know I'm on the right lines.

    It sounds like my weekly plan for this year should be:

    - one long run , building gradually up to 20k (and maybe beyond)

    - one shorter 5-8k run at a faster pace

    - one easy midlength run, building up to about 12k I guess

    Then, once a slow 10k feels easy, I'll add in a hill/interval run

    I do have a foam roller, and a spiky ball I use under my calves. Both have been useful.

    I certainly enjoy it - I was really miserable when I was injured and couldn't run at all for weeks.

    Thanks for taking the time to reply.

  • Hi Jane, it's great to have a target like this.  Knocking 17 mins off your 10 time sounds like a brilliant project for you.  The reduced weight idea is def going to help you, but please don't focus too much on this because if you do everything else you need to do, it will come off as a by product. 

    You can add to all the other useful advice above by doing a bit of strength training to target your calves.  You could variants of the calf raise on a leg-press machine (complicated to explain but look it up or take advice) or with a barbell.  I'd include eccentric calf raises, a kind of stretch, too.   You'll need to look these up or ideally seek specialist advice from your trainer. Don't overdo this stuff. Think of maybe an eight or 12 week progressive programme - changes will happen but you need to allow time.

    To start with, I'd gradually get your overall miles up, not worrying too much about speed, so as you say, targeting endurance.   You could maybe integrate either a tempo session or a hill interval session into these runs, say alternating once every two weeks.  As your fitness improves over the winter, you can switch to a programme of one long run, one tempo run and one hill/interval session a week in early spring.  A lot can happen between now and then so long as you don't court injury!  Good luck and keep us posted, huh? image

  • Thanks for the advice. I have a physio appointment this week, so I'll ask about the stretches/strengthening you mention. I've been doing calf lifts - building from two legs to one, and now on one leg with my heel over the edge of the step, but find it difficult to do more than one set of about 10 so far.

    Just got back from a 6k run, including 10 mins at about 7:00 pace. It feels so good to be able to run again!

    The general consesus here seems to be to focus on endurance and gettingt he miles up, and then add some speedwork when my endurance is better. This sounds very sensible, and I look forward to some nice long runs.

    What I'm still unsure of is whether it's worth trying to change my running style, or if it's best keep building the miles up running as I am now. T mouse says I need to build slowly if I do try to adjust to forefoot running, but is it worth it? Any thoughts on this?

  • T Mouse is absolutely right, Jane -  radically changing your running style is best done very gradually indeed.  These sort of changes don't just affect your feet and ankles, but the whole of the chain through your knees and hips and all of the muscles, tendons and ligaments involved, too.  This is something that is going to require many parts of an established system to adjust.  Push it too quickly and you are going to experience resistance in the form of injury.  I think you're best off doing it following expert guidance from someone who can actually see what you're doing.  This down to a question of resources, I guess.  Your call. 

    Have you addressed all the other things you could change first?  Rock solid core?  Cadence? These things will make a difference too.


  • Thanks, something to think about there. I plan to keep on with my trainer for a bit, but not sure how long I can afford that for. I'll have a chat with him this week, and see what seems realistic. I do want to improve, but not if it prevents me from going out and enjoying running when I want.

    I have seen/felt a difference with some of the other things I've been working on. I wouldn't say my core is anything close to rock solid, but I'm working on it. It's still weak, but I try and tense and lift whilst running, which does seem to give me more space to move my legs without landing heavily, and has stopped me twisting as I run. I'm getting to the stage where I can hold my core strong throughout a run without holding my breath. I've also been trying to increase cadance, land with my feet underneath me and use my arms more. So, still a long way to go, but I'm aware of some of what I need to do now, so can work on it.

  • Just to update this thread:

    I've spoken to my trainer and it seems like I was trying to run too much on tip toes, which might have lead to the inury I had (as well as doing too much too soon). I'll give it another go when I'm properly healed, and aim for more of a midfoot strike. I think I know where I was going wrong now. For the moment I'm focusing on my core, cadence and lifting up/looking ahead.

    I'm continuing with the strengthening work with a focus on my alignment, calves and core.I'm starting to feel like my legs are stronger, and my knees knock together less. I'm doing a yoga class once a week too.

    I'm back to running 3 times a week, and loving it. My long run last weekend was 11.2k (96 min) so I feel like I'm getting the distance back. I'm also adding some faster work to the first run of the week - last week I alternated kms at 7 or 9 pace and this week I added 2 x 10 min slots at tempo pace.

    So, a long way to go, but I'm almost back to where I was before injury.


  • Well done Jane, it sounds as if you are thinking v carefully about all this and being sensible.

    But hmm, If your calves are still injured, you need to cut those miles right back now before making the problem worse.  Calves are directly connected to your Achilles tendon, obviously, and problems that surface here initially can turn into far worse ones in your Achilles.  It may seem dispiriting for a bit, but you are just gambling if you run with calf injuries.  Anyone who has had Achilles tendinopathy will tell you they just hated it - it can go on, and on and on...

    What kind of pain do you get when running?  This is something you could discuss with your physio. 

    You wouldn't have to bin all exercise - for example, you are spending up to an hour and a half on your feet, so could carry on with fast walking for that time if running is out of the question? You may find that your fast walking pace is actually v close to your long run pace if you break it down!


    Your long

  • Whichever style you choose to run the most important thing to do lots of easy miles the more the better just depending on your life style and how much training you want to do.  Build easy miles for a couple of months and forget the speed.  This will make you stronger and quicker on its own then speed a few weeks before a race.  Remember the speed work is the icing on the cake and the cake being your easy mileage.  Good luck.

  • Thanks for the advice.

    To tell you the truth, I'm not sure if my calves are still injured, or if I'm just a bit scared of hurting them. They are definitely on the mend, and the physio was happy for me to start running again, although only short and slow at first, and only 3 times a week with a rest day in between.

    I have built back from 20 mins runs for 2 weeks, adding 10 mins a week to each run until they got to 60 mins, then adding 15 mins a week to the long run only. This should get me to about 10 slow miles in time for the December race I think.

    My calves don't really hurt when I run any more. I sometimes get a slight niggle at the end of a long run, or the next day, but it's nothing like the ache I feel in other parts of my legs, so I don't feel too worried. The main issue I still have is a crampy type pain when I try and do certain stretches, and a lack of flexibility in some positions, like kneeling on the floor. The physio thought something nervy was going on, so did some work on my hips last time as well as giving me more stretches, which seemed to help.

    I have an appointment on Friday, so I'll see what she says about it all then.

    Assuming all is well injury wse, I recognise that I still need to increase the easy milage to improve, and will try to do this gradually. Time is an issue, but I'll try to find more when I can. The reason for adding a little bit of speed work one day a week is as much to break things up and make it more fun so I think I'll keep the short speed slots in one run each week for variety, but I will focus mainly on increasing the distance and add a 4th run a week when I can. I have a half marathon in Feb, so plan to focus on distance up to then. I'm them thinking of adding more speed work for the 3 month leading up to the May 10k.

    thanks again for the replies.

  • The physio says she doesn't need to see me again unless it flares up, so things are looking good.

    And I ran 15km yesterday, my longest yet. Despite the rain and wind.

  • I completed a fairly hilly 10 mile race yesterday in 2 hours 8 mins, and I didn't come last. I'm fairly happy with this time, and the progress I'm making. I ache today, but nothing feels damaged.

    I'm going to continue building up the distance to aim for a half marathin in late Feb, then focus on speed fr March to the 10k in May.

  • I just thought I'd update this in case anyone is still watching it.

    Unfortunately things have gone seriously downhill. After the 10 mile race I continued training for the half marathon, and built my distance up to about 12 miles.

    Then, 2 weeks before, I fell over when skiing and twisted my knee. Definitely MCL damage, possibly ACL and cartilage too. Waiting on the scan. But walking is tricky and running again is a long way off, maybe 6 months or more if surgery is needed.

    Very frustrating. Looks like I'll be starting from scratch again this year. My target now has to be to get round a 10k aagin.

Sign In or Register to comment.