How to Spring Clean Your Running Routine for a Fall Race PR (Personal Record)

We have partnered with some coaches, physical therapists and running specialty stores to provide tips, best practices, and advice as we run solo – but we are not alone.

The following are some tips and notes from Coach Catherine of Fit Armadillo.  Check out her website at https://www.FitArmadillo.com

Whether you signed up for a spring 5K as part of a New Year’s Resolution you haven’t been too diligent about keeping or love the challenge of a 5K and had plans to earn a personal record (PR) this spring, you’re likely sad that you can’t compete alongside friends this month. But all is not lost! Running the 5K Virtual Race can help you spring clean your running routine so you can enjoy fall races (and maybe a PR!).  Here are some tips to help you make the most of this event and spring training, no matter what your current fitness level and 2020 running goals:

-It’s All About That Base, So You Don’t Get Into Injury Trouble

Hum that tip to the song if you know it! Did you know that the fastest 5K runners and marathoners both run similar weekly mileage? It’s true and based on the fact that a solid base of mileage helps you increase your overall aerobic capacity aka endurance, which is important for any long-distance running event. Now, you don’t need to run 100 miles a week like an elite athlete to build a solid base (and probably shouldn’t this year unless you’re an Olympian – it takes years to build up to this point), but you can use this tip as a beginner or advanced runner. Check out your weekly mileage and how many days a week you are currently running. With more time between now and your next big in-person road race, you can spread out your training plan and build a better base. Unlike most cookie-cutter running plans that often increase mileage week by week and increase your risk for injury, you can take more time to progress your training and skill as a runner.  Even if you aren’t aiming for a PR, a better base will lead to a more enjoyable fall race!

Action Step: Look at your current weekly mileage. Aim to repeat this for 2-3 weeks in a row before upping your mileage in week 3 (or 4) and then having a recovery week 4 (or 5) before increasing your weekly mileage in week 5 (or 6). Your running coach can help you with some of the finer details (and the Fit Armadillo trainers would love to help!), but building a base is often rushed. Instead of rushing your training this year, use this extra time to your advantage!

-Stop a Strava Compare and Despair Cycle

While Strava and other social running apps can be a great way to stay in touch with your running friends, especially while social distancing, they can also encourage bad running habits. One of the most common mistakes runners make is running their easy runs too fast. Save that competitive spirit for your next 5K race! When your workout schedule notes an easy run, it should be easy. Your body will make the appropriate adaptations during this run at a slower pace. But run at a hard effort, when that’s not the plan of the day? You risk getting injured! Even Kenyans and other elite athletes run “slow” on slow run days, but they are hardly slow on race day!

Action Step: If you do monitor paces and heart rate, see if you’re able to hit your goals for all workouts on your plan. If you’re not able to hit your speed day paces, you might be overdoing things on an easy day. Easy runs should feel comfortable and be done at 70-75% of your maximum heart rate to avoid the risk of injury and fatigue. Already a seasoned 5K runner? Your easy runs can be done about 2 minutes slower than your 5K race pace.

-How a 5K Virtual Race Can Fit into Longterm Plans

The Virtual 5K event can be a great part of anyone’s running plan. If you’re a beginner, you can use the event as a way to find out how long it takes you to complete 3.1 miles. Did you walk at all? If so how long? Are you able to pace yourself? Even lifelong runners struggle with pacing! No matter how you do on your first 5K distance attempt this spring, challenge yourself to work on pacing and try running “negative splits,” faster each mile vs. starting out too fast and ending the race wishing you hadn’t started. More advanced runners can use the virtual 5K to practice that same tip – running negative splits!

Another idea for those of you already up to 12 miles for a long run? Your 5K could be the first quarter of a 12.4 mile Long Accelerating Run workout. This challenging workout, which could be done as an 8-15 mile workout, has you break your run into four quarters. The first quarter is done at an easy pace (maybe across the street from a friend who’s also running the virtual 5K for some mutual moral support?), the second quarter at slightly below lactate threshold pace, the third at lactate threshold pace, and the fourth at faster than lactate threshold pace. It’s a demanding workout (not recommended more often than every other week), but a good one! What’s lactate threshold pace? It should be 25-30 seconds slower than your 5K race pace or 85-90 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Action Step: Sign up for the Virtual 5K Rhode Race event and schedule your 3.1-mile attempt and route (5K or maybe more!) into your calendar.

Did you do some spring cleaning to your running routine based on these tips? Tell us about it on social media so we can give you a virtual high five and pat on the back!

P.S. Fit Armadillo has been scoping out some 5K routes around Newport, Rhode Island and has something fun planned for those of you who want to play along. Stay tuned for details and, happy running!

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