While fatigue manifests itself in aching muscles, shorter strides, and decreasing speed, your mind is actually the culprit behind your tiring body. Science has found that your brain is hardwired to slow you down and keep some energy in reserve so you don't run out of fuel. There are simple training tactics you can use to deceive your brain and utilize some of that unused energy, though. Try them during your next workout to run farther and faster than ever before.
Break up your mileage.
Interval workouts feel less unwieldy than a long run. "Breaking any long run into more manageable chunks of distance makes it seem like you’re not running as far," says Jason Fitzgerald, a 2:39 marathoner and founder of Strength Running in Washington, D.C. "When you divide it into a warmup, fast repetitions, recovery intervals, and a cool down, the total mileage seems less daunting." (Here are the 5 best ways to avoid the most-frequent pains, strains, and aches that can occur with running.)
You can go harder during those short intervals than you would when just doing a steady run for the same distance, too. This increases your VO2 max, or how efficiently you take in oxygen to turn calories into energy, so you can push your body farther and faster, according to research from the Mayo Clinic.
DO THIS: Head to a track and warm up with 10 to 20 minutes of easy jogging. Run 6 x 800 meters at your 5K race pace with a 400-meter jog between each. The interval pace should feel difficult, but sustainable for a half mile. During the 400-meter recovery, focus on bringing your heart rate down and mentally preparing for the next interval. By the end of this workout, you’ll have banked 3 miles of hard running and anywhere from 6 to 8 total miles including warmup and cool down.
Boost your strength.
Sprint workouts are already tough. But if you want to take yours to an all-new level, throw some quick body-weight training between your sets. You're changing the stimulus and challenging your body in new ways instead of just thinking about the next sprint, explains Brandon Vallair, a USATF certified coach and owner of Run for Speed in Dallas, Texas. When you attempt your next sprint, your mind will consider it a brand-new workout instead of a continuation of the previous sprint. The result: You'll be able to push your limits and finish more sprints than you could before. (If you're looking to go harder for your next big race, spend more time in the weight room to become a more powerful and injury-free runner.)
DO THIS: Head to a flat field, park, or track. Complete four 50-, 100-, or 200-meter sprints. Between each sprint, perform a strength move--15 situps, 20 pushups, a one-minute plank, or 30 squats--instead of walking. Once you complete all four sprints and all four strength moves, take a short rest. That's 1 round. Do as many rounds as possible.
Speed up your workouts.
Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play," meaning you vary your pace during your run. "Doing this allows you to focus more on effort and running intensity, rather than total distance," explains Tim Bradley, founder of Big River Personal Coaching in St. Louis, Missouri. You'll throw in speed changes that are typically faster than your normal steady-state pace, which will give you a better workout than if you jogged for the same amount of time. Plus, increasing your speed and intensity for short bursts mimicks running a race with hills and turns, says Bradley. This causes your heart rate to remain higher during a fartlek run, ultimately improving your overall fitness and preparing your body for race day. (Getting in peak shape is a tricky dance for endurance athletes. Find out the Surprising Way to Run Faster and Longer.)
DO THIS: Perform a short warmup. Then begin your running route. Somewhere in the middle of your run, pick up your pace for 30 seconds, slow down for 30 seconds, and then repeat 4 more times.
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