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Posted by on Nov 16, 2016 in Races, Running | 6 comments

5 Things that Helped Me Shave 5 Minutes off my PR

When I set out to run the Savannah Rock n Roll Half Marathon 2 weeks ago, I was hoping to beat my Personal Record (PR) of 1:49 by a minute or 2. I didn’t put a lot of pressure on myself though. I actually set my expectations low (it was my first half marathon since becoming a mom), and ultimately decided I would just be happy if I finished the race strong.

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Well, I ended up shaving 5 minutes off of my personal best time and crossing the finish line in 1:44! I could not believe what the clock said at the finish line because I remember thinking years ago that anything under a 1:45 was simply unattainable for me. I remember thinking, “Only legit runners can finish under that time.” I know I’m such a cheeseball, but I still get emotional thinking about that. I also laugh because {clearly} I am not a legit runner…but I did finish in a time that I was proud of.

Anyways, today I wanted to share what I think contributed to my success (playing that term a little loose today) during the Savannah Rock n Roll Half and why I think I was able to shave so much time off my splits. As always, I’m simply sharing what I believe worked for me – I’m not saying this is what you must do if you want to get faster. I’m no expert.

Speedwork

 

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I think this played a bigger role in my PR than any other factor. I set aside 1 day (sometimes 2 days) each week and played around with speed work. Gosh, these workouts were SO hard and usually left me feeling quite nauseous, but pushing my body outside my comfort zone paid off big time on race day. I remember hitting mile 11 during the race and feeling fatigued and then recalling all those days of running 400 meter sprints and feeling exhausted after 7 of them, but pushing through the final sets. If anything, it helped me mentally to know I could push through the discomfort.

And I’m sure this is totally obvious, but when you’re running sprints at, say a 6:50 pace, it makes running a 7:48 pace the next day feel a whole lot easier. I’ve never really done speed work/sprints before when training for a race, but I don’t think I’ll ever train for another race without it. #gamechanger

Hydration

I’m going to be honest – I’m not good at drinking water. I don’t drink other things (like soda or coffee)- I just often go without drinking anything. However, since I was fighting a cold the week before my half marathon, I knew I needed a lot of fluids to flush out the toxins in my body. I was downing water/smoothies/green juice and I think that helped me feel really good on race day. I know all the experts say hydration is key, and I guess they are right. Ugh.

*Side note: I also felt like my skin looked significantly better that week. Random, I know. But just another motivator for chugging more water…as I sit here typing this with a dry mouth and a giant zit on my forehead wondering, “When was the last time I had a sip of water today?”

Hills, Hills, Hills

I know what you’re thinking. Oh hill no. Nobody likes running hills, but I think the #1 secret to getting faster is hills. Once a week I would run hill sprints. They were short (usually around 30 seconds to a minute long at most), but they were a killer (I would usually run 3-6 of them). And even on days when I didn’t run hill sprints, my running routes were filled with hills. I think training on a course that was SO much harder than the race course set me up for success because I truly felt like the Savannah RnR course was a piece of cake after running in the land of all the hills for the last 8 weeks. You may end up training slower if you include a lot of hills in your training runs, but I think – for me – those hills helped build up my legs and lungs so I could really GO on the flat race course.

If you don’t live in a neighborhood filled with hills (lucky you), I suggest going to the gym and setting the incline on the treadmill to a 5% grade and then working your way up from there for little extra bursts of challenges in your run. I think this also makes running on a treadmill more fun (I like doing ‘rolling hills’ where I got from say a 5% grade for 1 minute, back down to a 1% grade for a minute and then up to a 6% grade for 2 minutes before returning to a 1% grade, etc).

Recover, Recover, Recover!

 

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Before I had children, I was always really bad about taking recovery days. I just hated missing a day of running or working out. That’s not a problem for me these days. With 2 babies at home, I inevitably miss 1 or 2 days of working out/running each week…and I think I’m better because of it. My body actually gets to recover and as a result I can push it harder on the days I do run. I remember I used to run 5 or 6 days a week before I had Atlas and I was SO much slower back then. Now, I’m lucky if I get 4 runs in a week and I think my body appreciates this change. Physically, my legs feel better and mentally I feel more engaged in my runs because it isn’t something I do every day, so when I do get to lace up my running shoes I’m usually like, “Okay! Lets do thissss!” (instead of, “Ugh – I just did this yesterday & I’m tired!”)

Cross Train

 

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Why yes – my kids are doing squats while eating suckers. It’s called balance.

When I first started to notice my splits getting faster several years ago, I realized the only thing I had changed was adding cross training to my exercise regimen. I was taking group fitness classes at the time that were boot camp style (think lots of squats, plyometrics, push-ups, burpees, mountain climbers, etc) and not only did I notice a change in the way my body looked, but I also noticed a change in how it performed. I was actually building solid muscles in my legs and core and as a result, I was able to run faster. Ever since then, I’ve incorporated cross training to my workout plan. With 2 babies at home, finding time to go to the gym isn’t always feasible, but I still manage to squeeze in 30 minute workouts at home that include a lot of lower body/core work. Jump squats hurt, but they are effective.

And that’s it! I really had fun with this half marathon. My view of running has changed so much over the last 3 years. It is such a gift and I enjoy the solitude it gives me to think/pray/zone out. Running definitely has a huge mental component to it and when I began viewing it as the gift it truly is, not only did I get faster, but I also enjoyed the miles more..and that’s what it is really about. Getting the most out of your miles and enjoying the gift of health!

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I would love to know your tips for running if you are a runner! Leave them in the comments below! Or maybe you aren’t a runner and you just read this post anyways because you like supporting CnC (Hi, Mom!). Thank you for that. And instead you can share 2 things that could possibly make you run (i.e. a big bear or knowing there is only 1 hot donut left in the universe at Krispy Kreme and you’ve got a shot at getting it – I’m pretty sure that would make me run my fastest time ever). 😉

6 Comments

  1. I agree with you on the speedwork, not running a ton of miles, and bootcamp type workouts helped my running (and body) so much! Do you have any advice on getting back into distance running after being out of it for awhile?

    I would like to see some of your home workouts if you want to share. I belong to a gym with great bootcamp classes but unless I go at 5:00 AM I don’t get there which is more often than not sadly.

    • I think it is smart to ease back into distance running after taking a break from it. I built up a solid base where I could run 5 miles 2 or 3 times a week before I decided to commit to a half marathon and then I gradually increased my mileage by doing 1 long run a week and adding 1 extra mile each week. My first ‘long run’ was actually only 6 miles. I didn’t try to dive in with a 9 mile run or anything crazy and 6 miles didn’t feel SO intimidating since I was used to running 5 miles already. 🙂

      And I have a few workouts listed on my blog here and here. But I can definitely start sharing more of my current workouts if that’s something that you would be interested in. 🙂

  2. I am definitely not as fast as you are, but these are great tips! I noticed myself getting faster after having babies because of the added stroller runs too. Great post!

    • Oh my goodness! I forgot to mention that! Pushing a stroller TOTALLY makes you faster! When I run with the stroller and then run without the stroller it feels like I’m flying! haha

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